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The Warsaw Voice » Other » April 7, 2010
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Dukes of Mazovia: Tradition and History
April 7, 2010 By M.M.    
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The city of Ciechanów is a business and tourist center in the northern part of Mazovia. Its main tourist attraction is the castle of the Dukes of Mazovia from the 15th century.
Ciechanów is one of the oldest cities in Mazovia, with a history dating back to prehistoric times, when the local people lived on Farska Góra hill, now part of the city. The settlement emerged before the Piast dynasty, around the 7th century. Alongside the original town there may have been a temple of Swarożyc, the Slavic god of the sun.
The town of Ciechanów was probably seized by the warriors of Bolesław the Brave during the conquest of Mazovia at the end of the 10th century. Rather than destroy it, Bolesław the Brave ordered the town to be enlarged and fortified. Around 1010, Ciechanów gained solid earth and wood embankments. Including two settlements outside the town walls, the then Ciechanów spread over 6 hectares, a size comparable to those of the largest fortified towns in Poland of that time.
The red walls of the castle of the Dukes of Mazovia tower over meadows on the Łydynia River. The stronghold was built in the 15th century on the orders of Duke Janusz I. What remains of the castle are two round wall towers and the rectangular external wall. A prison was once located in the southeastern tower, while the tower on the west, called the arsenal, was used for defensive purposes. Today the towers house a museum with an interesting collection of swords, firearms and armor from the 14th to the 18th centuries. Some of the most interesting items on display include a winged hussar's helmet and a replica of the armor that King Sigismund II Augustus wore as a child. The castle exhibition is part of the Museum of the Nobility of Mazovia in Ciechanów.
As well as being a museum, the castle is also a cultural center, just as it was centuries ago. From May to August, the Gothic Hall of the castle serves as the venue for classical music concerts. At the end of June, visitors to the castle enjoy a lavish Castellan's Feast. And at the end of July, tourists come to see knights who carry out siege maneuvers and compete in archery and infantry competitions. The knights also reenact a Medieval battle. In mid-August, the Medieval knights give way to a Napoleonic army. Like 200 years ago, light cavalry crosses the river and rides on to the common to clash with Russian troops.
At the beginning of August, the castle becomes a picturesque setting for the Dionysia Theater Festival-for theatrical groups searching for new means of expression. Many of the festival performances are held in the streets of Ciechanów.
The castle is located almost in center of Ciechanów. Near the castle is a square market with a Neogothic town hall which was most likely designed by Enrico Marconi.
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