Historical background
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The Lower Silesian Castles and Palaces Trail – the historical background

Lower Silesia, the historical land of the Ślężanie and their sub-tribes of Silesia, was incorporated into the state of Mieszko I in about 990 AD. The most significant tribal settlements (grads) acquired the status of castellanies – administrative centres from which castellans managed the established territories on behalf of the duke. The first castles in Silesia were built in the second half of the 12th century and the first half of the 13th century, in the first stage of the disintegration of the state. Silesia, the indivisible “senioral part,” was the land where the largest number of castles was built. Boleslaus I the Tall (Bolesław Wysoki), who had been raised in the West, introduced western designs into the new construction. The first castles were built in Wleń, Wrocław and Legnica.

In the 14th century, as a consequence of the division of provinces, numerous ducal castles were built next to the castles and manor houses of knights. Since many castle owners led pretty stormy lives, it is possible to state that raubritter castles (castles of robber barons) were built in Silesia as well. 

A large number of strongholds was built in the Sudety, in the duchy of Świdnica and Jawor, along the border with the Kingdom of Bohemia. They were considered to have been a kind of fortification system, but today it is certain that the whole system was constructed in a more complex way.

In the 16th century hundreds of Renaissance manors that alluded to the idea of castles (closed system, a moat, with rudimentary fortifications) were built in Silesia. In fact, they were only residences of landowners and there were always granges next to them.

In the course of time new residences were built less frequently and the existing ones were adjusted to new needs, reconstructed in the Baroque, Clasiccist or Romanticism style; gardens and parks were established right next to them. It is interesting that at that time some historical castles were reconstructed and it became fashionable to build the so called artificial ruins. 

Most of the residences, scattered across the region, were used until 1945. The war (less as a result of the fighting, more due to the subsequent looting), the population exchange and changes of political systems contributed to the castles’ drastic degradation. Only the medieval castles were “appreciated” and, rightly or wrongly, they were referred to as the Piast Castles. The residences from later periods were often condemned to a slow death, as they were given to the use of the State Agricultural Farms. Only a few of them have survived to this day, such as schools, recreational centres or holiday camps. The period after the economic transformation in Poland after 1989 was not any easier – next to individual cases of privatization and repair, there were numerous cases of failed privatization and even the rapid destruction of well-maintained buildings which had been abandoned by state institutions.

Today we can talk about a slow process of rebuilding some of the manors and palaces. However, many of them are awaiting their last chance or final demolition.

In Lower Silesia (along with the Lands of Kłodzko and Lusatia, which were distinct historical lands) we find a great wealth of various residences – castles, manors, palaces and villas, in different states of preservation and representing all periods and styles. The residences were often accompanied by parks.