Resting upon the hill across from Lublin Old Town like a huge wedding cake, the original fortifications that stood here were constructed in the 12th century, with the Romanesque donżon tower going up in the 13th (this structure is the oldest remaining in the castle complex). The castle embraced stone in the first half of the 14th century, with a newer structure being built in a gothic style during the reign of Casimir the Great, along with the wonderfully-painted Chapel of the Holy Trinity. This iteration of the castle was the site in which the Polish-Lithuanian Union of Lublin was signed in 1569. Suffering war damage throughout the 17th century, the gothic castle was knocked down in the 18th century, and a new structure in an English Gothic-Revivalist style went into construction between 1824 and 1826. Despite its elegance and fitting position for any ruling class of the city area, Lublin castle served primarily as a prison for 128 years, anti-czarist revolutionaries to members of the Polish resistance during the Nazi occupation of Poland, and later communist political prisoners during the PRL period. After the prison was liquidated and underwent renovations, the castle became the headquarters of the National Museum of Lublin in 1957, which functions to this very day!
The permanent exhibition, found in the main castle building, is relatively chronological in its order. On the ground level, numerous artifact collections, small scale models and wax figurines of various primitive characters are used to tell the story of Lublin's prehistory. There is a recreation of a burial site, the find of which revealed a woman buried in a carved tree trunk. While some people can find endless collections of pottery shards and arrowheads tedious, these models and recreations are particularly helpful in enhancing the experience, especially for children! Further on, a collection of armaments from the late medieval period to early 20th century will be thoroughly enjoyed by any history nark (and plenty of young boys too, no doubt!) Moving up to the first floor, this is where you gain entry to the extremely-colourful Chapel of the Holy Trinity, which was painted by orthodox Christians in the mid 14th century. NOTE: You'll need a separate ticket for this section, so don't forget to grab one at the cashier! The theme of religious art is continued elsewhere on the same level, including more fabulous eastern orthodox icons and other imagery in a darkly lit exhibition space. In addition, some wonderfully-carved wooden sculptures of thinking Jesus lead you up to around the corner to the ethnographic section, featuring weaving technology, musical instruments and folk costumes from southern Poland. The top floor consists primarily of Polish Paintings from the 17th to 19th centuries, including Jan Matejko's Reception of the Jews A.D. 1096 and The Union of Lublin. When making your purchase at the cashier on the ground floor, it is possible to buy a ticket that covers the chapel, museum and Donżon tower, all of which are found within the castle complex.