The castle is majestic but you really need a guide to show you the essentials like the tunnels. Unfortunately, the guides only speak Polish and there are no audio guides... read more
Ksiaz, a blend of many architectural styles, is the third-largest castle in...
Ksiaz, a blend of many architectural styles, is the third-largest castle in Poland. In Europe, it is considered distinctive because its setting – proudly perched on a rock face, 395 metres above sea level – is as striking as its size.
At first a defensive fortification, raised at the end of the thirteenth century by the Piast duke Bolka I (“the Strict”), it has changed hands many times. Only in 1590 was the castle given to the aristocratic Hochberg dynasty which, after receiving title to the castle in 1605, maintained the property as their residence for the following three centuries. During that time, they became one of the most influential and wealthiest Prussian dynasties; in the 19th century, the head of the family received the hereditary title of Prince. With the marriage of Hans Heinrich VI to Anna Anhalt-Pless, the dynasty came to own the estate of the Duchy of Pless, in Upper Silesia. From that time on, the owners of Ksiaz held the title Hochberg von Pless. Before World War II, Ksiaz underwent two significant reconstructions. The first, called the Baroque Reconstruction, took place at the beginning of the 18th century, when Konrad Ernest Maximilan ruled. This included the creation of the huge east face and the main entrance, the splendid Maximilian Hall and several Baroque rooms, and also the gate building, where the library could be found.
The Second Castle reconstruction took place between 1909 and 1923. The intention of the owner at the time, Hans Heinrich XV, was to transform Ksiaz into a true baronial mansion. The castle was enlarged at the time by the north and west wings, to which two tours were built. Unfavourable political circumstances (the First World War and economic crisis), and the Hochbergs’ personal problems, prevented the reconstruction from being finished; difficulties in Germany led to financial collapse.
During the Second World War, when the paramilitary Todt Organization turned the Castle into solidiers’ quarters, part of the former Hochberg residence was drastically destroyed, and its furnishings were removed. At two levels under the Castle (15 and 50 metres), prisoners from the Gross-Rosen Concentration Camp dug huge tunnels, part of the Riese (Giant) complex that was built in the Sowa Mountains. To this day, the purpose of the tunnels is shrouded in mystery. It has been assumed that a munitions factory or chemical laboratory was to be founded there, and that Ksiaz itself was to become one of the Fuhrer’s quarters. The underground works were partly hidden by Hitler’s soldiers in the war’s final months. On 8 May 1945, the Castle was taken over by the Red Army, which set about causing further destruction, including the removal of part of the library collection. In the years after the war, the Castle experienced still more devastation. Only in the 1950s did Ksiaz receive protection from the regional conservator of Historic Monuments, and during the 1970s the first renovation work began. Since 1991, the Castle has been managed, on behalf of Wałbrzych’s local government, by Ksiaz Castle in Wałbrzych Ltd.
The duality of Ksiaz Castle: an essential tourist asset:
Ksiaz Castle has often been identified with the Ksiaz Landscape Park, the forest expanse from which it appears, like a ship sailing on an endless green sea. To this day, the former residence of the Hochbergs bears the hallmarks of the times when aristocrats ruled: the castle gates are protected by royal lions, the wide Honorary Courtyard is surrounded by the figures of mythological gods, and the castle exterior suggests that an enchanted dwelling lies within. The Maximilian Hall, resplendent with gold, is used for official purposes: honorary galas, official openings, and prestigious award ceremonies. A short distance from the Castle, there is a further suggestion of the days of nobility at the Ksiaz Stud Farm, where the most illustrious specimens of horses (those bought by Arab sheiks), may be found.
Ksiaz Castle, however, has yet another face – dark and impenetrable. It is viewed as one of Lower Silesia’s great mysteries. The ultimate purpose of the Nazi reconstruction work has never been identified, although it is known that Adolf Hitler himself wanted to turn it into his headquarters. The tunnel network, dug by prisoners, has been the subject of stories, legends and conspiracy theories – clouding the picture even further. Without a doubt, one of the firmest beliefs that have taken hold is that the stolen treasure of the region’s people is buried under the courtyard.