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Old April 24th, 2013, 08:02 PM   #1
Karasek
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Silesia: the Land of Dying Country Houses

I'm sure some of you will "love" the title of this thread, but that's actually not my idea but the title of a British-Polish book published by "SAVE Britain's Heritage" in 2009:
http://www.savebritainsheritage.org/...icle.php?id=95


Since we already have threads about East Prussia, Gdansk, Wroclaw and Warsaw I think it's a good idea to start a thread about Silesia too, which, in case you don't know, is located here:




Silesia is Polands historically most valuable region. 25% of Polands cultural monuments are located in Silesia, among them more than 2.000 castles, palaces and manors. 600 however are already lost forever, and ~35% of the remaining ~1.400 are ruins. This is mainly the result of Silesias turbulent history. WW2 destroyed large parts of Northern Silesia, but the majority of the destruction happened in the years and decades after the war. The expulsion of the Germans, the resettlement with Poles traumatized by German barbarism and terror, and the deeply ideological politics of the Polish Commies were devastating for Silesia. Today the heritage is endangered by mindless privatizations, indifference and underfunding (Poland spends 42 mio. PLN on Krakows heritage, and 82 mio PLN on the rest of the country).
PS: Prince Charles read the book when it came out and since then wants to buy and reconstruct a castle in the Klotzko region, until now however nothing happened. I don't know the exact reasons, but interestingly a similar project of him in Romania is far more advanced.

So, lets explore the good, the bad and the ugly sides of Silesia. We start with two extremes which perfectly illustrate two parallel developments in the decades after WW2.

First some background:
With the westward shift of Poland the post-1945 frontiers of Poland were similar to those of the Polish kingdom of the 11th century. These so called “Recovered Territories", the ancient Piast lands returning to the Polish motherland after centuries of German occupation, were the founding myth of the Peoples Republic of Poland and essential to its self-definition. Everything remotely related to the Piasts was maintained or even painstakingly reconstructed with great expenses, while the rest of Silesias rich cultural and architectural heritage was often treated with contempt.
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Old April 24th, 2013, 08:02 PM   #2
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We start with two examples which perfectly illustrate these developments. The first one is a Piast, the second one a Hohenzollern castle.


Brzeg/Brieg
This Piast castle is one of the most valuable Renaissance structures in Poland. It was first mentioned in 1235, and between 1532 and 1592 converted into a Renaissance castle, mainly by members of the Parr family, architects from Upper Italy. After the Piasts died out the castle was the seat of several Austrian and Saxon princes. In 1741 2/3 of the castle were destroyed in the War of the Austrian Succession. Afterwards it was partly rebuilt and served as a magazine. In WW2 large parts of the remaining buildings were again destroyed.
In Poland the castle became one of the big, but least known, reconstruction projects. It started in 1966 and ended in 1990. Today the museum is used as a museum of the Silesian Piasts.


The castle before the destruction in the 18th century:






Postcards from the 19th and 20th century always show only one small part of the castle, since the rest of it was nothing special anymore. They usually show the chapel and the main gate:




The inner courtyard was a combination of some Renaissance relicts and simple half-timbered buildings (the magazine) from the 18th century:




Thankfully the main gate, one of the highlights of the Silesian Renaissance, survived without major damages:




A picture from shortly after WW2:




The main goal of the (free) reconstruction was to rebuilt the inner courtyard, which now very much looks like the courtyard of the Wawel in Krakow, although the original courtyard was probably more related to the new Georgenhof in Dresden, which the Parrs visited shortly before, or castles in Northern Italy, where the family came from.








And some more pics of the wonderful gate. The iconographic program is quite interesting. It's shows the glorification of the Piast dynasty and must be understood as a statement against their new overlords, the Austrian house of Habsburg, which acquired the Bohemian crown (and Silesia) shortly before and whose centralist politics weakened the once powerful Silesian Piasts even more. The gate is crowned by the coat of arms of Polish king Sigismund Augustus, who was the main rival for the Bohemian crown but lost to the Habsburgs. His more federal politics would have ensured a greater independence of Silesia inside Bohemia and would have strenghened the Piasts. The Polish Commies later misinterpreted the gate as a expression of the Polishness of the Silesian Piasts:











