The history

The Royal Castle in Niepołomice is called ‘the second Wawel’, it was built by order of the King Kazimierz Wielki, on the slope of the Vistula River. Its purpose was also for protection. They set off from here on hunting trips to the nearby Niepołomice Forest. The protective residence originally was made up of three towers, buildings on the south and eastern wing, including protective walls around the courtyard. Alongside this, the Niepołomice settlement was founded, its main purpose being to service the castle and manor. The work of Kazimierz was continued by the following Kings: Władysław II Jagiełło, Zygmunt I Stary, and later Zygmunt II August. In the days when Władysław Jagiełło ruled, meetings and court hearings were held at the castle. Zygmunt I Stary completely rebuilt the castle, making it more of a square shape with an interior courtyard. It was used as a refuge for the royal court at a time when there was an epidemic in Kraków (1527). In 1550, a great fire ruined the east and northern wing. During the reign of King Zygmunt August, the castle was rebuilt and restored. The work was carried out between 1551–1568 under the direction of Tomasz Grzymała and the sculptor Santi Gucci. They built a stairway from the side of the courtyard and gallery that was supported by three pillars. Queen Bona was responsible for the Italian gardens that are located by the southern wing – “the Gardens of Queen Bona”. From the end of 16th century the castle was passed down to noble families: Curyło, Branicki and Lubomorski. At this time, the only changes that were made were to the interior décor and they rebuilt the fireplaces and ceilings. The biggest change was when they rebuilt the gallery in an Early Baroque style, between 1635 and 1637. When the Swedes invaded in 1655, they brought an end to the splendour of this royal building. The castle was changed into a warehouse for food, the church was damaged and the town was sent away. In the middle of 18th century, the castle was taken over by King August Mocny and August III. They only made attempts to repair the castle. After the Polish partition in 1772, the castle and town were under the rule of Austria. The Austrians completely changed the interior of the castle, and turned it into a barracks. They also took apart the second floor and reinforced the walls and buttresses. In the second half of the 19th century, until World War I, the castle was used as living space and for warehousing. In the interwar and post-war period, the castle served as a public facility. Then, at the time of the war the castle fell into the hands of the Germans. In the post-war period, the castle was in disrepair. After many years, the castle became the property of the community of Niepołomice in 1991, so they began complex restoration works. After a few years restoring and adapting the castle, this royal residence regained its previous splendour. Currently, the castle is open to guests and tourists. In the castle chambers there is now a Nature Museum that is used to display the hunting (mammals and fish) exhibits of Włodzimierz Puchalski and from the National Museum. The facility is managed by the Foundation of the Royal Castle in Niepołomice, they organise recitals, concerts, shows, Knight’s tournaments and other exhibitions. They also manage the luxury hotel and state of the art conference centre.

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