One of the main attractions of the Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship is the Monastery and Sanctuary of the Holy Cross, which has housed pieces of the Holy Cross since 1306. Pilgrims from all over the country come here to worship the Holy Cross.
Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship is situated between the Vistula, Pilica and Nida Rivers. In the past this area was called Kielce Land. It was formed in 1999 as a part of the administrative reform, between the larger Mazowieckie and Małopolskie voivodships. The former roughly corresponds to the Mazovia region, while the Lesser Poland region is divided between the provinces of the same name, Świętokrzyskie and a number of neighbouring provinces.
The voivodship occupies land within the borders of the Małopolska Upland. The most elevated area is the Kielce/Sandomierz Upland. The name of the province comes from the Świętokrzyskie Mountains (in Polish it means “Mountains of the Holy Cross”): the highest mountain range and the highest part of the Kielce and Sandomierz Uplands.
Here are the densest forests in the province, they cover one-third of the area, the rest is plowed. At the foot of the mountains oak and pine forests grow, higher on the slopes – beech and fir. The highest mountain areas are in Świętokrzyskie National Park.
There is also the highest point of the province – mountain Łysica (Łysa). On it there is the most important historical monument of the Voivodship – the Holy Trinity Basilica, which is also the Monastery of the Holy Cross and Sanctuary of the Holy Cross. The monastery is a place of Catholic pilgrimage Święta Krzyż.
In the Świętokrzyskie Mountains there is the Paradise Cave, the only one in Poland where the remains of Neanderthals and many bones of various prehistoric animals were found: the cave hyena and the cave bear, the woolly rhinoceros and the mammoth.
Another monument of deep antiquity is the biggest in Europe stone age Krzemionki Opatovskie mines, totaling more than 700 mines, where people mined flint for making axes and other tools.
The fact that in the first millennium A.D. there was one of the biggest iron mining centers in Europe also testifies to the long-standing industrial tradition on the land of today’s Voivodeship. About 300 thousand (!) primitive furnaces called smokestacks have been found in the province.
The relief here is predominantly flat and hilly, except for the area of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains, which gave its name to the Voivodship.
Even though the voivodship is not very big and the population is third from the end of the list, but there is something that makes people come here from afar: its amazing castles.
The voivodship is definitely lucky with geological and paleontological monuments. In Kielce, the capital of the province, there are four geological reserves, including Kadzielnia – a fragment of petrified sea bottom with the remains of corals, cephalopods and armored fish. And not far from Kielce grows the most famous in Poland Bartek oak, which is over 600 years old. The city itself was famous in the past, because limestone and iron ore were mined nearby. Today it is a commercial and business center, where large international fairs are held every year.
Not far from the confluence of the San River into the Vistula is Sandomir, one of the oldest (known since the 12th century) and historically important cities in Poland. The city is nicknamed “Little Rome” for the fact that it stands on seven hills, and for the fact that it was the residence of Polish princes and kings. It was not touched by the wave of industrialization of Poland in the XIX century, it has remained a small ancient town. In 1570 the Treaty of Sandomierz was signed here: an agreement between Protestants in the fight against the Counter-Reformation. Miraculously, the city has passed through many wars without significant destruction and today has become a popular tourist destination.
The biggest and the most unusual castle in Poland, Krzyżtopur, is situated on the territory of the town. It is a monument of both palace and fortification architecture of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of the first half of the 17th century. The client spent 30 million zlotys (an astronomical sum!), but gave the architect complete freedom of creative expression. Time, wars and unprofessional restoration did not spare the monument, but even its ruins are visited by tourists from all over the world.
Location : south-east of Poland. Administrative division : 1 city as a district, 13 districts, 102 gmina. Administrative center : Kielce – 197 724 inhabitants (2016). Cities : Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski – 70,396, Starachowice – 49,184, Skarzysko-Kamienna – 46,656, Sandomir – 24,124, Końskie – 19,774 (2016). Formed : 1999. Languages : Polish, Ukrainian. Ethnic composition : Poles, Ukrainians. Religions: Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy. Currency: the Polish zloty. Rivers: Vistula, Pilica, Nida, Nidzica, Lubrzhanka. Airport : International Krakow. Neighboring voivodeships: Mazowieckie to the north, Lubelskie to the east, Podkarpackie to the southeast, Małopolskie to the south, Silesian to the southwest, Łódzkie to the northwest.