Kamieniec Zabkowicki/Kamenz
Now something completely different. The second castle is a royal castle of the Hohenzollerns, probably one of the most Prussian buildings imaginable. It was built between 1838 and 1872 as a family retreat for Princess Marianne of the Netherlands and her husband Prince Albert of Prussia by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. It was Schinkels last and biggest project. It's a neo-Gothic building modeled after English castles and castles of the Teutonic Order. The high facade is oriented towards the Sudete mountains. The garden below the castle was created by Peter Joseph Lenné, the Prussian Garden Director-General.
After WW2 the castle was set on fire, looted and fell into ruin. Since 1985 a lecturer from Poznan tries to rebuild it. As far as I know he neither has the money nor the help of others, he tries to save Schinkels biggest project all by himself, and it looks like also without the help of preservationists(!).


Schinkels drawing:








Interior:






Todays situation. I think these two pics perfectly illustrate the problem:






The guy is admirable, but he really needs some help by professionals...!

This pic shows the dimension of the castle very well:






Same room as before:





More later.
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Old April 24th, 2013, 09:11 PM   #3
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Yikes!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karasek View Post


The guy is admirable, but he really needs some help by professionals...!
He wouldn't, by any chance, be related to the woman who restored this painting, would he?


.
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Old April 24th, 2013, 10:29 PM   #4
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AFAIK, pre-war Polish authorities were never interested in acquiring Silesian territories with the exception of former Duchy of Opole and Raciborz (district inhabited by large number of Polish-speaking Silesians). Could you please tell me what happened with cities, churches and palaces in that area after the war?

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Old April 24th, 2013, 10:34 PM   #5
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Beautiful Silesia, love from Sweden!!!!
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Old April 24th, 2013, 11:09 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karasek View Post
First some background:
With the westward shift of Poland the post-1945 frontiers of Poland were similar to those of the Polish kingdom of the 11th century. These so called “Recovered Territories", the ancient Piast lands returning to the Polish motherland after centuries of German occupation, were the founding myth of the Peoples Republic of Poland and essential to its self-definition. Everything remotely related to the Piasts was maintained or even painstakingly reconstructed with great expenses, while the rest of Silesias rich cultural and architectural heritage was often treated with contempt.
That this thread is opened and based on a ludicrous statement of historical hogwash causes me to choose to ignore anything that is posted here, assuming further posts may be of equal or worse inaccuracies.
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Old April 25th, 2013, 04:48 AM   #7
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Old April 25th, 2013, 05:02 AM   #8
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Old May 1st, 2013, 10:30 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keepthepast View Post
That this thread is opened and based on a ludicrous statement of historical hogwash causes me to choose to ignore anything that is posted here, assuming further posts may be of equal or worse inaccuracies.
Before you continue to ignore this thread you could read this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recover...se_of_the_term

Still a "ludicrous statement of historical hogwash"?
Anyway...


Siedlisko/Carolath

Sliedlisko/Carolath is the biggest and most important hill castle of the Late Renaissance in Silesia. It was built between 1597 and 1608 by M. Duckhardt and Valentin von Säbisch, Silesias most important architect of the Renaissance era, for Georg von Schönaich. Von Schönaich was a important promoter of the Reformation in Silesia and the founder of a short-lived Protestant university, where Martin Opitz, Silesias greatest poet of the Baroque era, studied. The castle was altered between 1865 and 1875. It was destroyed by fire in 1945. Between 1966 and 1971 it was partly repaired and used as a cultural centre. Today the castle is a ruin.
The palace chapel is the only completely newly built mannerist church in Silesia, also by von Säbisch. In 1913 Hans Poelzig turned parts of the church into a mausoleum for the Schönaich family, who died out in 1933. The church is preserved, the tombs are not.


A drawing of the castle by Lüdecke, who altered the castle in the late 19th century:




View from above:








Rennaisance portal:




Sala Terrena:




Situation today:








The palace chapel:




The mausoleum by Poelzig with the (lost) tombs of the Schönaichs:




Today:



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Old May 1st, 2013, 02:18 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karasek View Post
Before you continue to ignore this thread you could read this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recover...se_of_the_term

Still a "ludicrous statement of historical hogwash"?
Anyway...
You have to understand that population transfers and so significant border changes were just a ridiculous idea of the Big Three (Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin).

