A visit to the Szydłowiec region isn’t just an experience – it’s a discovery.
We can’t wait to see you in Szydłowiec!
The town is placed on the Szydłowiec Upland (which is not technically a geographical term, but rather a name used locally), which borders the Radomska Plain in the north and the Końskie Hills in the south-west.
Szydłowiec is an old historic town. As one of very few towns in Masovia and northern Lesser Poland, it has largely retained its original urban layout. Many historic buildings also testify to the the town’s centuries-old tradition.
With its first-class examples of historic art and architecture, original Medieval urban layout (comprising three market squares), the Museum of Folk Instruments (rather unique among other such museums in Europe) and numerous ancient excavation sites, Szydłowiec is one of the region’s most attractive tourist destinations.
Tourists usually start their trips from the central Rynek Wielki (Great Market Square). Located on the southern part of the square, the parish church of St. Sigismund was founded in 1493 by Jakub Szydłowiecki and erected on the site of a former church dating from 1401. The late Gothic walls of the church reveal nothing of the splendid Renaissansce décor inside, with sumptuous gilded altars and a unique larch ceiling complete with polychromic frescoes. There’s also a stunning polyptych made by Cracow craftsmen in 1509, and a 19th-century organ with a beautifully rich sound. The outer walls of the church feature two 17th-century sundials.
Next to the church there is an old cemetery, which served as the resting place for the church’s parishioners in centuries past. Many tombstones have been preserved there, as well as graffita (inscriptions marking the graves of the less wealthy) from the 17th–18th centuries. The best preserved epigraph reads: MATINVS GLADIATOR AD 1592 (the name is a Latin form of Marcin Miecznik).
Overlooking the church is the two-storey Town Hall building, with its high tower. It was built in 1602–1629, in late Renaissance style, and is one of the very few preserved public buildings of its kind in the towns of Masovia and Lesser Poland.
In the restaurant located in the cellar of the Town Hall, a section of the stone wall has come away at the base to reveal sandstone rock in situ – evidence that the town’s main building was built on a rock.
In front of the Town Hall, next to its north-east wall, there is a 17th-century pillory, one of the very few such objects still preserved in Poland. It is made of sandstone and features mascarons and iron jougs.
On the opposite (south-east) side of the Town Hall, there is a mysterious statue called “Zośka” (‘Sophie’). The statue, which depicts a female figure atop a Mannerist-style column, has a somewhat vague history. The only known fact is that it stood in front of the Town Hall back in 1795, as it appears on a drawing of the Szydłowiec Market Square by a well-known Polish artist of the Canaletto school, Zygmunt Vogel. The story of what happened to the statue after that is also rather vague. The beautiful column that forms its base was moved to the cemetery, where it remained until 2004, adorning the grave of one of the parish priests, Rev. Stanisław Straszak (who died in 1833). The statue itself was probably stored somewhere in the vicinity of the castle. Today, “Zośka” is back on the Market Square, a reminder to passersby of less enlightened times, when town courts sentenced women who had “lost their virtue” to stand on similar columns “to become a laughing stock and serve as a warning to other women”.
From the Market Square, Kamienna Street and Sowińskiego Street lead to the castle, which is one of the most beautiful early Renaissance residences of the nobility in Poland. It has retained its original form for the last five centuries and remains the best-preserved historical object of its kind in the region. According to documents, a manor house made of stone existed on the site as early as 1427. It belonged to Jakub and Sławek Odrowąż, the progenitors of what later became the Szydłowiecki family. Archaeologists have also discovered remnants of older wooden constructions, most probably dating back to the 13th century. For defence purposes, the moated castle was built on an artificial island in pools formed by the Korzeniówka river.
At present, the castle is home to the Museum of Folk Instruments, whose collection of folk instruments is unparalleled in Europe. The first specialist institution in Europe to widen its search to include an entire country, the museum has successfully collected approximately two thirds of the folk instruments that exist in Poland.
Of all the regions in Poland, it is the area around Radom that has best preserved its traditions of instrumental village music. The area is rightly dubbed the “oberek basin”. To this day, many folk musicians can be found playing traditional oberek and mazurek tunes in Szydłowiec and its surrounding areas. There are also plenty of groups and bands preserving traditional singing styles, as well as old customs and rituals.
