The ruins of Nový Hradek castle dates from the 14th century, on a promontory overlooking Dyje river. It is situated in the National Park Podyjí, accessible from the villages Podmolí or Lukov, but only on foot or by bicycle.
The first historically proven owners of this territory were the Premonstratensian monks from the Louka monastery in Znojmo, who exchanged it with the Moravian Margrave John Henry von Luxembourg in 1358. He was the one who established – on the narrowest place of the rocky stripe, perched some 80 metres high above the level of Dyje – the so-called Lower Castle as a fortified settlement used for his occasional hunting outings. The lower moat wall has been preserved to this day, with its unique inner oval wall that is up to three metres thick in some places. The castle was substantially reconstructed to withstand the Hussite wars in the 15th century.
In the 16th century, this reconstructed aristocratic seat changed hands between several owners during a relatively short period of time. They added more fortification measures on the northern side – a massive wall and a bastion with loopholes.
In the 17th century during the rule of the Scherfenbergs, the terror of the Thirty Years’ War reached Nový Hrádek. The surrounding villages were plundered, and the insufficiently protected castle was – for unknown reasons – taken and partially demolished by the Swedish army lead by General Torstenson in 1645. Since then, the military importance of the castle has been only marginal. The damaged parts were not renovated.
In 1799, Nový Hrádek received a new owner – the Polish count Stanislav von Mniszek, who reconstructed one of the older buildings in the large courtyard (probably in 1800), and later established a storage and sales department for the stoneware produced in his factory in Vranov. Following the romantic fashion of his period, he also reconstructed the Upper Castle, and adjusted it for short-term outings and hunting events he liked to hold with his family and guests. His daughter and heiress Luitgarde of Stadnice later continued with these activities, and in the second half of the 19th century she ordered the extension and reinforcement of the garden terraces on the south-eastern slope.
The natural, as well as the historic and architectural values of the castle are really outstanding. They were also recognised by the Czech government, which declared Nový Hrádek, together with the Vranov State Chateau, a National Cultural Monument in 2002. By this measure, the supreme executive body of the state expressed the statement that Nový Hrádek represents a valuable source of material culture, and that it belongs to the group of monuments representing the most important part of the nation’s cultural heritage.References:
The Cloth Hall in Kraków dates to the Renaissance and is one of the city's most recognizable icons. It is the central feature of the main market square in the Kraków Old Town (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978).
The hall was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, the hall was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the east – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Kraków was Poland's capital city and was among the largest cities in Europe already from before the time of the Renaissance. However, its decline started with the move of the capital to Warsaw in the very end of the 16th century. The city's decline was hastened by wars and politics leading to the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century. By the time of the architectural restoration proposed for the cloth hall in 1870 under Austrian rule, much of the historic city center was decrepit. A change in political and economic fortunes for the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria ushered in a revival due to newly established Legislative Assembly or Sejm of the Land. The successful renovation of the Cloth Hall, based on design by Tomasz Pryliński and supervised by Mayor Mikołaj Zyblikiewicz, Sejm Marshal, was one of the most notable achievements of this period.
The hall has hosted many distinguished guests over the centuries and is still used to entertain monarchs and dignitaries, such as Charles, Prince of Wales and Emperor Akihito of Japan, who was welcomed here in 2002. In the past, balls were held here, most notably after Prince Józef Poniatowski had briefly liberated the city from the Austrians in 1809. Aside from its history and cultural value, the hall still is still used as a center of commerce.
On the upper floor of the hall is the Sukiennice Museum division of the National Museum, Kraków. It holds the largest permanent exhibit of the 19th-century Polish painting and sculpture, in four grand exhibition halls arranged by historical period and the theme extending into an entire artistic epoch. The museum was upgraded in 2010 with new technical equipment, storerooms, service spaces as well as improved thematic layout for the display.
The Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art was a major cultural venue from the moment it opened on October 7, 1879. It features late Baroque, Rococo, and Classicist 18th-century portraits and battle scenes by Polish and foreign pre-Romantics.