The Antonin property belonged to Prince Antoni Radziwiłł (1775-1833), who married Princess Louise of Prussia, a niece of King Frederick II (Frederick the Great). The prince served as governor of the Grand Duchy of Poznań and resided in the former Jesuit college in Poznań. He spent the spring and summer months of 1821-1826 building his hunting palace in the village of Szperek, which was renamed Antonin in his honour. This was the centre of an estate which had belonged to the Radziwiłł family since the 18th century.
The residence was designed by German architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who drew on 17th-century German hunting palaces for inspiration. This was the only avant-garde work he ever completed. The palace was erected on a Greek cross plan. The building is composed of modules that make use of geometric shapes. Three-level wings with pitched roofs are connected to the four-level octagonal central part (which has a tented roof) on four sides.
Inside, a massive octagonal chimney fulfils its structural role of supporting the polychrome ceiling. The residential apartments are in the wings and are connected via two-level galleries circling the foyer. The walls of the chimney stack display deer and moose heads (complete with antlers) as well as two chimneys.
The central interior reflects the democratic mindset of the duke. Twenty four guests could stay by the fireplace on equal terms. Everyone resided in the same standard of apartment, which consisted of an anteroom, a living room and a bedroom. Schinkel also designed folding beds for the servants.
Although considered wooden, the palace is actually timber framed. The walls are coated with peat for insulation and warmth while the outside walls are covered with pinewood beams. The socle is made of bog iron and the basement, which houses the kitchen, is made of brick.
Shinkel designed a Swiss style single-storey house, a forester’s lodge, a coach house, a dairy with a lounge room, and a “garden centre” at a respectable distance from the palace. Everything has survived, apart from the dairy.
The residential complex stands in forest clearings cut out to imitate natural glades. Pathways wind in amongst trees and shrubs, cross streams over wooden bridges and lead off into the forest. The islet in the small pond that lies between the palace and the road leading towards Ostrzeszów contains a symbolic tomb of two Radziwiłł children who died in infancy. One of them is modelled on the tomb of Scipio the Bearded in the Vatican. This is a very personal corner of the estate.
The commons were further on, not far from Lake Szperek. The school built here for local children is now a forester’s lodge. Family members were laid to rest in the nearby neo-Romanesque brick mausoleum, designed by Heinrich Häberlin and built 1835-1838. The building had always doubled as a chapel for the local population. The mausoleum was extended in the early 20th century. A triumphal arch, dating from the 9th or 8th century as a Byzantine work of art, was imported from Italy. The image of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn in the round, stained glass presbytery window is meant to highlight the Radziwiłł family’s Lithuanian connection. The classicist entrance door is remarkable.
The last male heir in primogeniture had the caskets exhumed and interred beside the chapel in simple earthen graves with wooden crosses. The information plaques placed on them list the name of the person buried there along with that of his or her spouse.
Frédéric Chopin spent the autumns of 1827 and 1829 in Antonin.
Tsarina Aleksandra Feodorovna visited with her son, the future Alexander II, in May and June of 1829, with Tsar Nicholas I arriving later. The Tsarina also came here in 1830, as did the “uncrowned King of Poland”, Prince Adam Czartoryski. The Dukes of Saxe-Weimar, Mecklenburg, and the Netherlands all visited, as did Alexander von Humboldt, the prominent German scholar who pioneered landscape science, climatology, oceanography and plant geography (the precursor to nature conservation). Members of the Hohenzollern family, who were related to the Radziwiłłs, most frequently came here to hunt. Princess Elise visited Prince Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig Hohenzollern, the second son of King Wilhelm Friedrich III of Prussia, who was in love with her. Wilhelm bowed to family pressure and broke off his relationship with Eliza. They met in Antonin in 1829 for the last time. He was crowned King Wilhelm I of Prussia in 1861 and the first Emperor of a united Germany in 1871. He never forgot his youthful love and kept her portrait on his desk. Elise never married and died of consumption a few years after their breakup. She was interred in the mausoleum in Antonin.References:
Château de Falaise is best known as a castle, where William the Conqueror, the son of Duke Robert of Normandy, was born in about 1028. William went on to conquer England and become king and possession of the castle descended through his heirs until the 13th century when it was captured by King Philip II of France. Possession of the castle changed hands several times during the Hundred Years' War. The castle was deserted during the 17th century. Since 1840 it has been protected as a monument historique.
The castle (12th–13th century), which overlooks the town from a high crag, was formerly the seat of the Dukes of Normandy. The construction was started on the site of an earlier castle in 1123 by Henry I of England, with the 'large keep' (grand donjon). Later was added the 'small keep' (petit donjon). The tower built in the first quarter of the 12th century contained a hall, chapel, and a room for the lord, but no small rooms for a complicated household arrangement; in this way, it was similar to towers at Corfe, Norwich, and Portchester, all in England. In 1202 Arthur I, Duke of Brittany was King John of England's nephew, was imprisoned in Falaise castle's keep. According to contemporaneous chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall, John ordered two of his servants to mutilate the duke. Hugh de Burgh was in charge of guarding Arthur and refused to let him be mutilated, but to demoralise Arthur's supporters was to announce his death. The circumstances of Arthur's death are unclear, though he probably died in 1203.
In about 1207, after having conquered Normandy, Philip II Augustus ordered the building of a new cylindrical keep. It was later named the Talbot Tower (Tour Talbot) after the English commander responsible for its repair during the Hundred Years' War. It is a tall round tower, similar design to the towers built at Gisors and the medieval Louvre.Possession of the castle changed hands several times during the Hundred Years' War. The castle was deserted during the 17th century. Since 1840, Château de Falaise has been recognised as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.
A programme of restoration was carried out between 1870 and 1874. The castle suffered due to bombardment during the Second World War in the battle for the Falaise pocket in 1944, but the three keeps were unscathed.