Gołuchów Castle (Poland)
Greater Poland Voivodeship See list of castles in Polonia
Gołuchów Castle is one of the few Wielkopolska residences that was already known and open to the public in the 19th century.
The history of the castle goes back to the Middle Ages and its first known owner was Żegota of Gołuchów (1263-1282). A defensive fort stood here in the first half of the 15th century, probably where the castle stands today. The terrain definitely provides for adequate defence. It overlooks the Trzemsza River from the west and is surrounded by a moat and a secure embankment.
The Gołuchów estates became the property of the Leszczyński family in 1507. The work on the residence, which had progressed in stages from the early 16th century, was completed between 1600 and 1628. This was now one of the most magnificent renaissance castles in Poland. A graphic recreation of its appearance back then was made possible by 18th-century surveys and inventory measurements from 1850.
The castle consisted of a tower house with four octagonal towers in the corners, closing the premises from the north. The basement and three keeps (reconstructed during the 19th century) have been preserved. This building is a throwback to the medieval tradition of tower houses and is unlike any other castle in Poland. It may have been erected prior to 1507. There used to be another building on the southern side. The two wings, which centred around a small interior courtyard with an arcaded cloister, were joined by built-on porches. The sandstone door frames, main entrance portal and marble and stone chimney housings have survived from those days. There are accounts of richly carved doors, decorated floors and polychromed and carved ceilings.
The estate changed hands frequently from the end of the 17th century until the middle of the 19th. Jan Działyński, son of the owner of Kórnik, purchased Gołuchów in 1853 and set about improving the economy of Gołuchów and beautifying the park in front of the castle. Only necessary repairs were made to the residence itself.
The work gathered pace after Jan Działyński married Prince Adam Czartoryski’s daughter Izabela in 1857. The castle became their Polish home. The owner of Gołuchów was forced to emigrate for his part in the January Uprising of 1863. The Prussian authorities sequestered his estate, along with the castle, and all work ceased.
The Działyńskis lived in Paris and could only return in 1869. Jan Działyński also inherited Kórnik and both residences required a great deal of expense. After a lot of discussion, in 1871, Izabela purchased the estate from her husband to make a comfortable home for her sumptuous Paris collections.
The previous plans for a general restoration of the castle were implemented. Work was also carried out on the gardens and other buildings essential to the proper functioning of the future residence. Its area was expanded considerably. Lodgings for the owners were set up in the grounds of the future park (whose southern end had a chapel and a distillery) while renovation was in progress between 1872 and 1875.
The plans to restore the castle were worked out in Poland in line with a concept devised in Paris by the leading French architect and conservator Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Both Działyńskis acted as advisors and had the final say. Work began on the castle in 1876 and continued for 10 years. Polish and French tradesmen and French artists and conservators were employed.
Izabela Działyńska was aware that she was saving the ancient family seat of the Leszczyńskis. Every article from those times was meticulously restored. Valuable bas reliefs and mosaics purchased abroad were placed next to authentic items from the castle. The renovated interiors were filled with valuable tapestries, paintings and furniture to create a unique and inimitable whole.
The expansive park was laid out while the castle was being renovated and almost took until Izabela’s death in 1899 to complete. The last was the mausoleum, a converted 17th chapel completed just after she died.
Izabela had more than the splendour and comfort of her successors in mind. Saving this castle connected with the history of Poland and then setting up a museum and ensuring public accessibility by way of a lawful bequest was also intended to educate her compatriots – oppressed by the partitioning powers – through contact with art.
Działyńska’s nephews were the next owners of Gołuchów. The castle, with its Greek vases and Limousin enamel famous throughout Europe, was open to visitors. The owners’ most eminent guests only stayed in its chambers during important family occasions.
The last war spared the building and the park. Bountiful collections, some of them deposited in Warsaw, were taken to Austria and returned to the National Museum in Warsaw after the war. The rest, including the Greek vases, were stored in Poznań by the occupiers and then sent to the Soviet Union. These were returned to Poland – but not Gołuchów – in 1946 and 1956. Today, only some of the original furniture, a few paintings and 56 Greek vases (260) are stored in Gołuchów.
The castle has been part of the National Museum in Poznań since 1952. The expansive 150 ha park, together with the remaining buildings, was acquired by the State Forests National Forest Holding, which opened a Forest Culture Centre here in 1974. The entire complex is now open to the public.