The Lost Fort

My Travel and History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times

19 Dec 2019
  Mediaeval Stronghold, Renaissance Residence, Film Set - A Virtual Tour of Ogrodzieniec Castle in Poland

I got another filming location for you. The Witcher series, a Netflix production based on the novels of the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski and starring Henry Cavill in the lead role, will launch today. The series has been shot in Hungary and the Canary Islands, among others, but some scenes were produced in Ogrodzieniec Castle in Poland. Luckily, I visited that one during my spring journey, therefore I can give you a virtual tour of this spectacular ruin.

Ogrodzieniec Castle

Ogrodzieniec is part of the so called Eagle Nest Trail, a series of castles situated on a ridge of limestone cliffs north of Kraków. Those castles were built mostly in the 14th century to protect the border to Silesia which then belonged to the Kingdom of Bohemia. Some limestone formations can be seen in immediate vicinity of the castle, which itself stands on a cluster of several large rocks on top of a hill.

Ogrodzieniec Castle from the south-east, with the Three Sisters rock formation to the left

The first castle was built by King Kazimierz the Great some time between 1350-1370, and granted to Przedbór of Brzezie, the Marshal of the Polish Kingdom. Later, King Władysław Jagiełło, the former Prince Jogaila of Lithuania who my regular readers have already met, granted the castle to the Włodek of Charbinowice family who held Ogrodzieniec from 1386-1470. At their time, Ogrodzieniec consisted of the Tall Castle and the Prison Tower, with the entrance situated between the rocks, which is today occupied by the Beluard Bastion.

The Tall Castle seen from the Gate Tower

The castle was sold several times in the years to follow, until the Kraków banker and mining official Jan Boner, whose family came from Germany, bought it in 1523. He and his successors built the west wing with rooms for the family in the Reanissance style. The gate tower and the Beluard Bastion were added in the 1550ies; they show traces of Baroque architecture.

Beluard Bastion Tower, with Prison Tower in the background

Ogrodzieniec was badly damaged by the Swedish army in 1655, but repaired by the Kraków castellan Stanisław Warszycki who added the outer curtain wall and fortified the gate house. But the castle fell into disrepair over time and had to be abandoned in 1810, after a ceiling collapsed. Today, the castle belongs to the Polish State. Repairs were undertaken in the 1950ies and 1960ies, and again in 2013-14.

Outer curtain walls

At the time when the castle was still occupied, the outer ward enclosed a number of buildings, among them a stable, a brewery and residential buildings for the staff; some foundations of those can still be seen below the main rock.

Rock formations in the outer walls

The scenic rocks are Jurassic limestone that had been formed 150 million years ago, when this part of Europe was a shallow, warm sea. The 100 kilometres long and 10-40 kilometres wide limestone ridge had once been a reef.

Closeup of the Three Sisters

The Three Sisters are a rock formation of three limestone pillars - though one can only see two pillars from this angle - in the outer ward. Behind the pillars is a grotto that has been expanded and converted into a torture chamber by Stanisław Warszycki.

Ogrodzieniec Castle, seen from the outer bailey

A smoke machine was spotted near the formation, so one might expect a mist veiled shot of the pillars and the iconic tree in some scene of the Witcher films, likely the battle of Sodden. Detailed information about the shooting can be found on this fan site.

Gate House

The gate tower had been expanded in the early 16th century, at the time the Boners were in residence. It had five storeys back then, with rooms for the guards, storage of arms and ammunition, and a chapel on the 3rd floor. The tower starts out on square layout but changes to a rotund design above the chapel level. The rooms above the chapel were mostly used for defense purposes by archers and crossbowmen. The gate was protected by a moat and a wooden drawbridge.

The Lord's Yard, seen from the cellar

After passing the gate, visitors enter the so called Lord's Yard, an irregularly shaped yard, Its present shape dates to the 16th century. Before the Boner's Wing was added to the castle, the yard used the natural rock formations to enclose a number of smaller buildings, mostly utility and storage rooms, situated in front of the Tall Castle, the oldest part of Ogrodzieniec. The yard also included a cistern. In former times, wooden galleries running along the walls inside the yard gave access to the various rooms on different levels.

The tall castle, seen from the outside

The east wing, the so-called Tall Castle, dates back to the 14th century and represents the oldest part of Ogrodzieniec Castle. It is a three storey fortified residence tower with a hall, a smaller chamber, a solar, and storage rooms in the basement.

Tall castle, lower storeys

The basement can be accessed from the yard. Those rooms served for storage purpose, but for defense as well; they have windows with arrow and gun slits overlooking the way to the castle. Since the castle is built on a rock, the basement is actually several metres above the level of the outer ward.

Tall Castle, the upper storeys

Back in the 14th century, access to the hall had been by a wooden gallery in the courtyard. Today, we get a maze of stairs and metal bridges that bring the visitor to the different levels of the various parts of Ogrodzieniec Castle. Another residential building can be found on the south side of the yard; it had been altered after the addition of the Guard Tower in the 16th century.

View to the kitchen (middle); Boner's Wing to the right

Remains of the castle kitchen can be seen in the north wing building. Above it were several living rooms and guest chambers which benefited from the heat of the large hearth. The house was integrated into the bedrock which forms part of the outer wall. Beside the kitchen is the 16th century well that goes about 100 metres deep into the rock. Legend has it that it opened into a cave where the lord of the castle kept his treasure, but part of the well shaft has collapsed.

Boner's Wing, the library

To the west follows the so called Boner's Wing which was built by Jan Boner in the early 16th century and expanded by his successors. The rooms can be accessed via the level of the floor above the kitchen. The Boner family was very educated and collected books, hence they built a special library room.

