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Radzyń Podlaski - History of the Town and its Palace

Radzyń Podlaski is a district town in Polesie Lubelskie, located on the river Białka, right tributary of Tyśmienica. Initially located under Polish law in 1465 on the land of the village Białka Niżna, and in 1468 – under Magdeburg law, thanks to the Chamberlain of Lublin, Grot of Ostrów. During the Jagiellonian period, the town developed due to its beneficial location at the crossroads of two major communication routes from Podole and Rus to Masovia and its branch - the so-called Jagiellonian Trail between Vilnius and Krakow. The royal Radzyń was leased by administrators called the tenants or starosts. The parish church has been erected even before the town's location, in 1456. The town had a castle, also called the fortalicium, which was the seat of starosts. It has probably been built due on the initiative of the Kazanowski family. Archival records mention it since 1522. Due to territorial expansion in the direction of the king's lands, the family lost Radzyń in 1540; the seat of starost went into the hands of Mikołaj Mniszech, Grand Chamberlain of the Crown. To him we may attribute the transformation of the medieval fortalicium into a modest yet modern palazzo in fortezza. The town also owed the Mniszech family for building the new church of the Holy Trinity in the Lublin Renaissance style. The chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, which is the oldest part of the church, contains a high-class architectonic tombstone of red marble, with lying figures of Mikołaj and Zofia Mniszech. Due to the Swedish invasion, Radzyń fell into economic decline; however, since 1680's it started to prosper again thanks to its new owner, Stanisław Antoni Szczuka, secretary of King John III Sobieski. He was the creator of the New Town with a separate square, located just north of the first one, and referring in composition to residential assumptions. The preserved records in Radzyń suggest that in 1742 the town reached 659 residents, most of which were Jewish craftsmen and traders. Szczuka, based on a design of architect Augustine Locci, has carried out a Baroque expansion of the castle-palace, as well as fortified the town from the east and north, expertly applying the principles of Old Dutch school. The traces of fortifications preserved in the present layout of the town, as well as an excellent cartographic record from early 19th century in the form of the town plan drawn by Mayer von Heldensfeld, allow us to reconstruct the map of this fortified town.

Following the death of Stanisław Antoni Szczuka in 1710, the wealth was inherited by his granddaughter, Marianna Kątska, daughter of Wiktoria Szczuka and Jan Stanisław Kątski. She marries Eustachy Potocki of Pilawa, who, at a great expense transformed the palace into one of the largest aristocratic entre cour et jardin residences in the Polish Crown (years 1750–1761). The author of this transformation was a famous architect from Warsaw Jakub Fontana, whereas the sculptures in the palace and the orangery were done by Jan Chryzostom Redler. Marianna and Eustachy died in February 1768. Their two sons – Ignacy and Stanisław Kostka – both went down in history as co-creators of the Constitution of May3 and educational activists, who played a major role in the public life at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. There is a verbal legend saying that the famous Government Act (namely, the Constitution) has been edited in the Radzyń palace. The Potocki family had numerous servants, e.g. Feliks Lipiński – a renowned kapellmeister (born 1765). His son, Karol (1790-1861), the later outstanding violin virtuoso, was born and educated in the Radzyń palace. His figure is commemorated by the statue standing next to the western wing of the palace, as well as the Days of Karol Lipiński organized in Radzyń since 1984. For a short period, the residence was in the hands of Anna of Zamoyski Sapieżyna and the Czartoryski dukes. Since 1818, an elementary school and teacher apartment was located inside the palace. Children from Radzyń and surrounding areas attended the school, whose operation was maintained at the expense of local wealth.

In September 1831, Radzyń was struck by a disastrous fire, during which most of the buildings burned down; the palace, however, remained intact. Rebuilding the town was accompanied by organizing and reshaping the urban layout by building over the center of the initially long square. In 1834 the local estate became property of Antoni Korwin Szlubowski. During the time of the January Uprising, Radzyń has become an active center of operations for the insurgents, and after its fall – the place of execution of many of its participants. Nevertheless, it still kept city rights after the Uprising, and in 1867 became the district seat in the Siedlce province – with magistrate, court, the city treasury, prison and officials' flats located in the palace. In the years 1879–1881, after closing the Uniate church, a representative Eastern Orthodox church has been built at the northern frontage of the New Square, according to the design by Piotr Levitoux. In 1920, Bronisław Szlubowski, the last lord of Radzyń, gave the palace to the National Treasury, and moved to the palace called the Gubernia, in Kozirynek. The adapted palace initially served as shelter for war invalids, and later as seat of administration and apartments. During the 2nd World War, 157 buildings were destroyed in Radzyń, including the old Potocki Palace; after the retreating Germans set fire to the building, only walls and some parts of sculptures survived. Only in 1950 did its reconstruction begin, and it was opened for use in the 1960's.

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