back to top

    Sweden with treasure from Poland

    On July 1, 1656, Jan Kazimierz recaptured Warsaw from the Swedish army. When the whole entourage arrived at the Royal Castle, people could not believe their eyes. What the enemy did to this beautiful mansion cried to heaven. “The Swedes have so filled the castle of Warsaw with nightsoil that it is impossible to live there; they led the horses up to the third floor; rooms were full of dead bodies of soldiers,” wrote the queen’s secretary Des Noyers.

    The Swedish ruler also intended to take Sigismund’s column through the Vistula, even promising three thousand thalers “for bringing it down and bringing it up”. During the occupation of Krakow, the ransom was set at 100,000 thalers, and since the entire amount was not collected, soldiers rushed to the temples and plundered liturgical vessels and church vestments.


    The Swedish governor of the city, Paweł Wirtz, personally tore off the silver plates from the outer coffin of St. Stanislaus, while the inner one – made of pure gold – he took as his private possession, having earlier smashed the sculptured figure of the bishop to the ground. The entire Renaissance altarpiece of the saint was melted down and destroyed. Soldiers also profaned the royal and bishops’ tombs, opened coffins, threw remains to the ground and tore funerary insignia from them. At Wawel Castle, doors were broken, windows smashed, all upholstery was torn off, and many valuable items were looted. In August 1656, seven large ships filled with Polish treasures set sail from Gdansk to Stockholm.


    That same year, more than 200 paintings, painted plafonds from five chambers, 20 Turkish carpets, 28 Turkish tents, 21 chests with books and manuscripts, reliquaries, and musical instruments meticulously entered into Stockholm Castle’s inventory. 


    St. Catherine’s Church in the Swedish capital got three huge bells from Warsaw, and other churches got huge amounts of chalices, chasubles, statues and candlesticks. When a Polish delegation demanded the return of the works in 1659, Charles Gustavus said “these are principles of the law of war”.


    More in section