The dining room

The room that can be reached by the stairs leading up from the library is today known as dining room or as 'Footman's Room'. The footman in Polish castles was the table steward who had in his responsibility the silver cutlery and command of the servants, and he announced and welcomed the guests. It was considered a trusted and high position in the lord's household.

The hall of Boner's wing

The official entrance to the Boner's Wing must have been via an upper level of the Gate Tower to access the Footman's room and the guest hall, since the more private chambers of the lord and his family, and the library, are to the other side (today the visitors following the tour will get there first).

Prison Tower

The Prison Tower, or Tower of Convicts, started out as defensive tower built by the Włodek family in the 14th century to protect the gap between the rocks. It might have held some chambers in the rooms below the upper defense floor. At the time the Boner family expanded the castle, he tower was intergrated into the new layout and its basement was used as prison while a hall was built on the former defense platform.

The castle seen from the east, with the Prison Tower

The southern part of the castle was additionally strengthened by a bastion called Hen's Leg, a sturdy stone platform which could support the weight of cannons. It was added in the 1550ies and consisted of five storeys; the lower ones are particularly thick walled, with shooter's windows and artillery bays. The upper floor included the scribe's chamber and other rooms.

Cellar in the south wing

Cellar rooms in the Hen's Leg and under the south wing served as treasury, armoury and storage rooms. There is a little museum with arms and armoury in one of those, but it was closed in pre-season, as was the tavern in the Knight's Chamber above.

Beluard Bastion

Another defensive structure was erected on the rocks to the south in front of the Prison Tower by the Crown Marshal Jan Firlej some time after 1561, called the Beluard Bastion. It is a triangular building that overlooks the outer ward on three sides, with crossbow and gun slits to be manned by the defenders.

Beluard Bastion with the Three Sisters in the background

Jan Firlej had inherited the castle by his marriage to Zofia Boner. His had no children, so his nephew Andrzej Firlej inherited Ogrodzieniec and built a splendid marble hall on the top of the Beluard Bastion. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by the Swedish army in 1655.

Beluard Tower

At the outer edge of the bastion are the remains of a rectangular tower, the Beluard Tower.

A leaked scene from the Witcher series may have been shot in the remains of the Beluard Bastion, but from an outside angle, not the view from above you can see on my photos.

Arcades in the utility yard

In a final step, the Beluard Bastion was connected to the Hen's Leg by another curtain wall which had four storeys of wooden galleries for the defenders; those have been reconstructed in 2013. The wall enclosed the Economic Courtyard or Utility Yard which contained a hen house and at least one workshop.

View from the Beluard Bastion to the Gate Tower

Ogrodzieniec Castle has a resident ghost. A black dog, much larger than an ordinary one, with burning eyes, is said to haunt the place, guarding the treasure in the cave under the well. It is said to either having belonged to Stanisław Warszycki, the lord of the castle who lived there in the 17th century and built the Torture Chamber, or it is said lord himself. Wonder if the Witcher ever met that dog during filming. *grin*

View from Beluard Bastion to the Tall Castle

Just for fun and because I have more photos to share, here are some views from the Beluard Bastion to other parts of the castle, and the outer ward with its limestone rock formations (below).

Curtain wall seen from the gate

The photo gives a good example of the way the manufactured stones fit in with the bedrock.

A more detailed post about the history of Ogrodzieniec Castle can be found here.

View across the outer bailey with the rock formations

Jerzy Pleszyniak: Castle Ogrodzieniec; published by Alatus. Guidebook avaliable on the site.
The various names for some of the parts of the castle are due to different translations of the Polish denominations.


And a merry Christmas to you and yours.
Lovely! When I was in Poland this past summer, we tried without success to follow the Eagle Nest trail. Let us say, tourist maps are not always clear or truly helpful. Thank you for the essay and photos.
Hank, thank you. A happy new year to you and yours.

Alma, welcome to my blog. I hear you about tourist maps. Right now I try to figure out whether there's a bridge across a river or not in a place I want to go hiking in spring.
Wow, das ist wirklich eine spektakuläre Burgruine und tolle Bilder. Kein Wunder, dass es auch die Filmleute für ihre Zwecke entdeckt haben. Das ist ja auch eine erstklassige Kulisse.
Herzliche Grüße von der Silberdistel
Hallo liebe Silberdistel,

auch Dir herzliche Grüße. Polen hat schon einige spektakuläre Sehenswürdigkeiten und hübsche Städte. Als Reiseland wirklich zu empfehlen. Man kommt auch mit English und teilweise Deutsch ganz gut zurecht.
Ja, ich weiß, dass es in Polen einiges Schöne zu sehen gibt. Ich war auch schon mehrmals dort, aber das letzte Mal ist schon sehr lange her. Vielleicht sollten wir mal wieder eine Reise dorthin unternehmen.
LG von der Silberdistel
Getting a Poland visa London was easy, thanks to some timely help from a consultancy. But, preparing a travel itinerary surely takes a lot of time. That is when I and my wife started searching online for some tips and spots to visit in Poland. And when we came across your blog, we decided to stop looking further as it offers some of the best places to visit and explore in Warsaw. Hoping to have some lovely time in the charming city.
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The Lost Fort is a travel and history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, the Baltic Countries, and central Europe. It includes virtual town and castle tours with a focus on history, museum visits, hiking tours, and essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, illustrated with my own photos.

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Location: Goettingen, Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History, interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who still hasn't got an Instagram account.
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Bronze / Iron Age
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Geological Landscapes: Germany

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Blue Dome near Eschwege
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Raised Bog Mecklenbruch
Hannover Cliffs

Geological Landscapes: Great Britain

The Shores of Scotland

Geological Landscapes: Baltic Sea

Geology of the Curonian Spit

Fossils and Other Odd Rocks

Fossilized Ammonites
The Loket Meteorite (Czechia)

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