, Gdańsk

Krag is a forest region with lakes and wooded hills. It was on this spot, in the year 1414 between two lakes, that a gothic castle was built. From this period the cellars and three archery ranges survive near the eastern wall of the castle.

Like all buildings of this kind, the castle was extended and rebuilt many times and because it is over 500 years old, its original outline is difficult to trace.

The history of rebuilding is as follows:

In the 14th century the mediaeval section of the castle was located where the cellars are now, in the southern part of the east of the castle.

Round about 1580 the castle was razed to the foundations and rebuilt as a renaissance castle of a defensive nature. The cellars were altered and to the east a new building was erected connecting to the old building and enhanced with four towers and an attic. The attic of the castle in Krag was similar to that of the castle of the Pomeranian Princes in Szczecin, but unfortunately it was destroyed to make room for another floor. In the 19th century, a new wing was built in neo-renaissance style.

In the middle of the 17th century, the castle was further extended becoming a renaissance castle but, this time, not of a defensive nature. An extension was built on the north side and the attic was demolished so that the building could be raised one extra floor.

At the end of the 19th century, a three storey west wing was added to the main building with an additional two single storey extensions making the castle longer. A terrace with an ornate staircase was built. A decorated wall with gates was built on the south side of the castle. The north east wing was extended in the direction of the lake. Currently, the castle has the shape of a reversed letter “E” and the elevations have remained unaltered since the 19th century.

First written records of the castle date back to 1458. At this time the building was inhabited by Anton von dem Borne. It is thought that from the year 1480 the castle became the possession of the Podewils family as a Pomaranian Prince’s favour. Connected to this occurrence is the following legend: when the Koszalinians attacked the castle of prince Boguslaw X, he almost lost his head were it not for the quick reactions of Adam Podewils who saved his life. In gratitude for this act, the castle in Krag was given by the prince to Adam Podewils along with the surrounding land. Originally it was the prince’s hunting lodge. The renaissance character of the castle is thanks to Felix Podewils, who loved the style of that era.

In 1860 the castle was sold to Major Hugo van Loen for 81 500 talars. It was in his possession for only 20 years. Hugo van Loen sold the whole property to the von Riepenhausen family (for 188 000 talars), and legend has it that he sold it because of gambling debts. In the meantime the size of the estate was reduced because some parts were sold while others became the property of other people.

The last owner was Dr Karl Alexander von Riepenhausen, who married an American woman. They had one daughter who died shortly after birth which meant that he had no heir to his estate. Karl von Riepenhausen himself died in 1944. Thus the castle was left without an owner. In March 1945, it was hit by artillery, caught fire and was badly damaged. Windows, doors, stairs, floors and anything of any use was stolen by looters. Being unfit for people to live in, all the rooms became inhabited by bats whose presence caused great fear. The castle was left a ruin. For this reason the castle was set to be demolished. Strong protests from conservationists of ancient buildings and local residents writing to local papers forced the appropriate people to take action. The castle and its associated church were placed in the Register of Protected Monuments. In 1933 the rebuilding started based on whatever original plans were still in existence. The Szczecin Road and Bridge Company provided the finance and the building was restored to be used as a holiday centre. As a result of political reforms, the castle was taken over by the local government in Polanow, who during the 1990’s put it up for auction.

The castle is surrounded by 2,6 ha of ornamental parkland which stretches to the road on one side and in the north to the shore of the lake which is almost perfectly circular. Where the park reaches the road there is a wall which is one of the oldest elements of the castle estate.

The small church, which is close to the castle, used to be the castle chapel. It was built in a year 1580 but in the 17th and 18th centuries it was altered many times. In 1700 it was extended by the addition of a chapel of rest, which was richly decorated on the outside. Looking at the chapel these days you can clearly see its two parts: the older, renaissance style and the newer, baroque. The church’s interior is richly equipped in renaissance style: the pulpit and altar, the font and the patron’s pews. In the church there is also a memorial plaque to soldiers who died during the First World War. This plaque was renovated in 1997 by Hans Kasischke, a former resident of Krag.

In the chapel there are two baroque sarcophagi: one made of brass for Henryk Podewils (died-1696) and one of marble decorated with sculptures for Adam Podewils (died-1697) which confirms that the castle belonged to the Podewils family.

Below is a short story connected with the church and one member of the Podewils family.

One of the counts Podewils was a tyrant and very strict with his servants and tenants. If one of his servants was weak with old age and unable to carry out his commands, he would show no mercy. He only showed special favour to his shepherd to whom he gave written guarantees that he could live in the castle to the end of his days. The shepherd faithfully served his master for all of his life and also, later, after the death of the old count, served his son who turned out to be even more tyrannical than his father. The son threw the old shepherd out of the castle. He was deaf to the shepherd pleas and begging because his heart was as hard as stone. And when the shepherd was sitting with his lambs for the last time and pondering his bad fortune, a strange half-man, half-troll appeared before him and asked what was the cause of his troubles. The old man poured out the whole story to him and the fact that unfortunately he had no written proof of his rights. The troll advised him to go and see the old count, who would surely help him. He showed him how to find the dead count. The happy old man listened to the advice and directions and arrived at a grotto where strange beings were pushing wheelbarrows of burning coal. There he met his old master. As a proof of his good will toward his master, the old man gave him a hat which he earlier had received from the troll at the end of his journey. He was still afraid that the young count would not believe that he had met the dead count. His old master decided to warn his son against tyranny and living a sinful life and promised the old man that, on his return, he would see a birch tree growing on the roof of the church as proof of their meeting. The happy old man returned to the castle and after many pleas was admitted to the presence of the young count. When he put the hat on the table, it burst into flames and burnt through the table. And during the night a birch tree grew on the roof of the chapel. On seeing this display of supernatural power the young Podewils relented and the old shepherd stayed in the castle till the end of his days. And the birch? Well, it would still be there on the church roof if it wasn’t for the frost and cold winter that comes every year.

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