English Language


This charming little town is adorned with pearls of Rococo architecture and made famous by the literary work of Andrzej Stasiuk, who aptly named Dukla the still beating heart of old Galicia.

The town, inhabited nowadays by two thousand citizens, is situated at the foot of the majestic and mysterious Cergowa Mountain on the edge of the Beskid Niski mountain range, on the old route to Hungary, to which the town owed its golden age. Dukla became a town already in the 14th century, at the time of knights of the Bogoria family. It then passed to the Jordan family, whose coat of arms with three bugle horns has remained the symbol of the town since. It was later inherited by the Zborowski family and the Drohojowski family. At the time of the latter, the first fortified manor house was built there, subsequently incorporated into the bastion layout constructed by Franciszek Mniszech in 1638. Dukla was then property of two families – Męciński and Mniszech. The 16th and 17th century brought the beginning of prosperity in Dukla, produced by trade in wine, cattle, salt, and later also in linen and cloth. The following decades however, filled with famine, fire, wars, and pestilence, led to a dramatic decline and forced the Męcińskis to sell their part of the town to the Mniszechs.

In 1742, Dukla was inherited by Jerzy August Mniszech, who married Maria Amalia Brühl, daughter of a powerful minister of the Saxon times in Poland, and thus became one of the most powerful people in the kingdom. But when he lost his influence after the election of Stanisław August Poniatowski to the Polish throne, he settled with his wife in Dukla and decided to make it a cultural and political centre that could compete with Puławy of the detested Czartoryski family. An impressive palace was built, and the Mniszechs also funded two monumental churches.

It is hardly surprising, then, that after the first partition of Poland, Dukla became the seat of the district which included Krosno and Jasło, both far from flourishing then. But when the Mniszech family could no longer look after Dukla, the town fell into decline, especially after it was bypassed by the railway.

It then became another provincial town of Galicia, inhabited mainly by Jews, who at the end of the 19th century constituted over 80% of its population. This made Dukla one of the most important cultural and economic centres for Galician Jews, as well as a centre of the Hasidic movement.

The great history remembered Dukla again in 1944, when one of the bloodiest battles in the history of Polish lands was fought near the town, the so called Dukla-Prešov Offensive, when the Red Army attempted to force their way through the mountains to provide support for the Slovak national uprising. The neighbouring villages were witness to bloody fights which claimed 200 000 lives and earned the battlefield the name of the Valley of Death. In Dukla itself, only about 10% of buildings survived.

Fortunately, the churches survived and the damaged palace could be renovated. It was now to house a propaganda Brotherhood In Arms Museum, commemorating the battle and the allegiance of the Soviet ally. The Rococo furniture was replaced with Soviet weaponry and the palace park filled with heavy army vehicles. In 1991 the museum was renamed the Historical Museum – the Dukla Palace and the palace tradition was reborn.

In its heyday, mainly thanks to Amalia, the Palace in Dukla was a match for other grand residences of contemporary Europe in terms of the splendour of its furnishings. It was famous for its rich gallery of European painting and excellent library. It also had a private theatre and musical ensemble. The layout of the palace and the park represents the French entre cour et jardin style, with the park as an extension of the grand palace interiors. The main building has a mansard roof with small garrets, characteristic for its time, and two annexes on the sides, built on the foundations of the old 17th century bastions. The garden was terraced and adorned with small architecture elements scattered among ponds and lanes lined with sculpted trees.

The following owners had the garden redesigned into an English landscape park, but both the palace and its annexes remain rare examples of Rococo architecture in the region. The palace still houses the museum, even though in 2012, after years of efforts, it was returned to its lawful owners. The museum collects memorabilia connected with the history of the town, the Palace and the park, the military history of the region and works of art. The permanent exhibitions present the history of Dukla and the Dukla Palace and park, as well as the history of military actions, including the Gorlice–Tarnów Offensive from December 1914 to May 1915, September 1939 at the Dukla Pass and in Dukla, and the Dukla-Prešov Offensive from 8 to 30 September 1944. There is also an exhibition of weaponry and equipment of armies fighting in the Carpathians in the years 1944-1945, and an open-air exhibition of heavy weaponry in the Museum’s courtyard. What is more, a few times a year the Museum hosts interesting temporary exhibitions and there is a revival of the theatre tradition.

When you are in Dukla, you cannot leave the St Mary Magdalene Parish Church unvisited. It was remodelled in Baroque style by Jerzy Wandalin Mniszech in the second half of the 18th century. The unique Rococo interior has survived, rich in gilding, mirrors and stucco. In the southern chapel, you can admire the beautiful Rococo tomb of Amalia Mniszech – one of the most valuable sculptures of this period in Poland. On a marble sarcophagus, there is the effigy of Amalia Mniszech dressed in an elegant lace dress. She seems to have fallen asleep momentarily over the book she is holding, not gone forever.

The town of Dukla has retained its original layout, organised around a sizeable main square, towered over by a neo-Gothic town hall from the beginning of the 17th century and remodelled in the 19th century. The square is lined with large town houses, some of which date back to the 18th and 19th century, with historic cellars which were once used for storing wine. What delights those who want to discover the truth about the past is also the spirit of a small, remote rural town which has survived in Dukla and manifests itself, for example, in the weekly market organised practically on the threshold of the Rococo Mniszech Palace.

Before the World War II, the famous markets in Dukla were looked on also by a synagogue from the middle of the 18th century, but in 1940 it was burned by the Nazis and still remains a ruin. Once, Dukla had three synagogues, and there were religious schools as well as several mills, distilleries, oil refineries and small factories owned by rich Jews. Famous tsaddiks, Hasidic spiritual leaders, were active in Dukla, including Arie Lejbusz Halberstam and his son Menachem Mendel. Today there is hardly a trace of this colourful and lively community in Dukla – there are only the ruins of the burned synagogue and the Jewish cemetery, one of the biggest in Podkarpacie, by the exit road towards Barwinek. The building of the younger synagogue has survived, but it now houses a grocery.

On the opposite side of the town, tourists and pilgrims are attracted by the 18th century Baroque Bernardine monastery and church, which is the place of St John of Dukla’s grave. In the church, there are also memorials to the old owners of Dukla, the Mniszech family and the Stadnicki family. At the foot of the monastery hill there is a statue of John Paul II, commemorating his visit to Dukla in 1997.

It was during this pilgrimage that the Pope canonised St John of Dukla, who was born there and, before he became a guardian for the Krosno Franciscans, lived for a time as a hermit on the Zaśpit hill in Trzciana near Dukla.

A trip to his hermitage, situated 1.5 kilometres away from the village of Trzciana, is one of the possible forms of actively spending your free time in the area and an interesting pilgrimage. The place is marked with a chapel, built on the site of the chapel funded already by the Mniszech family who wanted to popularise the worship of John of Dukla, who was beatified in their lifetime. According to legend, Amalia Mniszech had a dream where St John asked her to build the chapel. The chapel was destroyed by fire, and the present one was built at the beginning of the 20th century. Next to it, there is a wooden retreat house – the so called hermit’s house, and a terrace with an artificial grotto containing a spring with miraculous properties.

fot.: M. Sanocka