The Czersk castle was built more or less at the same time as Tower of London. The latter is perfectly preserved and hosted millions of tourists every year and the former has been destroyed but the ruins are also very picturesque and can tell you great history of my country, Poland.
An enchanting place for rest and sightseeing
The Czersk castle, situated on a slope by the Vistula, is an enchanting place for rest and sightseeing, as well as organizing outdoor events on its extensive common. The following events are annually organized: The Knightly Tournament at the Court of Konrad of Mazovia in May, The European Heritage Days in September, picnics, fetes and many others. For companies and institutions the castle courtyard is made available, where there is a possibility to set up a stage, simple exhibitions etc.
Prince of Masovia who is known for bringing the Teutonic Knights to Poland imprisoned two other princes in the Czersk castle`s south tower
Czersk is one of the oldest medieval strongholds in Masovia (Mazowsze). The Ruins of the Masovian Dukes’ Castle (Ruiny Zamku Książąt Mazowieckich) are the remains of a Gothic castle built on the turning point of the 14th and 15th centuries by Duke Janusz I of Warsaw, also known as Janusz I The Old, Polish prince member of the House of Piast in the Masovian branch. But the castle was originally built in the 11th century on a former Slavonic settlement. At the beginning of the 12th century the Romanesque church of St. Peter was built.
In the 13th century Czersk became the site of the Masovian princes from the Piast dynasty. During the ruling of Konrad of Masovia (Książę Konrad Mazowiecki), Czersk witnessed many important events. Konrad’s competitors to rule Cracow were imprisoned in the castle`s south tower: Henry the Bearded (Henryk Brodaty), the Prince of Wrocław and Bolesław the Chaste (Bolesław V Wstydliwy), a Duke of Sandomierz in Lesser Poland from 1232 and High Duke of Poland from 1243. Nevertheless the time of prince Konrad of Masovia ruling was for Czersk the best period in its history. As a result of division of Mazowsze region after the Konrad`s death the Czersk principality was formed.
At the end of the 14th century, on the location of the old stronghold Prince Janusz I the Old started to raise the gothic brick-built castle to protect his land against the Teutonic Order. It was completed in 1410.
Also at that time, because of political changes and due to the river relocation from near the castle further to the east, Prince Janusz moved to Warsaw and the castle lost its importance.
In 1526 Masovia was connected to the rest of the Kingdom of Poland as the property of Polish Kings. King Zygmunt I the Old handed the castle over to his wife Bona Sforza. She made the castle bigger. It got three towers. One of them being four-sided, was used as the main gate house.
Numerous threats from the Prussians, the Teutonic Knights, and Lithuanians
The dynasty of Masovian Piasts was started by Konrad I of Masovia who approximately in 1200 made Masovia (a historical region in mid-north-eastern Poland) and Cuiavia (a historical region in north-central Poland) independent of Cracow, the capital of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland from 1038 to 1569. The dynastic line started by him contributed to the intense development of these lands, despite numerous threats from the Prussians, the Teutonic Knights, and Lithuanians. Descendants of Konrad I of Masovia divided Masovia into three smaller duchies: the Duchy of Czersk, the Duchy of Płock, and the Duchy of Rawa. In connection with the territorial fragmentation, many castles were built at that time, used for defensive and residential purposes. The most important castles of the Duchy of Masovia were erected mainly in the 14th century and the first quarter of the 15th century.
The first capital of the Masovian region succeded by Warsaw, current capital of Poland
In the 14th century Czersk became a city. Until now the medieval urban character has been preserved so I would like to encourage you to visit the place. And you might be surprised that in the past Czersk was more important than Warsaw, current capital of Poland. The city happened to be the first capital of the Masovian region which is nowadays the capital voivodeship, the centre of science, research, education, industry and infrastructure in the country. Czersk was granted city law in 1350 but it lost it as the castle was demolished and Czersk lost importance. It was granted again on July 1st, 1926 so several centuries later. The status of city is very important in Poland as it defines whether a city is a town or a village.
In the town there was a brick shrine (probably Roman, at present its foundations are visible thanks to archeologists’ work), which in the middle of the 13th century became the collegiate church. The dwelling’s fortifications turned out to be inefficient while defending against the Lithuanians, who attacked the town repeatedly crossing the Vistula in the 14th century.
From the end of the 14th century until the Swedish Deluge times, when it was destroyed, the castle controlled the merchant trail at its foot running along the Vistula from the south and east to the north. In 1413, the town was succeeded by Warsaw, when the route of the river apparently changed. As with most of Polish castles, this one was destroyed by the Swedes in the mid-1700s. Eventually the castle was abandoned in the late 1800s and served as a quarry for many years.
Perhaps, due to the town’s destruction in the 1380’s, the Prince Janusz I the Old ordered the construction of a castle. The works were most probably finished by the end of the 14th century. In the meantime in Warsaw a new fortified prince’s residence was being built. In 1406 the ruler officially moved his capital from Czersk to Warsaw.
In the 15th century the castle fortifications underwent modernization works. Then both the cylindrical towers and the gate tower were raised.
During the war with the Swedes, in 1656, the castle became partly ruined. The retreating land army, close to Warta, under Stefan Czarniecki’s command had captured the stronghold and had devastated it. Czarniecki was the one who made significant contributions fighting the Khmelnytsky Uprising (Powstanie Chmielnickiego), during the Russo-Polish War, and the Polish–Swedish war. His use of guerrilla warfare against Swedes is credited as one of the main reason for the eventual Polish victory in this war.
The castle went through a reconstruction between 1762–1766, when a Grand Marshal of the Crown, Marshal of Prussia and a voivode of Chełmno Franciszek Bieliński had commanded the reconstruction of the stronghold. He is best remembered as a strong proponent of the expansion and the modernisation of the city of Warsaw. He is also the eponym of Marszałkowska Street (Marshal Street) in Warsaw, one of the major and most iconic streets of Poland’s capital.
However, due to the Prussian Partition, the Prussian leader had ordered for the demolition of the castle’s defense walls, reducing the stronghold’s military importance. From that time, nobody had ever again took on the reconstruction of the castle. From the once mighty stronghold, all of the towers; a brick bridge from the eighteenth century; and the north and east wing of the castle had all survived.
If you like to see the remains of history, I mean ruins, archeological discoveries you may find great story which is hidden in the Ruins of the Masovian Dukes’ Castle. I think it`s worth visiting. I would be very honoured if you went to Czersk one day.
To see you there!
By Agata Szostkowska
Photos: Michał Stanisławski
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