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Ilza Castle Ruins


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Architectural relics of the castle which once served as a defensive bishops’ residence and an administrative centre, combined with original archaeological build-ups are of immense educational and scientific value.


Location and description


The structure is located on a hill overlooking the city, at a location of a defensive nature. The hill is toped with the ruins of the high castle (upper castle), whereas the relics of the low castle (ward) are situated to the north of it.


The upper castle, surrounded by a wall and a moat, was built on a floor plan that approximates the shape of a triangle, using the natural landforms. A cylindrical tower, which is the most distinctive feature of the structure, is located in its eastern corner. The structural walls of the upper castle and some fortifications (including roundels in the western part and the north-eastern part of the complex) have been preserved. The upper castle had the most important rooms: for household activities and of an administrative nature on the ground floor and of a residential and representative nature on the first floor. The low castle served as the seat of a castle starost and dwellings for officials and servants. The structure was splendidly equipped and well armed, which we learn from the inventory, i.e., the records on the surveys carried out in different periods.


Limestone used in the construction of the castle was extracted from the immediate vicinity thereof, also while digging the moat and foundation ditches. Archaeological build-ups in the area of the complex allow archaeologists to gain new insights into the layout and functioning of the castle in particular periods. Some of the rooms are covered with rubble.




The origins of the castle are linked to Bishop Jan Grot, who was an influential politician and political opponent of King Casimir the Great. The bishop contributed to the construction of many buildings, mostly religious buildings, including the Wawel Cathedral. The oldest sections of the castle were built before 1334. These were the tower, fortifications with a gate and the so-called ‘large house’. In the second half of the 14th century the structure was extended by Bishop Florian of Mokrsko The late 14th century and early 15th century saw the construction of an entrance tower and a stone bridge leading to the castle. Around 1550 attics and roundel-type fortifications were annexed. In the late 16th century and the early 17th century the shape and interior of the structure were modified, creating a Renaissance residence. In 1655, the castle was destroyed by the Swedes, then reconstructed by Bishop Andrzej Trzebicki in 1670. Although in the 18th century successive bishops carried out ad-hoc renovations, the castle nevertheless fell into ruin. In 1789, the state acquired the ownership of the castle. The inventory which was drawn up at that time described the very poor condition of the structure, and at the same time is a testimony its former grandeur. During the partitions of Poland the interior of the castle used for military purposes, including as a field hospital. The structure was destroyed in a fire, which was caused most likely during a dancing party organised by local people. The remaining walls were gradually demolished in order to obtain building materials to build a Faience manufactory in Iłża, among others.


Condition and results of archaeological research


The purpose of the investigations conducted by researchers from the Wrocław University of Technology (Professor Stanisław Medeksza, Andrzej Kudła, Professor Jerzy Rozpędowski) in the 1970s was to obtain data for the project aimed at securing the castle ruins. The work was focused on the area of the low castle, which revealed, including, but not limited to, relics of defensive devices such as a bastion and a cannon outpost, and buildings: the former starost’s office, kitchen, stable and structure construed as a smokehouse. Excavations of the site also unearthed an impressive number of movable monuments, giving an idea of what the fittings of the castle and the everyday life of its inhabitants might have looked like. The monuments included several thousand of fragments of ceramic vessels and stove tiles and metal objects, including knives, spurs, window fittings and horseshoes. Fragments of stained glass rings inscribed with the insignia of the Bishops of Kraków from 1646 which were found there are of great value to archaeologists.


The investigation undertaken by Zbigniew Lechowicz, PhD, in 2009 embraced the southern part of the upper castle. It revealed four rooms which were identified as described in the inventory of 1644: “shop where the starost hides things” (where shop is understood as a basement), “second shop”, “large well built of hewn stone” and “tar-works where tar is stored”. Additionally, researchers have identified a stratigraphy (layering) of the yard, foundations of the northern wall and an older building in the yard, demolished in the second half of the 16th century. The investigations of the site allowed researchers to establish the location and increase the knowledge of the rooms of the castle, described in written sources.


Researchers also surveyed the history of the hill before the construction of the castle: the area was used by man as early as the Upper Paleolithic, and later in the Early Middle Ages (9th-10th c.) In 2011, the project was commenced aimed at performing remote sensing measurements, based on which a digital 3D replica of the monument was created (project of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw on the initiative of Rafał Zapłata, PhD).


The monument is open to visitors. Entry to the tower is allowed during the spring-autumn period.



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All this happened in the shadow of the ancient castle tower and it seems that without this building what happened could not have happened. Indirectly, the existence of the bollard was the cause of shedding tears, be it by imprisoned Dobiesława, a princess turned into a duck, or finally by a mother mourning her tragically deceased son.


This reminds me of Warner Bros. The Swan Princess.



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