Medieval Ducal Tower in Siedlecin, Poland
Ducal tower in Siedlęcin near Jelenia Góra (Lower Silesia, Poland) is one of the most impressive and important medieval monuments in Poland. This keep is also one of the biggest (22,2 x 14,35 m) and best-preserved examples of such buildings in Central Europe. Its construction was started in 1313 or 1314 by Henry I, Duke of Jawor. He and his wife Agnes of Bohemia also commissioned the medieval mural paintings in the great hall on the second floor.
In the first half of the fourteenth century, the Duchy of Jawor and Świdnica was one of the richest regions in Central Europe. It was strongly influenced by the royal court in Prague. The keep in Siedlęcin was one of more than fifty castles built by Bolko I and his descendants.
Unquestionably the most impressive level of the tower is the second floor with the former hall. The Great Hall in Siedlęcin tower house was designed for ceremonial purposes: it was higher and it had rich interior decoration. Architectural research shows that the storey containing the hall was originally divided into three spaces, some of the interior walls having been demolished in the seventeenth century when the tower was being used as a granary.
The completed polychrome paintings on the south wall of the Great Hall occupy over 32 square meters; they were all made using the al secco technique. After the paintings were discovered at the end of the nineteenth century, they were subjected to a first restoration in 1936. Research in the 1990’s resulted in the first monograph describing the paintings. Not only the real meaning of the paintings (some scenes changed during improper restoration) but also the reasons of the misinterpretations was recovered. The restoration works of the paintings took place in 2006 and 2007.
The paintings were planned and financed by Duke Henry I and his wife in 1345-1346. Art historians suggested that the artist probably came from the north-east of Switzerland, since the murals show the influence of the Swiss Waltensburg Master (‘Waltensburger Meister’). The paintings were never finished. It seems that after the death of Henry the I in 1346 the work was suspended and later (after 1368 or 1369, when it was sold), the new owners of the tower, the noble family of Redern, hoped to continue the work with the assistance of one of the Swiss master’s students, but unfortunately this seems have never come to fruition.
The paintings in Siedlęcin are exceptional: their topic is principally profane, something very rare in that period in Silesia. The main subject of the murals is the romantic story of one of the most famous legendary knights of the Middle Ages; they are now recognised as the unique in the world that shows the legend of Sir Lancelot of the Lake.
The ducal tower house in Siedlęcin is one of the most important medieval residences of this type in Central Europe. It’s very exceptional because of the huge dimensions of both the Great Hall and the existing fourteenth century paintings found within and the high level of authenticity of the entire monument. The archaeological project, started in 2008, may provide information about not only the tower house itself but also the form and use of other buildings and constructions related to the tower house in both the medieval and more modern periods.
From 2001 Ducal Tower is owned and run by the Chudow Castle Fund.
The ducal tower in Siedlęcin is open to visitors every day.
High season (May – October): 9.00 – 18.00
Low season (November – April): 10.00 – 16.00
In 2010 “The Ducal Tower of Siedlęcin” Association was founded.
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