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The Książ Castle in Wałbrzych

Książ Castle was erected between 1288 and 1292 by Bolko the Strict, the Duke of Świdnica and Jawor from the Piast dynasty, who at that point assumed the title Bolko dei gratia dux Slesie et dominus de Wrstenberc (by God’s grace, Duke of Silesia and Lord of Książ). The stronghold, raised in the heart of a thick forest, on a steep cliff surrounded on three sides by the Pełcznica river gorge, was of strategic significance and was considered “the key to Silesia”. It was given the name of the Duke’s Mountain (German: Fürstenberg). After the extinction of the Piast dynasty from the Świdnica-Jawor line in the second half of the 14th century, it became the property of the Czech kings. Later on, at the end of the 15th century, it came under the rule of the king of Hungary Matthias Corvinus. His successor, king Vladislav II of Hungary from the Jagiellonian dynasty entrusted the Książ estate to his chancellor, Joahann von Haugwitz.

A landmark event in the history of Książ took place on 11 June 1509. It was then that Haugwitz handed over the castle and the neighbouring estates to knight Konrad I von Hoberg (in 1714, the spelling of Książ’s owners was changed to Hochberg) for an unknown sum. During their tenure at Książ (German: Fürstenstein) the Hochbergs carried out several conversions of the castle, turning the military facility into an aristocratic residence. The last modernisation, which gave the structure its current shape, was carried out by Hans Heinrich XV Hochberg von Pless in 1908-1923.

Książ Castle remained in the hands of the Hochberg family until 1941, when it was seized by the German Nazi authorities. In 1944-45 prisoners of the German Nazi concentration camp in Gross-Rosen excavated the rock on which the castle was perched, filling the hollowed space with a large underground structure of reinforced concrete. The destination of the structure remains the object of historical research. The death toll from the project is unknown.

The destruction and looting of Książ Castle by the Germans during the war and subsequently continued by Soviet soldiers and looters after it ended reduced the site to ruin. In 1973, the estate, including Książ Castle, was merged with the city of Wałbrzych, and a year later reconstruction of the castle began. Since 1991 it has been owned by the city of Wałbrzych.

Książ is one of the largest palace and garden complexes in Poland. The estate occupies the area of 21.7 hectares and the castle’s volume is 160,000 cubic metres. In terms of size, it is the third largest after the Teutonic Knights‘ Castle in Malbork and Wawel Royal Castle in Kraków.

Artur Szałkowski