Castle of the Week 130 - Pieskowa Skala Castle
Pieskowa Skala Castle is one of the most valuable monuments of renaissance architecture in Poland. It is located near the village of Sułoszowa in a valley along the Prądnik River, 27 km north of Cracow, within the boundaries of the Ojców National Park. It stands on a rocky outcrop descending in steep cliffs to the Pradnik Valley. A rock in the form of a huge club stands at the foot of the castle. It is 25m high, stands on its thinner end and is called "Hercules Club".
Location within Poland
Extended in the 16th Century
The first known reference to Pieskowa Skala dates back to the year 1315. The castle guarded the route from Cracow to Silesia. The present castle was erected for King Kazimier the Great in the middle of the 14th century as part of a series of fortresses knows as the "eagles nests." It was a royal property for about 40 years. In 1377 the castle was presented by Louis of Hungary to Piotr Szafraniec the High Steward of Cracow. The medieval structure consisted of upper and lower castle. The upper castle was once perched on a rock called "Dorotka" but it does not survive today. However, some relics of the lower castle are recognizable (round tower, remains of a great tower with an oven and gothic portal, a well and cellars in the south wing). The present appearance of Pieskowa Skala was mainly determined in the late 16th century by the rebuilding and extension of the castle. The works initiated by Stanislaw Szafraniec, Voivode of Sandomierz were completed about 1578.
Damaged by fire
An impressive arcaded courtyard and pillar line gallery was created at that time. The architecture of the courtyard was adorned with intricate stone carvings of masks and shields. At the beginning of the 17th century, Michal Zebrzydowski, Viovode of Cracow ordered a chapel to be erected in the north wing and new defenses closing the outer court. Jan Wielopoliski, Crown Chancellor of Poland came into possession of the whole Pieskowa Skala estate about 1656. After a fire in 1718, the damaged castle was repaired and modernized with Baroque character. The members of the Wielopolski family used Pieskowa Skala mainly as a place to organize hunting expeditions. As the result of a great fire in 1850, the oldest part of the castle collapsed. In 1863 during the January insurrection, the castle suffered considerably from Russian artillery fire. In 1902 Pieskowa Skala was converted into a pension until 1939. After WWII, the castle was purchased by the Polish government. Conservation work was carried out from 1950 to 1968. The castle museum was opened in 1970 and is part of the Royal Wawel Castle Museum in Cracow.
Author’s Note: Special thanks to Maciej Stepowski for making this article possible. He brought this castle to my attention and provided personal photos and translations from Polish to English.
Write-up by Duke of York.
*) denotes a former staff member.