Castle history

Zbigniew Lechowicz, History of the upper castle

Brick castle was built on a high hill, 42 m above the Iłżanka valley, in 1340 it served as a bishop’s fortified residence and the administrative centre of a demesne, comprising 14 villages and 1 town in the mid-15th century.

On the basis of research results, it was established that the castle was built on a raw root and the construction was implemented in two stages. First stage included a part of fortifications from the east, cylindrical tower and the premises of the so called “great house” from the north. Next stage included building a curtain wall and the gate. It was divided into the proper (upper) high castle and low castle, on the northern side. Both parts were separated with a deep moat. Upper castle, built on an irregular plan, similar to a triangle, with an area of about 1500 m2 was located on the hilltop. Circumferential wall was built of broken limestone, joined by lime and sand mortar, in the shape of an almond - triangle with rounded corners. There was a gate on the western side. In the eastern corner, a cylindrical tower was built along the circumferential walls and a small residential house is on the north-western side. Castle was subject to expansion multiple times. First expansion took place in the second half of 14th century, when bishop Florian Morkski (1367-1380) built walls around the town and partially extended the castle. At the turn of the 14th/15th century the existing gate was rebuilt into a gate tower protruding beyond the walls and a stone bridge based on pillars was built, which was the only access road to the castle. Next modern conversions took place in the 16th and early 17th century. As a result, castle interior and building mass were significantly changed. Around the middle of the 16th century, the attics crowning the proper castle, gate tower and the bastion-type fortifications were added. They initially consisted of three bastions lying: at the foot of the entrance gate, in the centre of the western curtain and in the north-west corner (nowadays they are partly preserved in the western and north-eastern part). Then, in the first half of the 17th century, a parkway defending the eastern gate of the castle was supplemented by the northern curtain and the north-western bastion. Initiators of these further reconstructions were: bishop Jan Konarski (1503-1524) in the first half of the 16th century, bishop Filip Padniewski (1560-1572) in ca. 1560 (reconstruction to a renaissance residence) and bishop Marcin Szyszkowski (1616-1630) in ca. 1618. During that time, Szymon Starowolski observed that castle and defined it as “...old-fashioned architecture, but sufficient for the needs of bishop's court...”

Inspection records from 1644 confirm this opinion. During the inspection, the castle was in a good condition, richly equipped, which can be confirmed with often repeated phrases in description of the chambers: “good, white furnace on azure bottom” (furnaces were in 5 chambers out of 6); “windows with good, glass chambers”, doors “finished by woodworker’s painting”; stone floors, painted ceilings and walls in the chambers. The most important rooms were located at the upper castle and the main access was from the castle gate. First floor comprised of residential and representative chambers and on the ground floor there were administrative and economic chambers. Chambers were arranged according to enfilade layout and all storeys were linked by a main staircase. They consisted of 6 rooms, a main chapter, a hall, a chapel and a hallway. In the courtyard, surrounded by residential buildings, there was also a "big brick, stone-cut well”. Below there was a low castle resided by a castle starost. Houses of officials and servants of bishops were surrounded with another courtyard with a well.

Castle was properly armed, according to the inventory of 1577: 1 great field cannon, 1 great field half-cannon, 2 minor half-cannons (there used to be 4, but 2 were taken by the starost to Mirowo for the soldiers) and inventory of 1644 notes: 4 bronze cannons, 4 iron cannons, 3 mortars. However, modifications in the defence system and armament proved to be insufficient, as in 1655 the castle was captured and burnt down by the Swedes.

It was rebuilt in 1670 by Cracow bishop, Andrzej Trzebicki. Next bishops were taking care of it too – Jan Aleksander Lipski (1732-1746) improved castle walls in 1732, Andrzej Załuski (1746-1758) renovated the interiors in 1750 and Kajetan Sołtyk (1759-1788) in 1760 and 1782. It was the last castle maintenance, which was already in ruins after 7 years. During the Austrian rule, it housed a military hospital and after it was decommissioned, the inhabitants of Iłża were having fun in the castle rooms. There was a fire during one of the parties, which significantly destroyed the interiors. They started to dismantle not completely destroyed elements of the castle and sell them for the materials. These activities, which lasted throughout the 19th century, saved only the construction walls of the upper castle, the cylindrical tower and some fortification walls. First maintenance works were undertaken in 1910 under the direction of Oskar Sosnkowski, continued during the interwar period, and then resumed in the 1950s. They were being conducted in 1990s and as a result debris from upper castle walls and partially preserved basements was removed. Moreover, tower walls and the bastions were filled and secured with mortar. A metal staircase was also built in the tower leading to the viewing terrace covered with a roof.

(Excerpt from article: “Zamek górny w Iłży w świetle konserwatorskich badań architektoniczno-archeologicznych w 2009 roku”, in: Z dziejów budownictwa rezydencjalno-obronnego na ziemi iłżeckiej, red. D. Kalina, R. Kubicki, Kielce 2011, 36-40.)