Early medieval hillfort on the Hill of St Margaret, Bytom
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

Early medieval hillfort on the Hill of St Margaret

Bytom

photo

The early medieval hillfort in Bytom (site 1, AZP 96-46/11), dated at the 11th-early 14th century, is a highly valuable archaeological site. It was one of the several dozen hillforts which formed the basis of the organisation of the state of the first Piast rulers between the 11th and 13th century. The topography of the structure, indicative of its former grandness and importance, has been partially preserved. The historic cultural strata identified in the yard are 1.5 m thick on average (unfortunately, they were severely damaged by numerous burials which took place in the later centuries). The hillfort contained the seat of a castellan and the oldest Bytom church — the Romanesque stone Church of St Margaret from the beginning of the 2nd half of the 12th century. However, no traces of the buildings have been found yet.

Location and description

The hillfort used to be situated by the River Bytomka, on a small natural hill — the Hill of St Margaret, also called the Hill of “Little Margaret” (covering an area of approx. 1.4 ha). The hillfort was established on a route from Wrocław to Kraków. Its purpose was to strengthen the rule of the first Piast rulers in Upper Silesia.

According to J. Szydłowski, archeological excavations (including rescue excavations and archaeological field surveys) were carried out in 1929, 1934 and in 1957, 1961. Despite their small scale, the excavations yielded many artefacts. Numerous fragments of ceramics, metal adornments, knives, a metal coin (probably a cross denarius from the 11th century), and a metal padlock from the 12th century (one of the oldest in Poland) were found.

History

According to the findings of J. Szydłowski, the early medieval hillfort in Bytom was established in the 11th century and operated until the end of the 13th century or even until the beginning of the 14th century. It was located on an important route from Wrocław to Kraków. Its purpose was to strengthen the rule of the Piast dynasty in the region.

The first mention of the Bytom hillfort in written records comes from 1177, when Casimir II the Just (1138-1194), under a peace treaty, handed it over (together with the whole Bytom and Oświęcim castellanies) to Mieszko I Tanglefoot (born 1131-1146 - deceased 1211), Duke of Racibórz (from 1172), and later also Duke of Opole (from 1201) and Duke of Kraków (from 1210). Probably on the initiative of Mieszko Tanglefoot, the Bytom hillfort was modified and enlarged in c. 1200.

It should be added that in the middle of the 12th century (in the 1150s, early 1160s?), Bolesław IV the Curly (1146-1173) founded a Romanesque stone Church of St Margaret within the hillfort. This information comes from the so-called Jaksa tympanum, dated at 1160-1163. Originally, it adorned the Church of St Michael in Wrocław-Ołbin; currently, it is part of the collection of the Museum of Architecture in Wrocław. The tympanum depicts, among others, Bolesław the Curly, who is offering a church located “in Bitom”, i.e. in Bytom, to Jesus Christ. It needs to be emphasised that the Jaksa tympanum is the oldest historic object of this type in Poland. As for the Romanesque church founded by Bolesław the Curly, according to the image on the tympanum, it was a simple, rectangular building with a rectangular chancel, with a tower at the front. Hence, it was not a rotunda, but rather a simple church similar to the small Church of John the Baptist (dated at the 2nd quarter of the 12th century), which can currently be seen at a cemetery in Siewierz, Gmina of Siewierz, Będzin District, Silesian Voivodeship.

In 1254, Vladislaus II of Opole (c. 1225-1281 or 1282, Duke of Opole and Racibórz in the years 1246-1280 or 1281) founded the city of Bytom, which contributed to the gradual decline in importance of the settlement on the Hill of St Margaret.

In 1430, Bytom was conquered by Hussites, and the hillfort was most probably destroyed and never inhabited again.

It is worth mentioning that traces of settlement from the Stone Age were also identified at this site.

Currently, the area where the hillfort used to be located is occupied by the Neo-Gothic, Roman Catholic Church of St Margaret (the fourth building, built in 1881) and a graveyard, still in use. Besides the church and the graveyard, there is also a seat of the Verbites on the Hill of “Little Margaret”.

Condition and results of archaeological research

The results of the archaeological research lead to the conclusion that the hillfort buildings were made of wood and rather widely spaced. The hillfort was surrounded by wood and earth ramparts, and the excavations enabled the identification of two stages of their existence. According to the findings of J. Szydłowski, the older rampart was made of earth and reinforced on the outside and at the top with a light wooden structure. The identified traces of a burnt structure suggest that the first fortifications most likely burnt down. After levelling was conducted, another wood and earth rampart was built, whose remains are visible in the southern and eastern parts of the site. The construction of the younger rampart was probably related to the activities of Mieszko Tanglefoot, who “built Bytom” in c. 1200.

To sum up, the settlement of the hillfort area was not intense, however, the relatively small hillfort, being the seat of a castellan, performed important administrative and political functions.

The site is accessible all year round. Artefacts recovered during the archeological excavations can be seen in the Upper Silesian Museum in Bytom.

compiled by Michał Bugaj, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 23.06.2014.

Bibliography

  • Chojecka E., Gorzelik J., Kozina I., Szczypka-Gwiazda B. 2009. Sztuka Górnego Śląska od średniowiecza do końca XX wieku. Katowice.
  • Szydłowski J. 1966. Bytom pradzieje i początki miasta. Bytom.

General information

  • Type: hillfort
  • Chronology: XI w. - pocz. XIV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Małgorzatki , Bytom
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district Bytom, commune Bytom
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

Licence:

report issue with this site

Geoportal Map

Google Map

See also in this area