By: Robert and Agata Zagar
According to the Polish version of a legend, three brothers went hunting together but each of them followed a different prey and eventually they all traveled in different directions. Rus went to the east, Čech headed to the west to settle on the Říp Mountain rising up from the Bohemian hilly countryside, while Lech traveled north. There, while hunting, he followed his arrow and suddenly found himself face-to-face with a fierce, white eagle guarding its nest from intruders. Seeing the eagle against the red of the setting sun, Lech took this as a good omen and decided to settle there. He named his settlement Gniezno (Polish gniazdo for ‘nest’) in commemoration and adopted the White Eagle as his coat-of-arms. According to Wielkopolska Chronicle (13th century), Slavs are descendants of Pan, a Pannonian prince. He had three sons – Lech (the oldest), Rus, and Čech (the youngest), who decided to settle west, north, and east. Around AD 940 Gniezno, being an important pagan cult center, became one of the main fortresses of the early Piast rulers, along with aforementioned fortresses at Giecz, Kruszwica, Poznań, Kalisz, Łęczyca, Ostrów Lednicki, Płock, Włocławek, and others.
Archeological excavations on Lech Hill in 2010 discovered an 11th-century tomb by the foundations of St. George’s church, near the remains of a pagan burial mound discovered earlier on the hill. Discoveries indicate that Lech Hill could have been the burial place of rulers even before the baptism of Mieszko I. After the adoption of Christianity by Mieszko I, his son Bolesław I Chrobry deposed
the remains of Saint Adalbert in a church, newly built on the Hill, to underline Gniezno’s importance as the religious centre and capital of his kingdom. It is here that the Congress of Gniezno took place in the year 1000 AD, during which Bolesław I the Brave, Duke of Poland, received Holy Roman Emperor Otto III. The emperor and the Polish duke celebrated the foundation of the Polish ecclesiastical province (archbishopric) in Gniezno, along with newly established bishoprics in Kołobrzeg for Pomerania; Wrocław for Silesia; Kraków for Lesser Poland in addition to the bishopric in Poznań for western Greater Poland, which was established in 968. Gniezno is worth the visit.
Biskupin is an archaeological site and a life-size model of an Iron Age fortified settlement in Poland (Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship) that also serves as a archaeological open-air museum. When first discovered it was thought to be early evidence of Slavic settlement but archaeologists later confirmed it belonged to the Biskupin group of the Lusatian culture. The excavation and the reconstruction of the prehistoric settlement has played an instrumental part in Polish historical consciousness. The Museum is situated on a marshy peninsula in Lake Biskupin, ca. 90 kilometres (56 miles) northeast of Poznań, 8 km (5 mi) south of the small town of Żnin. It is a division of the National Museum of Archaeology in Warsaw. The site soon became part of Polish national consciousness, the symbol of achievements of the Slavonic forebears in prehistoric times. It was called the “Polish Pompeii” or “Polish Herculaneum“. The existence of a prehistoric fortress, 70 km (43 mi) from the German border, was used to show that the prehistoric “Poles” had held their own against foreign invaders and plunderers as early as the Iron Age. Biskupin came to feature in paintings and popular novels. Excavations were resumed by Polish archaeologists after the war and continued until 1974.
Another view of the fortified wall
Reconstructed gate and wall
There are two settlement periods at Biskupin, which was located in the middle of a lake but is now situated on a peninsula, that follow each other without hiatus. Both settlements were laid out on a rectangular grid with eleven streets that are three metres (9.8 ft) wide. The older settlement from early Iron Age was established on a slightly wet island of over 2 hectares (4.9 acres) and consisted of ca. 100 oak and pine log-houses that were of similar layout, measuring ca. 8 by 10 metres (26 by 33 feet) each. They consisted of two chambers and an open entrance-area. These houses were designed to accommodate 10–12 persons. An open hearth was located in the center of the biggest room. There are no larger houses that could indicate social stratification. Because of the damp, boggy ground, the streets were covered with wooden planks. The settlement was surrounded by a tall wooden wall, or palisade, set on a rampart made up of both wood and earth. The rampart was constructed of oak trunks that form boxes filled with earth. The rampart is more than 450 metres (1,480 feet) long and accompanied by a wooden breakwater in the lake. 6,000 to 8,000 cubic metres (210,000 to 280,000 cubic feet) of wood was used in the construction of the rampart. The settlement at Biskupin belongs to the Hallstatt C and D periods (early Iron Age, 800–650 BC and 650–475 BC). However, dendrochronological analysis provided more accurate dating. It proved that oak wood used in the construction of the settlement was cut down between 747–722 B.C. Over half of the wood used was cut during the winter of 738/737 B.C. This 2700 year old settlement is worth the time to see given how it enriches one’s historical view of central Europe being occupied during the times of ancient Greece, Persia and Egypt.
