The Castle of the Masovian Dukes in Płock is a Gothic castle built under the reign of Casimir III the Great, becoming a stronghold of the Dukes of Masovia until the fifteenth century. The castle is located on a steep Vistulan hillside, most likely since the eleventh century, a wooden fortress - defended by walls and dikes, where in the middle there was a small stone built stronghold. On the turning point of the eleventh and twelfth century, when one of the largest Masovian strongholds where already located on the hillside - a chapel and wall-defended living quarters were built in 1194.
At the end of the thirteenth century, the raising of the castle had begun, when the stronghold was fortified, and took on its current form under the reign of Casimir III the Great. The expansion of the castle was done on the hillside of the former stronghold, which was reconstructed with bricks and expanded, the stronghold was also raised with two towers. The castle was built in square-shaped complex. In the south-west of the complex, the Szlachecka Tower was raised - with a squared base and lower half; and an octagonal upper half. In the northern part of the castle, by a Romanesque building, there is a clock tower. The castle's courtyard is closed off by the north-western, eastern and southern wing. The castle is fortificated by a double encirclement of defensive walls - securing the stronghold and Płock, being just outside the castle's walls.
The castle was a residence of the Masovian Dukes up until the fifteenth century. Due to a partial removal of the hillside, in 1532, the castle suffered damage, which was rebuilt. In 1538, the Masovian dukes had resided in the newly built palace, outside the castle walls, allowing the castle complex to be given to the Benedictines. During the times of the wars against the Swedes, the castle was severely damaged, first in 1657, and then in 1705. After the castle's reconstruction, the castle complex became a Baroque architectural style Benedictine Abbey, which existed until 1781. When after the Partitions of Poland, Prussia took over the castle, the authorities ordered some of the defensive walls to be deconstructed. From 1865, the castle hosted spiritual seminars.
After World War II, the castle was renovated, and since 1973, the castle houses a museum.References:
Les Invalides is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building"s original purpose. The buildings house the Musée de l"Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d"Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the burial site for some of France"s war heroes, notably Napoleon Bonaparte.
Louis XIV initiated the project in 1670, as a home and hospital for aged and unwell soldiers: the name is a shortened form of hôpital des invalides. The architect of Les Invalides was Libéral Bruant. The enlarged project was completed in 1676, the river front measured 196 metres and the complex had fifteen courtyards. Jules Hardouin Mansart assisted the aged Bruant, and the chapel was finished in 1679 to Bruant"s designs after the elder architect"s death.
Shortly after the veterans" chapel was completed, Louis XIV commissioned Mansart to construct a separate private royal chapel referred to as the Église du Dôme from its most striking feature. Inspired by St. Peter"s Basilica in Rome, the original for all Baroque domes, it is one of the triumphs of French Baroque architecture. The domed chapel is centrally placed to dominate the court of honour. It was finished in 1708.
Because of its location and significance, the Invalides served as the scene for several key events in French history. On 14 July 1789 it was stormed by Parisian rioters who seized the cannons and muskets stored in its cellars to use against the Bastille later the same day. Napoleon was entombed under the dome of the Invalides with great ceremony in 1840. In December 1894 the degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus was held before the main building, while his subsequent rehabilitation ceremony took place in a courtyard of the complex in 1906.
The building retained its primary function of a retirement home and hospital for military veterans until the early twentieth century. In 1872 the musée d"artillerie (Artillery Museum) was located within the building to be joined by the Historical Museum of the Armies in 1896. The two institutions were merged to form the present musée de l"armée in 1905. At the same time the veterans in residence were dispersed to smaller centres outside Paris. The reason was that the adoption of a mainly conscript army, after 1872, meant a substantial reduction in the numbers of veterans having the twenty or more years of military service formerly required to enter the Hôpital des Invalides. The building accordingly became too large for its original purpose. The modern complex does however still include the facilities detailed below for about a hundred elderly or incapacitated former soldiers.