The History of the Palace

Kurozw臋ki, at its height a small town of some importance, was first mentioned in 1246 as a village in the possession of the Duchy of Krak贸w. It was then that a certain count de Kurozwansch first appears in a document issued by Boles艂aw the Chaste, Duke of Sandomierz and Krak贸w. The village was then a fief of the Poraj family, a family which is said to have originated in Bohemia and arrived in Poland with St. Wojciech (also known as St. Adalbert), the future martyr and patron saint of Poland.

Gradually, through their loyal support of king W艂adys艂aw the Elbow-High and his successors Casimir the Great and Louis I, the Kurozw臋ki branch of the Poraj family grew in importance. At the height of the family鈥檚 importance in the 1380s Dobies艂aw of Kurozw臋ki, became chancellor of Krak贸w while his son Zawisza, Bishop of Krak贸w and Chancellor of Poland led a triumvirate which ruled the kingdom while Louis I, (also king of Hungary and Croatia) busied himself with ruling his other possessions. While Zawisza of Kurozweki became well known for his lavish lifestyle, he also deserves to be remembered as the founder of the Chapel of Saint Mary, which to this day forms part of the Wawel, Krak贸w鈥檚 royal castle.

The growing influence and wealth of the Kurozw臋ki Poraj family (now increasingly know as the Kurozw臋cki family) allowed for successive generations to expand and consolidate their possessions. It was during this period (the second half of the XIV century) that an oval stone keep was built. The castle was probably built to replace a smaller wooden fort built on what was then a small hill overlooking a large expanse of swampy ground in the basin of the Czarna river, which placed the castle in an easily defensible position.
One would have probably entered the castle through south-facing gates over which rose a large, square, four-storey tower, which provided living quarters, an observation point and a granary. One would then have walked into a courtyard paved with flagstones and enclosed by a number of wooden buildings.

In 1400 we have the first mention of the castle itself, described as Castrum Curoswank.
The construction of the stone castle should probably be attributed to Dobies艂aw of Kurozw臋ki (d.1397, also known as Dobies艂aw of Chod贸w) and/or to his son, also named Dobies艂aw, the first Poraj to use the title de Kurozwanky.

During the course of the 15th century the Castle underwent several redevelopments intended to change the defensive medieval structure into a more comfortable residence which would reflect the family's wealth and influence: the wooden buildings which filled the courtyard were gradually rebuilt as spacious stone and brick living quarters, all the while maintaining the integrity of the Castle's defensive walls. Indeed, the thick, curved, 14th century walls were never entirely destroyed and are still visible in parts of the Palace where they form the foundations of later structures.

The last of the Kurozw臋cki line, Miko艂aj Lubelczyk and his son Hieronim finally finished the process of replacing wood with stone structures.

After his death around the year 1520, one of Hieronim's two daughters, Anna, married a local nobleman, Jan Lanckoro艅ski, bringing him Kurozw臋ki as her dowry. Henceforth, Kurozw臋ki would become the home of the Lancko艅cki family.

The castle remained unchanged until the second half of the 16th century, when a portion of the north-west defensive wall was demolished and replaced with a three-storey corner structure probably built so that the family could live in a comfortable and elegant residential wing. It was also during this period that a rectangular gatehouse was built on the south side of the palace (where the fa莽ade now stands).

During the second half of the 16th century, Krzysztof Lancko艅cki converted to Calvinism, and determined to instil the Protestant message in the local population, expelled the congregation of Augustinian monks (brought to Kurozweki in 1487), and stripped the Church of its ornaments. He became an elder of the Calvinist Church and an outspoken defender of religious freedom in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Krzysztof's son, Zbigniew, converted back to Catholicism and attempted to undo his father's actions: he invited the Augustinian monks back to Kurozw臋ki, reconsecrated the local Church, and moved the Castle's chapel to its current location in the eastern wing of the castle.

The castle was once again remodelled in the 17th century when the collection of disparate buildings forming the west and east wings of the palace were melted together around today's courtyard.

The two-storey cloister arcades lining the southern, northern and western sides of the courtyard were built towards the end of the 17th and the start of the 18th century. It was also around this time that the level of the ground floor was raised by about a meter and a half in response to a rise in groundwater levels. As a consequence of this, the ground floor became a rather ornate and well-built basement.

