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08 05 2018

A fairy-tale garden on the rock: the terraces of Książ Castle

A fairy-tale garden on the rock: the terraces of Książ Castle

The terraces surrounding the Castle cover a surface area of two hectares, laid out on twelve levels and maintained in the French style. All command stunning views of the surroundings, which the Castle’s most famous resident, Princess Daisy von Pless, made mention of in her memoirs. Although their appearance has changed over the centuries, they have continuously played an important part in the Castle’s life since the 17th century.

The first ornamental gardens at Książ Castle were first developed  on the site of the former fortifications, during the rule of Christoph II von Hoberg in the first half of the 17th century. Still, it was only after the old walls and embankments were demolished in 1646, and the Thirty Years’ War ended in 1648, that it was possible to enlarge and embellish them. At first their function was economic, but before long the terraces were to serve a more aesthetic purpose, providing for gracious walks in an ornamental setting. Flower gardens, maintained in the Renaissance style, arose around the Castle. In the years 1913 to 1927, the last phase of the Castle’s development took place. It was during that time that the Castle acquired the form and appearance which it  has mostly preserved to this day. Before the last world war, the Książ terraces were arranged twice a year, in spring and autumn; 20,000 plants were needed to accomplish this. The Castle’s gardens and the nearby Palm House, in Lubiechów, provided the majority of them; During World War II and afterwards, the terraces were partly destroyed. Since their reorganization and repair in the 1960s and 1970s, they have been, more than ever, a favourite place for visitors to Walbrzych’s castle to stroll and relax.

Terrace of the Goddess Flora

This name was given to the terrace connected to the Powder Tower  in the southwest corner,  The upper floor of this many-sided stone tower (covered by a ceramic roof) was built on the  medieval  foundations of the tower of the same name. In the older part, the original crenels (windows for shooting) and Gothic portal have been preserved. The stone stairs, located by the tower walls, lead down to the Terrace of the Goddess Flora. Going in the opposite (eastern) direction, one reaches a dry moat and then –to the left – a stone path to the entrance gate of the Honorary Courtyard. On the terrace are lawns, flowers and bushes. It provides a magnificent view of the canyon through which Wałbrzych’s Pełcznica River flows. The surrounding hills may also be admired.

Guidebooks published before the war referred to it as the “Terrace of the Garden of Delights”. The present name refers to the statue of the goddess Flora, which may be found in an ivy-covered rock niche in a retaining wall that extends above the Honorary Courtyard. The terrace’s main decorative feature is the richly sculpted Triton Fountain, located in the centre. The tritons emerge from the round pool to support a large, fancifully shaped bowl, in which small figures support a smaller bowl. The most striking floral feature consists of the shaped boxwood borders. From the terrace one can take the stairs (which may be seen to the left of Flora’s statue) leading to the higher Walnut Terrace, named after the walnut trees that once grew there.

The Middle Terrace

This terrace is embellished by two figural fountains, on the east and west side of the terrace – the works of the Silesian sculptor Blichmann (from the adjacent town now called Świebodzice). The sides of the balustrades are richly decorated with bas-reliefs with geometrical and plant motifs. A column with a Corinthian head emerges from the centre of each fountain. The heads are decorated with masks from which water spurts. Statues of figures with jugs, which once stood on the tops of these columns and from which water also splashed, have not survived to these days. The charm of the terrace lies in the beauty and richness of the vegetation growing on the escarpment. From here, the south part of the Castle may be admired, with its diversity of architectural styles.

Water Terrace

Reached by following a few stone steps down from the Central Terrace, it is considered by many to be the most beautiful of the terraces, with 27 fountains on its rectangular surface, surrounded by boxwood compositions. In its two outer corners stand short, four-sided stone towers, covered by ceramic roofs. It was on the Water Terrace where, in Jerzy Hoffman’s film “Trędowata” (Leper), the much-loved actress Elżbieta Starostecka ran, playing Stefcia Rudecka.

Cascade Terrace (Rose Terrace)

Known before the war as the Rose Terrace, it consists of symmetrically arranged, interesting boxwood and rose compositions. It is particularly striking viewed from the Kasztanowy (Chestnut) Terrace, above, affording a view of the shape of the greenery. On the north part, a cascade fountain is built into the rock, from which mountain vegetation grows – hence, the terrace’s name.

West Terrace

The largest of all the terraces, it is located in the Castle’s huge west wing, built in the first half of the twentieth century in an eclectic style (modelled after the late German Renaissance). It is particularly embellished by three fountains surrounded by boxwood compositions and complemented by bushes, flowers and a lawn. The largest and most beautiful is the middle fountain, of Italian provenance. The Castle’s imposing and beautiful west wing, supported on a rock covered by mountain vegetation, is fully visible from this terrace. Two towers flank it. To the right stands the George Tower (Baszta Jerzego), once the home of Princess Daisy von Pless’ beloved but incorrigible son, Alexander. The White Tower stands to the right. In the finial of the façade of this part of the building, between the two towers, are sculptures of lions bearing the coats of arms of the von Hochberg dynasty and the family of Earl De La Warr, to which Princess Daisy belonged.

Chestnut Terrace and the former Donatello Fountain

This terrace, under the Rose Terrace, can be reached from the West Terrace via the George Tower, whose interior (at the base) features a neo-Romanesque décor. The picture below presents a view of the terrace from the inside of the tower.

Named for its chestnut trees, the terrace is fenced by a stone carved balustrade. In the centre are fragments of the fountain that stood there before the war, attributed to the sculptor Donatello. In those days, the terrace’s garden was considered the most beautiful in Książ. In the early 1980s, Daisy’s son Alexander described it in a letter to the Castle’s management at the time: “A family dining room adjoined it, a small area only for family and very close relatives. On the room vault were frescoes which my father had bought in Italy. These frescoes and the Italian fountain on the Chestnut Terrace caused a great deal of trouble, as the Italians suddenly took the notion that these were important works of their national art. For this reason they had to be smuggled.”

The Chestnut Terrace is connected to the neo-Renaissance part of the Castle, including a nearly-accurate replica of the Renaissance façade of the Peller House in Nuremberg, built of red sandstone.

The Horseshoe Terrace

This small terrace, named for its shape, connects the Rose and Middle terraces. Despite its small size, its architecture is interesting, especially the dual stairs and decorative stone balustrade (with the entrance to the terrace in the middle), with neo-Renaissance balusters. Also of interest is the small fountain with stone bowls in the interior, in the middle between the flights of stairs.