Before the Second World War, the Jewish community in Szydłowiec formed the majority of the town’s population. On 23 September 1942, the German occupiers sent approximately 10,000 Szydłowiec Jews to the extermination camp at Treblinka, and a further 5,000 people were sent there on 13 January 1943.
In addition to the town’s Jewish tenement buildings, a Jewish House of Prayer in Garbarska Street No. 3 (also called the ‘Garbarska Synagogue’) survived the Second World War and is preserved to this day. It was built in 1730, for the Jewish workers employed at the local tannery and the tannery’s owners, the Ajzenberg family.
The Jewish cemetery on Wschodnia Street is one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Poland. According to inventories made in 1979-1980 and in 1987, there were about 3,100 matzevahs, dating back to 1931-1942. In 2000, on the initiative of Benjamin Yaari, another inventory was made and this resulted in 1,750 matzevah listings. In 1967, the authorities of Szydłowiec, along with the local community, erected a monument at the cemetery, commemorating the Jews murdered during the Second World War. In 2005, the Rabinowicz family had an ohel built in the cemetery to house the remains of four rabbis and a tzaddik.
Tourists also like to visit the flooded “Pikiel” and “Podkowiński” quarries (both named after their former owners). The quarries, located in Kamienna Street, have been inoperative since the 1960s. In the past, sandstone coming from the Early Jurassic epoch (about 190 million years ago) was extracted here. Both sites have been listed as protected areas and form part of an interdisciplinary educational trail showing sites where inanimate nature is incorporated into the cultural landscape.
Other remnants of the past come in the form of roadside crosses, shrines and statues. These are mostly made from local sandstone, and created by folk artists (mainly the local stoneworkers). There are two first-class sculptures of St. John Nepomucene, one of which is located at the parish cemetery on Kamienna Street; the other one stands in front of St. Sigismund church in the Market Square. Both have the date 1900 engraved on them, a reference to the date of renovation. Both sculptures are the work of gifted sculptors. Also created by professional stoneworkers are the two statues of the Virgin Mary, which can be found on Kościuszki Street. The first statue, which stands near the coach station, was funded in 1947 by Kazimierz Antecki, who wanted to thank the Virgin for helping him survive the war and a concentration camp. The second statue, which stands at 121 Kościuszki Street, was funded by I. Koziński in 1912.
The 195-hectare “Podlesie” nature reserve, situated in the Chlewiska gmina, was created to protect fir trees and other tree species. Not far from here, there is a fascinating nature reserve called Skałki Piekło pod Niekłaniem, which features a cluster of unusual rock formations (ledges, mushrooms, chimneys), all of which are the result of the complex processes of sandstone erosion.
The sandstone outcrops on Mount Cymbra are not only a fascinating natural wonders – they also offer impressive panoramic views of much of the powiat.
St. Stanislaus church was erected in 1511–1512 on the foundations of the previous church, but has undergone a few conversions since then (its 1923–1924 expansion was was the work of renowned Polish architect, Julian Lisiecki). The church was originally built in Romanesque style (exemplified by the Late Romanesque quatrefoil window with tracery, set in stone), but there are many elements of Late Gothic stonework (portals, keystones) featuring the coats of arms of the Łabędź, Odrowąż, Habdank, Janina and Poraj families – as well as many other interesting details. Among the most precious objects inside the church are the statue of Virgin Mary with Child in the high altar, and the gravestones dating back to the 15th–17th centuries. Next to the church, there is a belfry and an 18th-century Vicar’s House.
Founded outside the village in 1806, the Catholic cemetery features a dozen or so cast-iron headstones dating back to the 1830s, as well as vestiges of a decorative railing, cast locally or in Rzuców.
The fortified palace in Chlewiska was built in late Middle Ages on the foundations of a 12th-century castle. The present palace consists of two stone buildings joined at a right angle. The older of the two is the western wing, featuring barrel-vaulted cellars, groin-vaulted rooms on the ground floor and a Late Renaissance portal dating back to the early 17th century. The palace sits atop a semi-artificial hill, and is surrounded by historic landscape park with a few natural monuments (including a 300-year-old linden tree and a 150-year-old poplar). Near the palace, there are historic farm buildings, including a 100-metre long stone stables from 1896.
