City defensive walls, Bielsko-Biała
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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The city of Bielsko (Biała) dates back to medieval times and is one of the oldest cities in the Silesian Voivodeship. Although the first information regarding the incorporation of the city comes from 1312, most likely, Bielsko was established as early as at the end of the 13th century — from then on, the early medieval hillfort of Stare Bielsko was sharply declining in importance (the settlement operated from the 12th century to the end of the 14th century, possibly also at the beginning of the 15th century). Thus, the medieval city walls of Bielsko are among the oldest fortifications of this type in the voivodeship; moreover, they have been the object of some of the most extensive archaeological studies. They are valuable because of their age, the emotional load that they carry, but also from the historical and scientific points of view. The remains of the Bielsko walls tell the story of the ages gone by; a major element of the heritage, they stand out in the present city landscape.

History

There are no written records, but the late medieval city walls of Bielsko are believed to have been built in the 1st half of the 14th century, and possibly even in the 1st quarter of that century, which was confirmed by archaeological excavations. The system of fortifications consisted of two rings of walls: the inner one (which is older, dating back to the 1st half of the 14th century) and the outer one (the younger one, built at the end of the 15th century or in the 1st half of the 16th century at the latest). Some researchers believe that before the 14th-century wall was built, Bielsko was surrounded by a wood and earth rampart that was gradually replaced with the wall, which process may have taken even several dozen years. In the 17th century, the inner wall was destroyed to a considerable degree, probably as a result of a fire (or fires), of which there were several in that century. The fire of 1659 was particularly destructive: it destroyed all buildings within the walls, i.e. 84 houses, as well as the roof coverings of the walls and fortified towers. With time, the walls lost their military function and starting from the 17th century, they were gradually dismantled and incorporated into other structures.

Description

The city enclosed by the walls was laid out on an irregular oval plan, which was necessitated by the topography, and covered an area of approx. 4.7 ha. The 14th-century defensive wall was approx. 0.8 km long and ran along the upper edge of the city hill, which had natural defences, i.e. steep scarps, on three sides. In fact, the city could only be accessed relatively easily from the west. The inner wall extended to the castle, which was separated from the city by its own fortifications. The city had two gates: the Upper Gate (which used to be located at the intersection of the present Piwowarska, Waryńskiego, and Św. Trójcy Streets) and the Lower Gate (which was located in the north-west tower of the castle). It is known that the inner wall had fortified towers, however, it is difficult to tell how many towers there were, what their precise location was, and when they were constructed. The walls were made of crushed stone, with the use of lime mortar, and were approx. 1.7-1.8 m thick. The wall faces of the preserved wall sections consist of relatively carefully processed stones, whereas inside, the wall was filled with smaller and more irregular stones. The remains of the walls are noticeable first of all by the present W. Orkana Street and Waryńskiego Street (the northern section and the north-western section) and nearby the castle. It may be added that the remains of a trough-shaped moat were also discovered during the archaeological excavations. The moat was 10.5-11 m wide and 3.1 m deep. Unfortunately, no movable artefacts which could provide information about the age of the moat were found. However, it may be presumed that is dates back to the 1st half of the 14th century.

Unrestricted access to the preserved structures.

compiled by Michał Bugaj, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 05.11.2015.

Bibliography

  • Pierzak J., Miejskie mury obronne na Górnym Śląsku na przykładzie Bytomia, Bielska - Białej, Żor i Gliwic, [w:] Dominik Abłamowicz, Mirosław Furmanek, Monika Michnik (red.), Początki i rozwój miast Górnego Śląska. Studia interdyscyplinarne, Gliwice 2004.

General information

  • Type: defensive wall
  • Chronology: 1. poł. XIV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Bielsko-Biała
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district Bielsko-Biała, commune Bielsko-Biała
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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