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Royal Castle, Warsaw Old Town, Poland

The Royal Castle in Warsaw -Polish: Zamek Królewski w Warszawie, is a castle residency and was the official residence of the Polish monarchs. It is located in the Castle Square, at the entrance to the Warsaw Old Town. The personal offices of the king and the administrative offices of the Royal Court of Poland were located there from the 16th century until the Partitions of Poland. In its long history the Royal Castle was repeatedly devastated and plundered by Swedish, Brandenburgian, German, and Russian armies.

The Constitution of 3 May 1791 was drafted here by the Four-Year Sejm. In the 19th century, after the collapse of the November Uprising, it was used as an administrative centre by the Tsar. Between 1926 and World War II the palace was the seat of the Polish president, Ignacy Mo?cicki. After the devastation done by Nazis during the Warsaw Uprising, the Castle was rebuilt and reconstructed. In 1980, Royal Castle, together with the Old Town was registry in UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today it is a historical and national monument, and is listed as a national museum.

The imposing façade, built of brick is 90 m long and faces the Castle Square. At each end of the façade stands a square tower with a bulbous spire. The Sigismund’s Tower is located in the centre of the main façade, flanked on both sides by the castle. This huge clock tower of 60 m in height designed in the sixteenth century, has always been a symbol of the Polish capital and source of inspiration for the architects of other buildings in Warsaw.

Nowadays, the Castle serves as the Museum and is subordinated to the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. Many official visits and state meetings are held in the Royal Castle, too. Over 500,000 people visit the Royal Castle every year.

The interior consists of many different rooms, all painstakingly restored with as much original exhibits as possible after the destruction of the Second World War.

The Jagiellonian Rooms

These rooms, which belonged to the residence of Sigismund Augustus, are now host to a number of portraits of the Jagiellon dynasty, a royal dynasty originating in Lithuania that reigned in some Central European countries between the 14th and 16th century.

The Houses of Parliament

From 16th century onwards, Polish democracy started here. In 1573, amendments to the constitution of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were written here, with great religious tolerance. Also, during the Deluge in 1652, the liberum veto was established in these rooms, although not carried out until 1669. In 1791, the May Constitution, Europe’s first modern codified national constitution as well as the second-oldest national constitution in the world, was drafted here. The decorations in the room are replicas of the originals by Giovanni Battista di Quadro.

The Royal Apartments

In these apartments, King Stanis?aw August Poniatowski lived. They consist of the Canaletto room, in which several painted views of Warsaw are on display. These were not painted by Canaletto, but rather by his nephew, Bernardo Bellotto. Jean-Baptiste Pillement worked between 1765–1767 on one of his largest projects, the wallpaper. Domenico Merlini designed the adjacent Royal Chapel in 1776. Nowadays, the heart of Tadeusz Ko?ciuszko is kept here in an urn. The Audience Rooms are also designed by Merlini, with four paintings by Marcello Bacciarelli on display. Andrzej Grzybowski took care of the restoration of the room, that included many original pieces.

Lanckoro?ski Collection

In 1994 Countess Karolina Lanckoro?ska donated 37 pictures to the Royal Castle. Collection includes two paintings (portraits) by Rembrandt: The Father of the Jewish Bride (also known as The Scholar at the Lectern) and The Jewish Bride (also known as The Girl in a Picture Frame) both originally in the Stanis?aw August Poniatowski collection.

Curiosities

  • On 24 May 1829 in the Royal Castle’s Senator’s Hall, Nicholas I of Russia was crowned King of Poland.
  • On 5 November 1916, the Act of 5 November was announced in the Grand Hall.
  • On 23 April 1935, the April Constitution was signed in the Knight Hall.
  • Stanis?aw August Poniatowski’s regalia are kept in the Royal Chapel. These are the Order of the White Eagle, the ceremonial sword of theSaint Stanis?aw’s Order and aquamarine sceptre.
  • The insignia of presidential power are also stored in the Castle- the stamp of the President, the Jack of the President of the Republic of Poland and national documents, which Ryszard Kaczorowski gave to Lech Wa??sa on 22 December 1990.
  • Many of the Polish legends are connected with the Royal Castle. According to one of them in 1569 the king Sigismund Augustus, who was in mourning after death of his beloved wife Barbara Radziwi??, asked the renowned sorcerer Master Twardowski to evoke her ghost. The experiment was successful with support of a magic mirror, which today is kept in the W?grów Cathedral. Despite that some people suspected that it was not the Queen’s ghost but closely resembling her king’s mistress Barbara Gi?anka and the whole event was set up by Gi?anka’s accomplice Miko?aj Mniszech, king’s chamberlain.
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