Ujazdów Castle dates to the 13th century, and it was rebuilt several times. Like many structures in Warsaw, it sustained much damage in the Warsaw Uprising (1944). Reconstructed 30 years later (1974), it now houses Warsaw's Center for Contemporary Art.
The first castle on the spot was erected by the Dukes of Masovia as early as the 13th century. However, in the following century their court was moved to the future Royal Castle in Warsaw, and the Ujazdów Castle fell into neglect. In the 16th century, a wooden manor was built there for Queen Bona Sforza. It was at Ujazdów Castle, on January 12, 1578, that Jan Kochanowski's blank-verse tragedy The Dismissal of the Greek Envoys received its premiere during the wedding of Jan Zamoyski and Krystyna Radziwiłł.
The ruins of the castle of the Mazovian princes were then incorporated into a new fortified manor built by King Sigismund III Vasa for his son, future King Władysław IV Vasa. However, there is little evidence that the residence was ever used by the young prince, who spent much of his youth either at his father's court. Between 1659 and 1665, the building housed the mint of Titus Livius Boratini, who there struck his famous boratynka, a type of copper coin.
Again neglected, in 1674 the castle was bought by Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski and then rented to King Augustus II, who ordered the construction there of a new royal residence. The castle, incorporating much of the earlier constructions on the site, was built by Tylman of Gameren, a notable 17th-century architect and engineer. The gardens surrounding the castle, later divided into two separate parks, were refurbished. About that time the Łazienki Eremity and Łazienki Palace were built.
The castle's design was further modified by King Stanisław II August, who in 1764 commissioned Jakub Fontana, Dominik Merlini, Jean-Baptiste Pillement and Efraim Schroeger to refurbish it. The eastern and western façades were made taller by the addition of a second floor, while the post-Gameren outbuildings were also rebuilt to the height of the main building, thus creating a large courtyard. About that time, the castle was also included in the so-called Stanislavian Axis, a line of parks and palaces planned in the southern outskirts of Warsaw much like the Saxon Axis in the city center. The palace's reconstruction was almost complete by 1784, when work was abandoned and the building donated to the Polish Army.
Consequently, between 1784 and 1789 the castle was yet again rebuilt, this time by Stanisław Zawadzki, who converted it into military barracks. The outbuildings were enlarged substantially. Since that time the building housed the Lithuanian Foot Guard Regiment and the 10th Foot Regiment. During the Kościuszko's Uprising the castle was the main centre of conscription for the 20th Foot Regiment. After the Partitions of Poland, during the Prussian occupation of Warsaw, the building was abandoned. After the proclamation of the Duchy of Warsaw it was again restored to the army and was converted into a military hospital. However, the plans of converting it to the Central Military Hospital of the Polish Army were postponed by the Congress of Vienna which awarded the Congress Poland to Russia. On April 1, 1818 the hospital was officially opened. It had place for up to 1000 wounded soldiers. After the outbreak of the November Uprising the hospital was enlarged to 1250 beds and an additional annex with place for 600 was opened in the nearby Łazienki complex.
After the fall of the uprising, the Russian garrison of Warsaw was significantly strengthened, while the Polish military units were disbanded. A new central military hospital was built next to what became the Park Ujazdowski and the castle became more of a barrack for the Russian military personnel. Around 1850 the outbuildings were again rebuilt by Jerzy Karol Völck, but were partially demolished 20 years afterwards. After the outbreak of World War I the building was again converted to a provisional hospital by the Russians. Captured by the German army in 1915, on April 10, 1917 it was transferred to the Polish Legions and became the main military hospital for Polish units fighting alongside the Central Powers (the more modern Ujazdów hospital located nearby remained a German-only hospital).
After Poland regained her independence in 1918, the internal design of the castle was yet again modified. Since 1920's it housed several parts of the Warsaw NCO school. The main staircase was restored to its 18th century representative design. An interesting feature of the staircase was a set of stone tablets placed there May 15, 1927, commemorating the names of all known Polish military medics who perished in wars between 1797 and 1920. Additional tablets commemorated Karol Kaczkowski, Zdzisław Lubaszewski and a sculpture by Edward Wittig commemorating all military medics. After the Polish Defensive War of 1939, the Red Cross organized a school for WIA soldiers. The castle was burnt out and damaged by the Germans following the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.
After the war the building was to be rebuilt as the Central Military House. However, the works did not start as the walls of the castle were demolished by the Communist authorities of Poland. In 1975 however, the works on reconstruction of the castle to its 18th century design were given a green light and the project by Piotr Biegański was chosen. It houses Warsaw's Center for Contemporary Art (Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej) since 1985.
The Castle currently houses the Centre for Contemporary Art, with its collections and temporary exhibitions, concerts, and educational workshops. The Centre has organized over 600 exhibitions since 1990. Since 2010 the Centre's director is an Italian, Fabio Cavallucci.References:
Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.
At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.
During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.
In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.
The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.
The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.
After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.
When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.