The office of kasztelan (or “castellan”) was created in the early 13th century by the Piast Kings, whose ancestors had founded the Polish nation around AD 960 and converted to Christianity in 966. Having grown from its original heartland around Poznań and Gniezno, by 1300 Poland had come to include territories as far east as Kraków, Lublin, and what is now Warsaw. As ever more people became incorporated into the Polish nation, the need – and opportunity – grew for more effective public administration to support the common good.
One result was the development of the office of the castellan. Modelled on earlier Polish offices like that of the żupan, a castellan was charged with managing a particular region, within which he coordinated sustainable agricultural production; managed the local treasury, judiciary, and state properties on behalf of the regional prince; and ensured the effective defense of a particular castle or enclosed settlement (gród) from any military threats. The region entrusted to the care of a single castellan was known as a kaztelania (or “castellany”), with the whole of Poland comprising roughly a hundred castellanies – each centered around a single dwelling-place that served as a hub of local community life. By the 1400s, the castellans had also come to play important roles as members of Poland’s Senate, the upper house of its national legislative assembly.
Over the course of centuries, Poland’s castellans – and their legal and spiritual successors – were charged with faithfully managing, maintaining, and expanding many of the historical buildings and estates that lie at the heart of our business. A castellan served as a steward of those properties that had been entrusted to him by the Polish king – who himself had been entrusted with stewardship of the entire kingdom by the national assembly of noble families that elected him. That spirit of faithful, innovative stewardship demonstrated by generations of Poland’s castellans is something that we can look to today for inspiration, as we strive to preserve, adapt, and revitalize uniquely treasured homes and post-industrial structures for novel commercial and residential uses in the 21st century.