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Monday - 15 November 2021     Amielii, Idalii, Leopolda     "Życie tylko dla samego siebie jest korozją osobowości". Wiktor Hugo    
Portal -> Rytro

Seen from the Rytro castle…
When in 1831 Żegota Pauli, a sightseer and senior of Polish ethnography, following the road among most beautiful country saw the remnants of the Rytro castle, he wrote: They are situated on a rocky mountain, below which the swooshing Poprad River flows. A round tower, quite high, stands out among the ruins; on the slope there once was a severe prison. All around one could see the remnants of sturdy buildings; here and there, traces of windows and doors can be seen in tree-grown walls. As it seems, this castle served more for defence than for luxury . The location of the castle is in fact charming. A pile-shaped mountain on which it was built is surrounded by picturesque hills covered with forest. From the north, and especially from the west, the slopes fall abruptly down to the valley. A road to the castle leads through the southern, gentler slope. From the east, there once was a bailey in a saddle-like depression separated from the stronghold by a moat. The castle itself occupies small area on the very top.
A German-sounding name – originally written as Ritter, allows connecting this fortress with the period of reign of Wacław II, that is the 13th/14th centuries transition. However, already Jan Długosz tried to prove its Polish origin claiming that the stronghold took that name about 1244, when German knights-robbers settled there for some time. The castle entered the stage of history in times of Władysław Łokietek, when the ruler allowed the Sisters of Saint Clare from Sącz to collect the tariff proper castrum Ritter (near the Ritter castle) in 1312, and granted a forest ultra Rither castrum (behind the Rither castle) to burghers of Sącz in 1331. In Liber beneficiorum dioecesis cracoviensis, i.e. Book of beneficialities of the Kraków dioecese, Jan Długosz states that the castle was a property of Piotr Wydżga, of Janina coat-of-arms, from whom it was to be taken over by Łokietek. Piotr Wydżga was a very vivid character. He was starosta of Sącz and, apart from Rytro, he also owned the castles Czorsztyn and Lemiesz. At certain moment of his life he decided to quit the worldly life and joined the Order of Saint Mary, commonly known as the Teutonic Knights. However, before this happened, Wydżga had been digging up gold around Rytro and Sącz for many years and had buried the collected precious metal in the mountains. When he was dying, he reportedly left the instructions how to find the treasure to Sisters of Saint Claire in Sącz. Długosz published these instructions, in Latin and Polish, in his Liber beneficiorum.
In fact, the castle was held by the tenants of crown lands, the so called “tenutariusze” (Latin: tenutarius). About 1420 Władysław Jagiełło gave Rytro to a member of the Toporczyk family, Piotr from Pisarze. His successors, who adopted the name Ryterski (“from Rytro”) kept the castle till early 16th century, when the administration was taken over by Piotr Kmita (1477-1553), owner of Wiśnicz, one of the richest and most influential people in Poland. The castle burned down in unexplained circumstances about mid-16th century. The last tenant, Stanisław Garnysz (died in 1587), podstoli (Latin: subdapifer) of Zygmunt August, did nothing to restore the castle to proper condition. Marcin Bielski, secretary of Piotr Kmita, in his 1586 satire Sąd niewieści described the walls of the Rytro castle as old, fallen. However, without any reason, a local tradition connects destruction of the castle only with Jerzy Rakoczy (1657) although written and archaeological sources both clearly point to the period about mid 16th century.
The castle was built gradually. First, a cylindrical tower was constructed from local sandstone. Its walls were 3 meters thick at the base, and the entrance was almost 6 m above the level of the courtyard. Originally, the tower could be reached through a ladder, and later through a wooden gallery from defensive wall. Initially, the tower was surrounded by timber fortifications, and it was only later that in direct vicinity was erected a defensive wall, open from the west where the slope is steepest. The entrance was situated in south-western corner at that time. The difference between the levels of gate and courtyard was eliminated by a passage with a ramp, running along the southern wall. Probably after the 14th-century fire, a part of the western slope was included into the castle. A solid wall was built, settled in the rock, and newly gained area was filled with debris and charred rubble. New gate was built at the place of the former, and the area next to it was paved. As it was before, to the castle’s courtyard led a gallery with a ramp. In the 15th century the castle was destroyed by fire. Archaeologists working in the castle for several years have discovered its traces – a thick layer of charred remains, which were used together with other debris to level the courtyard again. The castle, reconstructed most likely in late-Gothic style, was surrounded by a wall of irregular shape, resembling an elongated triangle rounded from the east. From the west, in the line of defensive walls there was a two-bay residential building with loopholes towards the Poprad. The tower, adjoining the perimeter wall, was still functioning. In the eastern part, closed by a rounded wall, was the so-called “ostróża”, from where the approaches to the castle from the bailey side could be taken under fire. In the course of excavations, a fragment of a barrel of unidentified firearm was discovered there. Most likely, between the tower and ostróża’s wall there were wooden sheds. Here could be located kitchen buildings, too. From the south-east, a large, regular gate building was added to the perimeter wall, supported from the slope side by four huge buttresses, reaching far down the slope. The monumental buttresses served at the same time as pillars of a wooden ramp leading to the area in front of the gate, which was separated from the gate by a deep trench. This area was connected with the gate by a drawbridge. Neither well nor cistern have been discovered as yet, so we do not know how the castle was supplied with water. This castle did not last long. It burned down around mid-16th century. It was not rebuilt again and, neglected, gradually fell into ruin. However, thanks to the fact that nobody lived there after the fire, layers of charred debris preserved many objects of the equipment, like a set of hinges and a padlock to the main castle gate.
Local people use to tell stories about treasures hidden in the castle’s basements. According to one legend, the treasures are guarded by a devil appearing as a cock, while in another it is the ghost of former administrator Marcinek, who rewards the honest with gold and the frauds with stones. Of course, there is also a legend about a tunnel leading from the castle to Nawojowa. Only archaeologists can find out if there is a grain of truth in these stories. Today, thanks to the preservation works, the Rytro castle looks more and more like in times before the 16th-century fire.

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