To be honest, from the Polish perspective as compensation for WW2 fully acceptable would've been territories within Dmowski's line, some economy help (money, investments, etc.) and return of all stolen goods by Germany...Of course, if not the Stalin's annexation of almost half (!) of the territories of pre-war Poland.

Those enormous border changes are sadly the reason why cultural heritage of most western parts of Silesia, West Pomerania and Kresy is so neglected.

Dmowski's line (proposed border of Poland after World War I)


Poles in Silesia (1916)


After the war, about 850,000 people in former German "Opole/Oppeln Silesia" stayed despite the border changes and received Polish citizenship, so I assume that cultural heritage in Opole Voivodeship is rather well preserved.
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Old May 1st, 2013, 02:20 PM   #11
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"...and the deeply ideological politics of the Polish Commies were devastating for Silesia."
Sometimes I think that it was not a matter of policy but rather lack of sensitivity among relatively new local communities, administrators, ordinary people.
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Old May 2nd, 2013, 12:03 AM   #12
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Promising thread. Someday when we are more prosperous and secure as a nation, the war will become a dimmer memory some of this Germanic or Silesian heritage will hopefully be rescued. Neglect was in part ideological no doubt but mostly due to post war scarcity and poor allocation of resources in Poland's Soviet controlled command economy. Lot more would be done now if not for this never-ending Eurozone and or global financial crisis, these are not priorities.
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Warsaw Post-War Reconstruction to Present

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Old May 2nd, 2013, 10:53 AM   #13
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"With the westward shift of Poland the post-1945 frontiers of Poland were similar to those of the Polish kingdom of the 11th century."

Poland (1102-1138)


Probably you meant to write the 13-14th century in case of Silesia. In 1138, Duke of Poland Bolesław Krzywousty divided the country into five principalities: Silesia, Greater Poland, Masovia, Sandomierz and Kraków. The first four provinces were given to his four sons, who became independent rulers within Poland. The fifth province, the Seniorate Province of Kraków, was to be added to the senior among the Princes who, as the Grand Duke of Kraków, was the representative of the whole of Poland. For over 100 years Silesia was still part of "partitioned" Poland. Correct me if I'm wrong but Silesia became semi-autonomous state when Henry II the Pious (High Duke of Poland and Duke of Silesia since 1238) died in 1241...I might be wrong.

Henry II the Pious (by Jan Matejko)


Btw, Henry's predecessor, Henry the Bearded (High Duke of Poland and Duke of Silesia between 1232 and 1238) is considered by historians as one of the most prominent Piast Princes from the period of Poland's feudal fragmentation. However, all his work was destroyed only three years after his death due to a completely unexpected event; the Mongolian invasions. In general historians agree that if the disaster at the Battle of Legnica (1241) had never happened, Poland would have been united in the middle of the 13th century, and avoided the territorial losses that occurred.

Henry I the Bearded (by Jan Matejko)


Poland (1201-1241)


I've seen some maps from the beginning of the 14th century, which included Silesia within borders of Poland. Like I wrote before, I don't know much about Silesia. Could you tell me if all Silesian Piasts after Henry II the Pious have officially recognised High Duke of Poland?

Anyway, it doesn't change the fact that before WW2 in most western parts of Silesia and West Pomerania, the Polish cultural heritage (palaces, castles, cities, monuments, Catholic churches, cemeteries, art works, old books, etc.) was almost non-existent. For about 600 years Poles were developing (e.g. process of urbanization of Red Ruthenian's rural provinces started by King of Poland Casimir the Great in the 14th century) more eastern regions of Europe and in those places they left most of their precious works.
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Old May 3rd, 2013, 05:03 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Karasek
First some background:
With the westward shift of Poland the post-1945 frontiers of Poland were similar to those of the Polish kingdom of the 11th century. These so called “Recovered Territories", the ancient Piast lands returning to the Polish motherland after centuries of German occupation, were the founding myth of the Peoples Republic of Poland and essential to its self-definition. Everything remotely related to the Piasts was maintained or even painstakingly reconstructed with great expenses, while the rest of Silesias rich cultural and architectural heritage was often treated with contempt
.