Area : 11 710,50 km2 . Length : 128 km from North to South, 151 km from East to West. Population : 1,254,505 (2016) . Population density : 107.1 people/km2 . Urban population : 44.8% (2016). Lowest point above sea level : 127 m, the Vistula valley (Tarlov). Highest point : 612 m, Lysica (Świętokrzyskie Mountains).
Climate and weather
The climate is temperate, transitional from maritime to continental. Mild winters, warm humid summers. Average January temperature: -2.3°C. Average temperature of July: +18.3°C. Average annual precipitation: 600 mm. Average annual relative humidity: 75-80%.
GDP : 40,1 billion PLN (2012), per capita – 31 500 PLN (2012). Minerals : gypsum. Industry : cement, food. Agriculture: plant growing (oats, wheat, rye, potatoes, sugar beets, gardening), cattle breeding (dairy and meat, pig breeding). Traditional handicrafts : flint works. Sphere of services : tourist, transport, trade, resort (mineral springs of Busko-Zdrój and Solec-Zdrój).
- The Świętokrzyskie National Park (1950).
- The Landscape Parks of Ceciny Kielce, Czyżow Orłowy, Jeleniajowska, Kożubów, Nida and Przedborz
- Kurum Biała Skalka and Ksienza Skalka
- The Black Forest and Jaskenia Paradise Reserve (Paradise Cave)
- Geological and Natural Reserve Pepper Mountains
- Flint Mines of the Stone Age Krzemionki Opatovskie
- Pagan temples of the ancient Slavs Lysaya Gora, Grodova Gora, Dembno and Dobrzeszuvo (IX-X centuries).
- Basilica of the Holy Trinity (Sanctuary of the Holy Cross, Lysica, 1006)
- Chęciny Castle (XIII century, reconstruction XIX-XX centuries)
- The Castles of Krzyżtopór (in Ujazd, 1627-1644) and Szydłów (XIV century, reconstructed in the XVIII century)
- The Cathedral of St. Vitus Cathedral (1171)
- The Palace of the Bishop of Krakow (1637-1641)
- The Church of the Holy Trinity (1640-1644)
- The City Market (18th century)
- Town Hall (1848)
- The garrison church of St. Nicholas (1904)
- Museum of Kielce Village (1976)
- Geological Reserve of Kadzielnia
The City of Sandomierz
- The Church of the Conversion of St. Paul (1126, rebuilt 1706-1709)
- St. Jacob’s Church (1227)
- The Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1360, rebuilt in the 19th century)
- The Royal Castle (14th century, rebuilt in 1523-1529 and 1680)
- Town Hall (14th century, rebuilt in the 16th century)
- Dlugosz’s house (mansionary – boarding house of monks, 1476)
- St. Michael’s Church and the former convent of Benedictine nuns (XVII century)
From the Church of St. James in Sandomierz begins the Way of St. James of Malopolis, a branch of the Way of St. James, the pilgrimage route to the supposed grave of the Apostle James in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela.
A narrow 500-meter ravine in Sandomierz is named after St. Jadwiga. It was named in memory of Queen Jadwiga (1373-1399), daughter of King Louis I the Great of Hungary and Poland. A local legend tells that the queen often wandered the ravine, lost in thought, when she visited St. Jacob’s Church. She had much to think about. She became queen at the age of 11. And since the laws of Poland forbade the enthronement of a woman, she was officially titled king (rex Roniae). At the age of 12, she became the wife of Duke Jagiello of Lithuania, though she loved her first groom, Duke Wilhelm of Austria, for the rest of her life.
Chęciny Castle, which stands on the road from Krakow to Radom, is a reminder of another Polish queen with a difficult fate. Adelaide of Hesse, daughter of the Landgrave of Hesse, in 1341 became the second wife of King Casimir III the Great, the last king of the Piast dynasty. The marriage was the result of a treaty between the ruling dynasties, and the king despised Adelaide. Soon after the wedding, he threw his wife out of the palace and she lived fifteen years in one castle and then another, including Chęciny. The king, without divorcing her, married his mistress Christina, daughter of a merchant, which angered Pope Innocent VI. Poor Adelaide was eventually taken home by her father.