In 1747, Stanis艂aw Lanckoro艅ski dies childless, leaving his estate to his widow, Anna Dembi艅ska, who then went on to marry an army general, Maciej So艂tyk in 1752. He would go on to have a successful political career, becoming Castellan (Kasztelan) and later Voivode (Wojewoda) of the Sandomierz region. Anna and Maciej would rebuild the Palace, giving it its current appearance. The reconstruction, which began in 1768 and ended only in 1772 completely transformed the castle into a more elegant residence: The old entrance gate was incorporated into the rectangular northern wing which now constitutes the fa莽ade and ballroom of the palace. The interiors of the Palace's first floor (the living quarters, dining rooms, library) were redecorated in a light Rococo style, complete with ornate plasterwork friezes, while the walls of the chapel were repainted with murals depicting the transfiguration of Christ and the patron saints of the owners. The two pavilions of the estate also seem to have been built around this time.

The fa莽ade itself is a celebration of Anna and Maciej's marriage: the ornate relief at the top of the fa莽ade contains the linked coat of arms of both families, while sculpted relief on the sides (also called cartouche) contain the initials of the married couple.

In 1787, Stanis艂aw August Poniatowski, the last king of Poland, visited the Palace on his way back from a meeting with the Tzarina of Russia. The king's brief visited was celebrated with a great banquet in the ballroom decorated with the portraits of the last So艂tyk heirs of Kurozw臋ki. His stay was recorded by one of his favourites, the poet and historian Adam Naruszewicz, who described a great ball and a long night of dancing and celebratory canon salvoes in honour of the returning king as well as a a 'beautiful and spacious ballroom whose walls were decorated here and there with delicate landscape paintings'.
It was the third wife of Maciej So艂tyk, Cunegonde (born Koszowska) who gave Kurozw臋ki in her will to her brother in law, Tomasz So艂tyk the castellan of Zawichost.

When Tomasz's son, Antony Tomasz So艂tyk, decided to settle into Kurozw臋ki in 1811, he found a crumbling castle and an estate impovrished by the successive uprisings and wars which followed the partitions of Poland in 1772, 1793 and 1795.

Between 1794 and 1815 the inhabitants of Kurozw臋ki would find themselves living in different countries: in 1795 they became part of Austria, only to become incorporated into the Duchy of Warsaw by Napoleon's defeat of the Austrians. Napoleon and his Polish allies would themselves be defeated and the Duchy handed over to the Tsar of Russia in 1815, making Kurozw臋ki part of the Russian controlled Kingdom of Poland. Each successive transition brought with it armies which commandeered shelter and food. Each transfer of power diminished the importance of the old noble families whose power depended on the traditions and customs of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Eventually, however, local agriculture recovered and with it the fortunes of the So艂tyk family, who would become increasingly involved in the modernisation and management of the estate.

At the turn of the century, the artistically talented Anastazja So艂tyk and her husband decided to remodel the Palace gardens in accordance with romantic ideals and employed a Czech landscape artist called Jan Zulauf to direct the works. It seems that Zulauf was quite sucessful: by 1820 he was working for the powerful Lubomirski family and visitors to Kurozw臋ki wrote admiringly about the understated charm of its English garden.

Emilia, the daughter of Antoni Tomasz and Anastazja, marrried Pawe艂 Popiel in 1833 offering him Kurozw臋ki as part of her dowry. The young couple moved here in 1840, after Pawe艂 's family residence in Ruszcza near Krak贸w was destroyed in a fire.

By 1840 the thirty-three year old owner of the castle had already made a name for himself: having completed his law degree in Paris, he had fought in the 1830-1 November Uprising against the Russian occupier. While he became well-known in Krak贸w as an essayist, editor and political leader, in Kurozw臋ki he is chiefly remembered as the person who divided up the ballroom into smaller rooms, declaring it inappropriate to organise grand festivities in an occupied Poland. Needless to say, Poland is now free and the ballroom restored to its original size.

Towards the end of his life, Pawe艂, now an local conservative politician, handed over the management and ownership of Kurozw臋ki to his eldest son Marcin. The Popiel family would be increasingly preoccupied with turning a profit from the estate's farmland, fish-ponds and forests, a long term objective continued by his son Pawel, and grandson Marcin. Marcin, a trained agricultural engineer, unexpectedly decided to enter a seminary in 1937, leaving the estate to his younger brother Stanis艂aw and his new bride Irena.

Stanis艂aw, an infantry officer, was captured as a prisoner of war in 1940. While Irena and Marcin (now returned from the seminary) did their best to feed and clothe the numerous people who sought shelter in the basement of the castle. The area witnessed heavy fighting during the summer of 1944 as Soviet troops pushed back the Wehrmacht. At different times the Palace served as barracks, shelter and operating base for both armies. Irena, her two young boys and her mother-in-law fled in 1944 before the Soviets arrived, as landed aristocracy would not be treated well under the new Socialist order. The Popiels would not return to Kurozw臋ki until 1991.


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