Quote:
Originally Posted by keepthepast View Post
That this thread is opened and based on a ludicrous statement of historical hogwash causes me to choose to ignore anything that is posted here, assuming further posts may be of equal or worse inaccuracies.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karasek View Post
Before you continue to ignore this thread you could read this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recover...se_of_the_term

Still a "ludicrous statement of historical hogwash"?
Of course, a Wikipedia quote as a solid reference to historic truth or interpretation is fundamentally very risky. In this case, I stick to my label of "hogwash" since the implication is totally wrong. The Piast lands were dissolved 600 years before the end of WWII so attempts to extrapolate the notion that the recovered lands were indeed "Polish" relative to all of the buildings, infrastructure, design, architectural legacy, cultural foundations, etc, is simply misleading at best. I have no problem with ethnic pride and nationalistic joy, and I'm indebted to Poland's efforts in rebuilding/reconstructing much of the lost architectural treasures from WWII. But let's not suggest Silesia's grandeur, beauty, and legacy is anything other than German artistry, design, and engineering. "Recovered lands" means earth, not what we are talking about in this forum.
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Old May 3rd, 2013, 08:34 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karasek View Post
And some more pics of the wonderful gate. The iconographic program is quite interesting. It's shows the glorification of the Piast dynasty and must be understood as a statement against their new overlords, the Austrian house of Habsburg, which acquired the Bohemian crown (and Silesia) shortly before and whose centralist politics weakened the once powerful Silesian Piasts even more. The gate is crowned by the coat of arms of Polish king Sigismund Augustus, who was the main rival for the Bohemian crown but lost to the Habsburgs. His more federal politics would have ensured a greater independence of Silesia inside Bohemia and would have strenghened the Piasts. The Polish Commies later misinterpreted the gate as a expression of the Polishness of the Silesian Piasts:







.
It certainly is a wonderful gate. Imposing and magnificent and also highly detailed and charming.
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Old May 3rd, 2013, 09:21 AM   #16
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Agree the gate is beautiful, but is it not fully German in period, design, engineering, and construction? This is one part of the entire region's architectureal heritage that is German in nature, culture, and substance. That Poles "won" the equity simply means they gained current ownership, not historic rights to claim intellectual property or artistic creation.
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Old May 3rd, 2013, 09:22 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keepthepast View Post
But let's not suggest Silesia's grandeur, beauty, and legacy is anything other than German artistry, design, and engineering.
As German as for example cultural heritage of Bohemia (Prague, Plzen, etc.).

Btw, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1648...


Quote:
Originally Posted by keepthepast View Post
Agree the gate is beautiful, but is it not fully German in period?
I'll give you an example of Renaissance palace built in Kingdom of Poland (now Ukraine) by Jan Sobieski at the time, so you can compare


Renaissance city halls


Renaissance houses (built by Krzysztof and Mikołaj Przybył)


And some Renaissance castles (built by Stanisław Krasicki and Baranowski family)...






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Old May 3rd, 2013, 10:50 PM   #18
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I think that most of the Renaissance and later Catholic Baroque buildings in Central/South/East Kingdom of Poland were very much influenced by Italian architecture.

Florence (in my opinion one of the most beautiful cities in Europe)


Lwow (now Ukraine)
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Old May 6th, 2013, 04:35 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keepthepast View Post

Agree the gate is beautiful, but is it not fully German in period, design, engineering, and construction? This is one part of the entire region's architectureal heritage that is German in nature, culture, and substance. That Poles "won" the equity simply means they gained current ownership, not historic rights to claim intellectual property or artistic creation.
Would be nice, if you explained what does "fully German in engineering" means? Somehow I cannot find common denominator between Hamburg, Munich and Berlin in XVI century
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Old May 6th, 2013, 05:44 PM   #20
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Would be nice, if you explained what does "fully German in engineering" means? Somehow I cannot find common denominator between Hamburg, Munich and Berlin in XVI century
then, you haven't looked very much.

As stated earlier, please feel free to cheer ethnicity and nationalism and winning war reparations, but please refrain from pasting the 'made in Poland by Poles' label on the major architectural infrastructure and historical architecture of Silesia prior to 1945. It doesn't matter to me, personally, if the architectural greatness was created and built by Germans, Poles, or for that matter Asians, but if anyone feels compelled to give design and construction credit, best to keep historical facts accurate and honest in spite of anyone's wish the facts were otherwise.
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