In the beginning of the 17th century the medieval abode of the Dukes of Masovia was largely extended to house the parliament of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, offices and court of the Vasas. The Italian architects Giovanni Trevano, Giacomo Rodondo, Paolo de la Corte and Mateo Castello constructed a Mannerist-early Baroque five-sided palace between 1598-1619. In 1621-1627, with the threat of Ottoman invasion, the palace was fortified with a curtain wall from the Vistula according to Italian concept of palazzo in fortezza (meaning in Italian, "a palace in a fortress"). Between 1634 and 1637 a large hall was constructed in upper parts of the southern wing to house opera hall of King Ladislaus IV and in 1637 the staircase tower was largely remodelled (Ladislaus' Tower). In 1643 the Prince-Cardinal Charles Ferdinand Vasa's Palace was erected on the northern bastion of the Castle's curtain wall and in 1644 a new gate (Saint John's Gate) and the Sigismund Column were erected by royal architect Constantino Tencalla in Baroque style.
During the so-called Deluge of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (invasion of allied forces of Sweden from north, Brandenburg from west, Transilvania from south and Muscovy from East), the castle was devastated in three occupations by foreign forces between 1655-1656 (the last was Transilvanian occupation). All valuables, including marble pavements, chimneys and window sills were shipped to Sweden, while the interiors were turned into stables and a hospital.
Exterior and interior
(1) Detail of the Plan of Warsaw in 1656 by Nicolas Pérelle after Erik Dahlbergh, printed in 1696. The fortifications of the Royal Castle in Warsaw were built in the years 1596-1627 giving the structure the more modern appearance according to principles of the Old Italian School (circle of Antonio da Sangallo). They consisted of a 162-metre-long curtain wall flanked by bastions on either side. Two shorter walls connected the bastions with the Castle. The wall rose at least 6.70 metres above the ground level. The fortifications were made of granite rocks, and due to the instability of the terrain, oak piles were also driven into the ground, the basic material for the surface construction was limestone surmounted with bricks. The remnants of the fortifications were absorbed by subsequent buildings in the 18th-century.
(2) Sigismund III Vasa on catafalque by Christian Melich, 1633, Wawel Royal Castle.
(3-4) The Ladislaus Tower of the Castle, 1637.
Tiles from the excavations in the Royal Castle's garden, 1630s:
(5) Tile with eagles from a stove,
(6) Stove tile with a lion or a griffon,
(7) Dutch tile with a soldier.
(1-2) Portrait of Sigismund III Vasa and Constance of Austria by Philipp Holbein II or workshop, ca. 1625, Royal Castle in Warsaw.
(3) Portrait of Philip III of Spain by Andrés López Polanco, ca. 1617, Skokloster Castle, possibly from the collection of Sigismund III Vasa. In 1615 Queen Constance of Austria, Sigismund's second wife, ordered the Commonwealth's ambassador in Spain to ask for the portraits of the members of the Spanish Royal family. Her elder sister Margaret of Austria, was a wife of King Philip III of Spain. Since the new Holy Roman Emperor, Matthias, resided more frequently in Vienna then in Prague from 1612, the portraits of Spanish Habsburgs would be sent to Vienna after this date, consequently it is more probable that the Philip III's portrait was captured by Swedish forces in Warsaw and not in Prague.
(4-5) Portraits of two sisters, daughters of Philip III of Spain and Margaret of Austria: Empress Maria Anna of Spain by Frans Luycx, ca. 1638 and Anne of Austria, Queen of France by Charles Beaubrun, ca. 1645. Both portraits were given to the Visitationist Monastery in Warsaw by John II Casimir Vasa in September 1668 and by most accounts adorned Castle walls.
(6) Portrait of Eleonora Gonzaga (1630-1686) by Frans Luycx, ca. 1651, Nationalmuseum in Stockholm. A portrait of a relative to Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga and a wife of Emperor Ferdinand III, cousin of John II Casimir Vasa was sent to Warsaw and was captured by Swedes in 1655 (from the collection of Gripsholm Castle).
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© Marcin Latka