Not far from the park, in the centre of the village, there is a unique decorative clock tower dating from 1902, which was erected in honour of Count Konstanty Plater on his nameday.
The shrine in the middle of the pond in Chlewiska was most probably built at the end of the 19th century on an artificial island. The statue of St. John Nepomucene (dating back to the mid-18th century) sits on a small pedestal.
The Chlewiska Steelworks was set up between 1882 and1892 by the French Metallurgical Society. Its blast furnace once produced 13 tonnes of pig iron a day. It features three furnaces for roasting iron ore, a lift tower and a metalwork workshop. The blast furnace operated until 1940, when it was closed by the Germans during the war, and was the last steelworks in Europe to be fuelled by charcoal (produced in the local woods).
The iron ore was extracted from mines and shafts located around the area, mostly in the vicinity of Mount Skłobska. It was transported by narrow-gauge railway.
In 1957, the Chlewiska Steelworks was designated a unique historical monument, and became a branch of the Warsaw Museum of Technology. Since 2002, the site has hosted the annual Iron and Steel Day, with smelting iron in a traditional bloomery as one of the main attractions.
Located on a hilltop, St. John the Baptist church is a dominant feature on the Jastrząb landscape. It was built in 1677 to replace the former wooden church. Remnants of the old church include a stone portal in the chancel, with decorative iron doors, a sculpted head of John the Baptist, now placed above the portal, and an epitaph to Anna Dadzibosonka from 1670, in rhyming Old Polish verse. There are two paintings of special significance: “The Virgin Mary with Child” dating from the end of the 16th century, and “Our Lady of Sorrows” from 1636, which depicts the Virgin in a Baroque dress (the painting originally comes from Gąsawy Plebańskie).
The lake in Jastrząb covers an area of approximately 8 hectares and is a popular tourist attraction. The lake complex includes sports grounds and a small beach. At present, the lake is being upgraded and expanded.
The historic excavation site at the nearby Śmiłów Quarry is also a place worth visiting in the Jastrząb gmina.
At the end of the 17th century, in the village of MIRÓW, there was probably a manor that served as one of the many residences of the Cracow bishops. It might have been located at the site where remnants of an old manor can be found, surrounded by a park and centuries-old oak trees.
Near Mirów, on the Piekło Mount, unique rock formations nestle among a variety of protected plant species. The hill, covered by a pine- and birch forest, towers above the vast lowlands of the Iłżanka river valley. It is considered a monument of nature.
Most of the terrain in the OROŃSKO gmina is made of glacial sediments (clay, sand, loam). The almost completely flat ground is broken by river valleys, brooks and streams, and these once played an important role in energy-production, as a driving force for gristmills, fulling mills and finery forges. At present, the waterways mainly serve farming and animal husbandry needs. Some old mills do exist and some of them may still be active.
In Krogulcza Mokra boasts one of the region’s most splendid natural monuments (listed as such in 1978) – a 350-year-old oak tree with four boughs.
As well as the picturesque landscape and scenic villages, Orońsko is home to the Centre of Polish Sculpture, a unique cultural centre located just off the E7 highway connecting Warsaw and Cracow.
The Centre of Polish Sculpture comprises Józef Brandt’s palace, an orangery, chapel, outbuilding, granary, coach house, stables and a beautifully landscaped park with fine examples of 17th–19th century sculpture and architecture. The palace hosts a museum of 19th-century court interiors, and the chapel runs an exhibition about the history and artistic traditions of Orońsko.
The outbuilding space has been adapted for workshops and studio space as part of the Centre for Sculptors’ Creative Work – the centre is used annually by around 200 Polish and foreign artists. The former granary has been converted into a hotel. In 1992, a modern pavilion was built, and this now holds the Museum of Contemporary Sculpture.
The Centre documents contemporary Polish sculpture, organizes many exhibitions, conferences, meetings with artists and art critics, festivals (such as “May Break with Art” or “A Sudden Start of Autumn”), concerts (including those that are part of the International Festival of Organ and Chamber Music in Radom-Orońsko). The Centre also publishes books (monographs about sculptors) and periodicals (the “Polish Sculpture” yearly, the “Orońsko” quarterly).
For more information, please visit: http://www.rzezba-oronsko.pl/EN/.