The castle of Krzyztopur was built in the Italian “palazzo in fortezza”, or “palace within a fortress” style. The 700 m long walls form a pentagon in plan, within which an intricate palace with two courtyards is gracefully placed. The four towers represented the four seasons, the 12 great halls represented the months, the 52 rooms the weeks, and the 365 windows the days. The total area of all the rooms of the castle was 70,000 m2. There is nothing else like it in the whole of Poland.
Castles of Europe (Poland. Part 1.)
The Royal Castle in Bendzin was built in the 12th century. It was made in the style of architectural romanticism. Under the influence of wars, fires, it was destroyed and rebuilt again. It was home to kings, burgomasters and mayors.
There used to be a branch of the Bank of Poland on its premises. And now the Zaglembie Museum, the exposition of which includes weapon rarities. The whole history of Bendzin is depicted in manuscripts, paintings and objects of historical value.
2. Castle in Kamieniec Ząbkowski
It was built in the 19th century by Princess Marianne of Orange of the Netherlands, who inherited the village of Kamieniec Ząbkowski. The castle combines several trends connected with Moorish, Italian, Scottish and medieval architectural elements.
In addition to the majestic halls and rooms, visitors are no less interested in the dungeons, stables and the wonderful park. And of course, the guide’s story of the life of the princess, who fell so much in love with her coachman that it cost her her divorce from Prince Albrecht.
3. The castle in Holuhove.
The castle is located 93 km away from Poznan. The Czartoryski dynasty used to live here. It is considered the most beautiful building from the times of Rzeczpospolita. Its history goes back to the XVI century. The castle is very beautiful both outside and inside.
Since 1874 it houses a museum with rare art collections, antique furniture and original fireplaces. The castle is made in Renaissance style and attracts not only tourists but also filmmakers. Here are constantly filming documentaries and art films.
4. The castle of the Kmits (city of Lesko).
It was built in the first half of the 16th c. It was a residence of aristocratic families of Rzeczpospolita. Two centuries later the Chateau of Kmits became a state residence.
As usual, during the wars the castle was severely destroyed, which resulted in the destruction of relics and valuables. After World War II it was used as a hospital for miners. Now there is a boarding house for tourists. Therefore, tourists stay here for overnight stays.
5. Krušvice Castle
The royal castle of King Casimir the Great, built in the XIV century, today is represented by only one building, called the Tower of Mice. In the past the castle was a magnificent defensive outpost. But it was not spared the years and destruction.
Today, tourists are offered a small excursion into history, which can be touched by visiting the observation deck of the Mouse Tower. From a height of 32 meters you can look around and feel the powerful energy, which, according to Poles, is concentrated here since time immemorial.
How it was!
6. Pieniny Castle
The Polish Carpathian area holds the ruins of a once beautiful miniature castle from the XIII century with strong fortifications, which is located 780 meters above sea level, on the slope of Góra Zamkowa. Its purpose was to protect its territories from the Tatar raids. And if the Tatars did not storm it, the Hussites and Teutons coped with the task thoroughly.
Today Pieniny Castle is part of the tourist route. Here you can hear the heart-rending legend of the beautiful King, and look at her sculpture.
7. Chojnik Castle (Jelenia Góra)
The history of the castle dates back to the XIII century. It was so impassable that it was never attacked from the outside. But natural disasters played a cruel joke with the castle: everything was destroyed by lightning.
Today, tourists love to see the ruins of the castle. Every year in August the Golden Mace knight tournament takes place there. And there is no better place for lovers of ghosts to visit – the ghost of cruel Kunegurda, who threw herself into the abyss, wanders here. So be careful when looking around from the castle walls.
8. Luberadze Palace
This noble residence is located in the Masovian Voivodeship. Its construction was completed in 1789. The palace was intended for the family of Józef Dębrowski.
