Loyal castellian, able military commander and patriot. These are all things that have been said about Stanisław Warszycki. However, a few others have been attributed to him as well- heretic, sadist and murderer. Where does the truth lie? Let us examine Warszycki’s life and see if we can find a glimmer of it.
Born around 1600, Stanisław Warszycki was from a noble family and was educated at the University of Padua. In 1632, he married Helena Wiśniowiecka, and the couple had one son and two daughters. Warszycki kept his estates in good order and he encouraged the immigration of foreign craftsmen to his estates, which had cloth, pottery and brick factories. During the reign of Sigismund III, he was a senator or voivode and the provincial governor of Mazowieckie. All pretty usual stuff for a noble of that time.
Warszycki was also held in high regard for his loyalty to the Polish kingdom. He did not throw his loyalty to Sweden, like many other powerful nobles, during the Swedish invasion and occupation during the Second Northern War. This was called the Swedish Deluge in popular history. He retook the castle of Pilica from the Swedish commander, Lidorn. His battlements were so innovative, they were adopted by architects all over Poland. He also fortified his estates at Danków significantly to withstand the Swedish assault and forced a retreat from Krzepice and Ogrodzieniec. He even sent men, provisions and cannon to help defend Jasna Góra Monastery, which was being besieged by the Swedes in their attack on Częstochowa. After the war, he spent his fortune rebuilding and was active as a mediator in the politics of Poland. Sounds like a pretty stand up guy, right? Well, here is where things get iffy.
After Warszycki’s death in 1680, stories began to go around about just exactly what kind of guy he was. Some name him as the “Slavic Dracula”. Legends that he kept caves full of treasures he greedily amassed or made deals with the devil for. At Ogrodzieniec castle, he was accused of keeping a “cave of tortures”, where he sadistically enjoyed the systematic torture of peasants and any insubordinate subjects. Even his family was supposedly not immune from his cruelty. Also at Ogrodzieniec castle, his wife received a male guest and Warszycki was eaten up with jealousy, so he blew up the portion of the castle where they were. This was after whipping his wife on multiple occasions, according to legend. According to legend, he also promised his daughter, Barbara, a good dowry, but when the marriage was to be celebrated gave her nothing out of spite.
The most popular tale was how the fortifications of Danków were built so quickly. Supposedly, the Swedes were coming too fast and all though he was whipping the peasants as hard as he could, the defenses would not be ready. To get the work done, Warszycki supposedly made a deal with the Devil. The price for this was Warszycki’s soul, which was damned to either hell or to walk the Earth for the rest of his days. Legends say Warszycki did not die of natural causes, but was kidnapped by devils and taken to hell while he was still alive.
HIs ghost is said to haunt Ogrodzieniec Castle in the form of a black dog. It’s bigger than an ordinary dog with glowing yellow eyes. Witnesses have said they have seen the dog roaming the castle’s battlements and grounds at night, dragging a heavy chain behind him. Strangely, Warszycki is also supposed to haunt another one of his castles as a headless rider. Either way, nothing you’d want to meet on a dark night.
There has been speculation that the blackening of Warszycki’s character was from his enemies. During the Swedish wars, he made enemies of other magnates who backed the Swedes. However, for a man who was cruel it would make sense that the stories didn’t seep out until after his death for fear of retribution. We will leave it to your judgement whether he really made a deal with the devil.
Sources available on request