Pałac w Kopicach
Pałac obecnie. Fot.

Kopice Chateau – the ruin of a fairy tale estate

Silesia is a land famous for its castles and palaces. Since the Middle Ages, cultural, political and economic life has flourished there. It was the region favoured by aristocrats, crowned heads, Europe’s richest industrialists and landowners, who built their residences there. Their fortunes were often very turbulent, marked by wars and fires. Many also fell into decline during the communist era. One of the Silesian mansions that was mercilessly destroyed by time is the palace in Kopice

Kopice, near Grodków, was the seat of the von Sierstorpff family from 1751. It was they who initiated the conversion of the old seat into a classicist residence in 1783. In 1859, the estate in Kopice was purchased by Count Hans Ulrich Schaffgotsch for his 17-year-old wife, Countess Joanna Schaffgotsch (Gryzik von Schomberg-Godula)

Count Hans Ulrich Schaffgotsch and Countess Joanna Schaffgotsch (Gryzik von Schomberg-Godula). Photo:

Soon afterwards, the new owners commissioned the famous architect Karol Lüdecke to rebuild the chateau. The first stage of the reconstruction was carried out in 1863-65. The north tower was added to the chateau in 1873, and in 1896-97 a chapel with a bell tower was added on the south side. After reconstruction, the palace acquired a character in the Neo-Gothic style with Neo-Renaissance elements. The residence was surrounded on three sides by extensive ponds. Hectares of flower and vegetable gardens, an orchard, an orangery and a winter garden were established nearby. The tropical trees in the palm house were to reach 17 metres in height. In front of the palace, flower carpets of various patterns and colours were spread out. Next to the palace, a palace park was created on an area of more than 60 hectares. In it, the Column of Victory, romantic ruins modelled on a medieval castle and the Temple of Diana were erected. The park was also embellished with century-old oak trees (many of which were up to several hundred years old) and many life-size sculptures of figures and animals by the Breslau master Carl Kern. The atmosphere of splendour and beauty was complemented by cleverly integrated fountains. The palace complex belonged to the Schaffgotschs until 1945, when it became the property of the State Treasury. The war treated it kindly. As late as the 1950s, the palace was still standing complete and well-equipped. Dances and New Year’s Eve balls were held there, and camps for young people were organised in the summer

The Kopice chateau in 1945 and 1956. Photo:

The palace pond in 1945 and today. Photo:

Kopice palace in 1940 and 2021. Photo:

The palace stables in 2012 and 2021. Photo: Jagoda and Tomasz Fasola Korzeniecki

Later, the destruction of the fairytale estate began. In the mid-1950s, the ground floor of the palace served as a warehouse for agricultural produce, mainly cereals. Those overseeing the warehouse traded crops illegally. When, in the autumn of 1956, the time came to inspect and inventory the cereals stored in the palace, a plan was conceived to set fire to the palace to save the skin and cover the traces of abuse. on 7 October 1956 clouds of thick black smoke hung over Kopice. The Schaffgotsch Chateau was on fire. The wooden roof of the building was poured over with oil in several places, and to make it more difficult to extinguish the fire, the arsonist emptied the pond. Thus came the end of a magnificent building. The roof burned down and the ceilings collapsed. After the fire, the Schaffgotsch Chateau in Kopice fell into disrepair. Looting of salvaged furnishings and further devastation began

The square in front of the palace in 1902 and 2021. Photo:

The palace orangery in 1977 and 2021. Photo:

Kopice Palace in 1877 and 2021. Photo:

The Count’s study in 1945 and 2021. Photo:

In 1990, the palace in Kopice, along with 54 hectares of parkland and numerous ponds, was sold to a Krakow businessman. The new owner promised an early restoration. A luxury hotel was to be built in the palace, with a golf course and an airport nearby. Unfortunately, the man turned out to be a swindler and disappeared after swindling a multi-million dollar loan. He did not carry out any renovation work and did not secure either the palace or the surrounding area. He himself disposed of everything that still represented any value. This is how the rest of the sculptures adorning the palace facades, the marble staircase, the granite floors and the heating boilers from the palace cellars disappeared. The lack of any control led to almost everything, including the park, being stolen and vandalised

The main hall in 1945 and 2021. Photo:

Earl’s study in 1945 and 2021. Photo:

The ballroom in 1945 and 2021. Photo:

The palace chapel of St. Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1945 and 2008. Photo:

This thievery continued uninterrupted until 2008. It was then that the palace was bought back by a company from Chorzów, at the same time declaring its intention to rebuild the entire palace complex for use as a leisure and recreation centre. The planned reconstruction was to last until the end of 2015. The company declared not only a desire to rebuild the palace itself and restore the massive 54-hectare park to its former glory, but also a willingness to buy all the buildings belonging to the former Schaffgotsch estate. Unfortunately, after only a month, the whole investment came into question. It turned out that a gravel pit was to be built in close proximity to the palace, supposedly conflicting with the ambitious plans of the palace’s new owner. All attempts to find a compromise and reconcile the parties failed to resolve the matter. During the ongoing disputes, only the first and final stage of clean-up work was carried out on the palace grounds, removing hundreds of tonnes of rubble and soil that had lain inside the palace for 50 years. In 2009, the company officially withdrew from the reconstruction plans

The Knights’ Hall in 1945 and 2021. Photo:

The ballroom in 1945 and 2021. Photo:

Ground floor – main hall in 1945 and 2020. Photo:

Countess Sophie’s room in 1940 and 2020. Photo:

In 2017, another interested party appeared on the horizon – a Luxembourg investment fund. The new investor declared that the palace would be rebuilt to house the Museum of Polish-German Reconciliation. The first clean-up work began, but soon afterwards this investor also turned out to be a fraud. The further fate of Kopice once again came into question, and the palace was once again put up for sale

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Read also: Architecture | History | Villas and residences | Palace

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