The building is still of interest to all who approach it because it is shaped like a broken rectangle. It is believed that the broken shape of the palace is a consequence of the influence of the Masonic Lodge, in the service of which its owner was. And this architectural approach was totally atypical for a country manor.
9. The Castle in Janovac
Today tourists can see the ruins of a large castle located opposite the town Kazimierz Dolny. Its construction began in the 16th century by Mikołaj Firlej, who held the posts of crown hetman and Cracow castellan. At that time the castle combined the functions of housing and defense and was impregnable.
Today’s tourists are offered a tour of the museum exhibitions, the interior and the surrounding area. According to legend, at the full moon there wanders the spirit of the Black Lady, the unhappy Helena of Lubomir, who was imprisoned in the castle because of unhappy love.
10. Krzyżtopur Castle (Ujezdz, Świętokrzyskie Mountains)
One of the biggest attractions of the Świętokrzyskie province was built in the XVII century by Krzysztof Ossolin. It was built in the 17th century by Krzysztof Ossolinski. Today only the outer walls of the castle are pretty well preserved. But the interest in the castle and its dungeons does not wane.
Nowadays, tourists are offered a tour to the castle, even at night. The skill of guides is not only in the numerous traps that lurk at every step. It is believed that two ghosts live here: the dead son of the castle’s first owner and the White Lady, whose controversial behavior shocked the Polish magnates.
11. The Castle in Sobkow
This knightly castle is considered the pearl of Kielce region. The historical roots of the castle date back to 1560. The construction of the castle was headed by Stanislaw Sobko – the administrator of the castle in Warsaw. In the old days the structure was strong and impregnable.
Over time, restoration works have been able to return the castle to some of its forms, reminiscent of those times. But the most mysterious is considered to be the room in the east wing. There once hung a portrait of Jehoshaphat Shaniawski, who used to play havoc in the castle: mirrors were broken with his hand or sly gaze, and weapons fell down, which scared away tourists. It was decided to hide the original portrait in the church. So today tourists will see a copy of the intimidating man, whose evil spells are still silent.
12. The Castle in Rzeszów
The Lubomirski Castle, a model of an impregnable fortress with fortified walls and bastion towers, could have been a historically sound defense site. But times have played a cruel joke on it: the contemporaries built a second storey, and almost nothing is left of the old walls.
Until recently, the building housed a prison, and now the regional prosecutor’s office. To return the castle to tourists, they have to pound the doorsteps of numerous authorities. And in the meantime curiosity seekers walk around it and absorb the historical past floating in the air.
13. The Castle in Zamosc
The history of the fortress is closely linked to the great hetman of the Polish Crown, Jan Zamoyski, after whom the city was named. The construction of the fortress was well thought out in every detail: it could be conquered neither by the Swedes, nor the Cossacks.
Today the fortress and its environs are beloved by tourists. It is located only 130 km from Lviv, and is closely intertwined with the history of our country.
14. Moshne Castle
It is located in the Opolskie Voivodeship and is a combination of three styles – Baroque, Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance. The castle was built in the 17th century as a family estate. Characteristically, it is crowned with 99 towers – exactly as many, according to experts of history, the estates had the Thiele-Winkler dynasty. In total, there are 365 rooms in the castle – one a year, not to get used to.
Today Moszno Castle is a museum, hotel and restaurant. Excursions are in honor here, because the spirit of ghosts is a trademark of Polish manor houses. And this one is no exception: there wanders her own White Lady – the governess, once in love with a member of the famous Thiele-Winkler family. By the way, the best time to visit the castle is at night, when there are knightly tournaments dressed up as aristocrats.
15. Cavalier’s Palace (Tarnowskie Góra)
This Romanesque building was built at the beginning of the 20th century before the German Emperor Wilhelm II, by Count Guido von Donnersmarck. According to another version, the Count built a mini Versailles in Tarnowské Góra for his French mistress, who, after seeing its splendor, agreed to marry him.
Today, the Cavalier’s Palace includes a hotel, a restaurant and an equestrian courtyard. The interior of the rooms has been recreated and is as close as possible to the era when aristocrats lived here. It is noteworthy that now you can stay at the castle for a night, have a snack or even have a word with the spirit of its former owner.