Krzyżtopór Castle is considered one of the most impressive buildings of this type in Europe. The name of the castle in Ujazd is a cluster of two words: a cross (Krzyz) and an axe (Topor).
Krzyżtopór Castle is, in fact, a palace with strong defensive features, surrounded by mighty bastion-type fortifications – the so-called “palazzo in Fortezza.” Few people know that the residence of Krzysztof Ossoliński was the largest palace complex in Europe until the famous French Versailles was built.
This comparison should give an idea of the size and costs incurred to erect this object. The magnate fortified palace delights with architecture, stirs the imagination with an unusual form, and fascinates with its history, which has grown into many legends over the years.
Krzysztof Ossoliński, coat of arms Axe (Topór), decided to build a headquarters exceeding the scale of all other investments of the magnates at that time, including the Ossolin Castle famous for its spaciousness and wealth, owned by his brother Jerzy Ossoliński.
The construction of this magnificent residence, which reportedly cost 30,000,000 zlotys, began around 1620 and continued until 1644 under the direction of architect Wawrzyniec Senes.
The unusual Palace was surrounded by walls with four bastions, giving new opportunities for defense by setting up cannons outside the line of walls. The ceiling in the dining room was supposedly made of glass, and revelers had a chance to watch exotic fish floating above them during meals.
The owner himself enjoyed his new seat only for a year because he died in 1645, and in turn, his heir and only son, Krzysztof Baldwin, died in the battle of Zborow in 1649. From then on, the castle changed hands several times.
In 1655 the castle was conquered by the Swedish army without any firing. The castle was probably seized by the use of deception. The Swedes took the valuables from the Palace, including the magnificent clock above the entrance gate.
In addition to the valuables, the library and the entire archive were plundered by the invaders. It was then that the documentation related to the construction of the Palace was lost.
According to sources, Swedish King Charles Gustav stayed here. Perhaps the castle was also viewed by historian and cartographer Erik Dahlberg, who left behind the oldest known plan of the establishment. However, errors in his drawing suggest that he relied only on stolen from the archives, an earlier project of Krzyżtopor.
Despite the vast devastation, the building was still inhabited, first by Kalinowski family, then by Wiśniowiecki, and in 1720 Morsztyn family settled down here. None of the subsequent owners of Ujazd had neither the will nor the funds to rebuild and develop this excellent residence, which slowly began to lean toward ruin.
Around 1760, a small renovation was made by the general of Lithuanian troops Jan Michał Pac, the owner of the castle at that time. He managed to restore its southern part, where he lived until the outbreak of the Bar Confederation in 1768, directed against the guardianship of the Russian Empire, King Stanisław August Poniatowski, and an attempt to introduce reforms favorable to Russia.
He even made part of the castle rooms available to supporters of the union; however, after losing, he hurriedly left to France, leaving the building devastated and burned out as a result of defensive fights. From 1770, Krzyżtopór was only a beautiful ruin in which nobody lived.
The costs of its renovation and maintenance were enormous, and even such wealthy families as the Łempicki family who took over the castle in 1815 did not intend to carry out any construction work here, treating the ruins as a romantic attraction that was worth showing off to the guests.
The last owners of Krzyżtopor were the Orsetti family, who bought it in 1858 and kept it until 1944, living in a neighboring manor house. The castle was a shelter for soldiers during the ongoing fighting and armed conflicts such as the January Uprising.
Over the years of German occupation, the famous guerrilla unit “Jędrusie” was hiding in the basement of the castle, and the inhabitants of the village waited in relative safety for the final battle on the Soviet-German front.
After the cessation of hostilities, the state took over Krzyżtopór castle and had many ideas for its development, from full reconstruction to modest concepts focusing on permanent protection of ruins and their adaptation for tourism needs. Today we know that such a solution has been chosen, although (at least partial) reconstruction of this beautiful monument is still an open question.
Architecture and Symbolism
The castle was erected on the plan of a regular pentagon, a rare type of “palazzo in Fortezza” in Poland, i.e., a residence that combines the comfort of occupants with a defensive function. Its form refers to the cardinal residence of Farnese built in the city of Caprarola in Italy, and it was the largest object of this type before Versailles. The compact body of the Palace occupied an area of about 1.3 ha.
In the five-pointed plan of the castle, unusual for Poland at that time, researchers see the symbolism hidden by Ossoliński. Some describe Krzyżtopór as a humanistic castle, referring in shape to a human considered a perfect being. Others find cabalistic ideas relating to the tree of life.
The symbolic shape of the castle body, as well as the magical names of bastions, e.g., “Oto dla Ciebie,” may also suggest that the founder of Krzyżtopor wanted his seat to be protected by magical powers.
According to another theory, the castle in Ujazd referred to the calendar, reportedly had “as many windows as there are days in a year, as many chambers as there are weeks, as many rooms as there are months and as many towers as there are seasons of the year.”
With this mystical atmosphere and incredible ruins, the castle is a must to see.
The castle has several ghost legends. The most prevalent tells about treasures hidden in the basements and a mysterious guard protecting them.
According to one of the stories, it is supposed to be the ghost of Krzysztof Baldwin Ossoliński; The magnate who does not appear in person. You can only hear his footsteps, the sound of horse hooves, and sometimes you can see the shadow of a hussar on the castle walls.
Those who enjoy life should not cross the gates of Krzyżtopór castle after dusk. Ghost of the Krzysztof Ossoliński walks through the corridors and looking for lost souls.
Several thematic sightseeing routes have been marked out in Krzyżtopor. If you don’t have much time, you can always choose only one of several options and focus on what interests you most. Give yourself about 1.5 hours of sightseeing.
1 April – 31 August: 8.00 do 20.00
1 September – 31 October: 8.00 do 18.00
1 November – 28 February:8.00 do 16.00
1 April – 31 March: 8.00 do 18.00
Full 12 PLN
Reduced 9 PLN
Full 10 PLN
Reduced 7 PLN
Krzyżtopór Castle (permanent and secured ruin) is located in the Świętokrzyskie Province, in the Opatów County in Ujazd (15 km from Opatów) off route number 758. Parking next to the castle is free.
The Krzyżtopór castle hosts many knights’ shows, feasts, and festivals of fire and light. Detailed information on this subject can be found on the castle’s website (unfortunately in Polish only).