The palace as got a beautiful structure derived from similar buildings in Rome, Paris, and Warsaw and was built in 1800. It’s a pearl of Polish classicism with some of the most valuable and well-kept suites. The interiors have a lot of decorations referring to Polish patriotic history. The Skórzewski Palace was designed by the leading Polish classicist, Stanisław Zawadzki. It is the architect’s best-preserved works, and certainly one of his best ones. His model to follow was Andrea Palladio’s Villa Capra. The building’s centre is a round hall set all along its height and covered by a dome. On the copper-sheet-metal-covered dome is a figure of Atlas carrying the globe (a work by Władysław Marcinkowski). The central hall – the rotund – has a beautiful parquet made of varicoloured timber, adorned with the national emblems of Poland and Lithuania in the centre. There are four bas-reliefs on the walls, featuring scenes from the history of Kujawy land. In the hall’s centre is a huge brass chandelier. To the left of the rotund hall are a few smaller rooms, surviving in a perfect condition: small barrel-vault-covered studies and a small corner study covered by a tiny cupola with lunettes, with paintings featuring symbols of sciences.
The palace frescoes were painted by the outstanding painters Franciszek and Antoni Smuglewicz. The palace was the site of a holiday house till 1977. Since 1996, following a thorough renovation, the palace has been serving as a display of stylish interiors, housing a tourist hotel. Its representative rooms are the scene for concerts, shows and spectacles. Next to the palace is a classicist annexe, so-called old palace, and there are court buildings in the neighbourhood. The palace is surrounded by a beautiful 37 hectare or 74-acre park whose layout is regular and turns further up into wilder and wilder forest sections. There are interesting specimens of trees growing in the park area. North of the park and palace is a complex of eclectic farm developments from the latter half of 19th century. It is 25 kilometers or 16 miles outside of Bydgoszcz. The round main room has a wooden mosaic floor and paintings on the walls. Reliefs in this entranceway refer to many historical events in Poland’s millennial long history.
The palace houses three suites furnished with original pre-war furniture and tile stoves, full of old climate. There is a nice English park which we toured in a horse drawn carriage. It is a restful place to detoxify from the stressful everyday life and enjoy things as they were over a century ago. We had a plentiful dinner and the continental breakfast was tasty. There is a restaurant on the spot. We rented three suites for $155 US dollars for one night. We highly recommend this as an overnight stop after visiting Gniezno and Biskupinie. The main entry hall reminds one of Washington, D.C.’s main section in the capitol building of the United States Congress built during the Civil War some six decades later. Although Congress has many statues this Lubustron palace has similar color marble columns and other features. The grounds recall many other European palaces such as Versailles. If you want to step back in time for an evening and morning breakfast the Palac Lubustron is the place to visit.
Feel free to contact the director, Anrzej Budziak at [email protected] or call 52-384-46-23. Access information at www.palac-lubostron.pl
Robert John Zagar, Ph.D., M.P.H., is an economist, psychologist, professor, researcher, and statistician, whose worked has saved 640 lives and billions in Chicago with the summer jobs program for high risk youth over the past decade (32,223 got jobs during the 2018 summer), the release of 56% of Cook County prisoners (nonviolent) and 6,800 federal nonviolent prisoners (by presidential commutation and pardon), and influenced the U.S. Supreme Court resentencing of 2,500 life sentence without parole juvenile delinquents in Miller v. Florida and Graham v. Alabama. He testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. Presidents Bush, Clinton, Obama and Trump, Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis, Speakers Gingrich, Hastert, and Ryan, Governors Quinn and Rauner, and Mayors Daley and Emanuel, among others know of his research which can be found on wikipedia.com, linkedin.com, researchgate.com and academia.com. His Polish born wife, Agata Karolina Szkotak Zagar M.B.A., is an actress, banker, who worked at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and a teacher. They formed a nonprofit group, Society of the Friends of Radgoszccz, and are active members of Holy Name Cathedral parish.