Motte/burgstall, Horodło
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl
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The burgstall is all that remains of the Horodło castle - the place where, in 1413, the Polish-Lithuanian Union was signed - an act that would be known as the Union of Horodło ever since. The remains of the castle which have survived to this day in a satisfying condition are the earthen rampart and the moat.

Location and description

The burgstall is located in the south-eastern part of the Horodło settlement, on the left side of the road leading to Matcze and Hrubieszów, right along the state border with Ukraine. It is situated on the uppermost floodplain terrace of the Bug river, rising about 18 - 19 metres above the water, its steep slope dropping precipitously towards the river. The meandering Bug river constantly erodes the escarpment, threatening the very existence of the remnants of the burgstall. The site itself is locally known as “Zamczysko” (The Burgstall) or “Wały Jagiellońskie” (The Jagiellon Ramparts).

The burgstall, with a total surface area of about 1 hectare, was formed when a part of the loess upland was cut off from the rest of the landform by a deep moat and further reinforced using an outer rampart. Today, all that remains of the former castle are parts of the earthen ramparts. The moat which had once surrounded the castle from the north, the west and the south has nearly vanished over the years, with the only well-preserved section thereof being the western part. The depth of the moat calculated from the level of the inner courtyard is between 4 and 6 metres, with the width of the preserved section being 3-6 metres along its entire length, rising to 10 where the moat approaches the steep slope that leads down to the Bug river. No traces of architecture are visible on the site today. The site itself has suffered severe damage, its condition being exacerbated by the constant erosion caused by the river, as parts of the escarpment continue to subside. The site of the former castle is overgrown with trees and shrubs.

History

A hillfort is believed to have stood in what is now known as the town of Horodło back in the early Middle Ages (12th - 13th century). Somewhere around the mid-14th century, that hillfort was replaced by a castle the first mentions of which date back to 1382; it stood there for centuries, right until the early 18th century (1709?), when an onslaught of the Swedish forces brought about its destruction. During the 18th century, a manor house of the local alderman (starosta) is known to have stood on the site of the burgstall.

The first mentions of the location in written sources date back to the year 1287, when references were made to “sieło Horodel” (the village of Horodel). Back then, the village was a settlement located alongside a local trade route and inhabited by the so-called smerds - free peasants who answered directly to the king. The surviving remnants of the earthen ramparts are considered to have once formed part of the castle, the first mentions of which were made back in 1382, in the chronicle written by Janko of Czarnków, who described it as “one of the greatest castles in all Ruthenia”. It is suspected that the castle was built on the site of an earlier hillfort, as evidenced by the artefacts found on the surface of the burgstall site, dating back to the period between the 10th and the 13th century, as well as the presence of numerous and mostly large open settlements, located alongside the Bug river in the immediate vicinity of the hillfort; these settlements remained inhabited mostly between the 12th and the 13th century, with the oldest one dating back to the 8th century. The castle was erected somewhere around the mid-14th century; it is believed that it was funded by king Casimir the Great, who wanted to build up the defensive capacity of the newly annexed Ruthenian lands. In 1413, the Horodło castle became the place where the Polish-Lithuanian Union was signed. Further information about the fate of the castle originates from 1611 and 1639; the sources speak of a wooden fort surrounded by a moat and accessible by means of a wooden bridge leading to the castle from the direction of the city, supported by heavy piles driven into the ground and protected by an entrance gate. A wooden manor house with corner extensions and a turret stood in the castle courtyard, accompanied by a free-standing tower and a group of utility buildings. During the wars that raged across the country in the mid-17th century, the entire complex suffered extensive damage, which is mentioned in written sources dating back to 1662. The final blow came in 1706, as the Swedish forces reached the town of Horodło and were making their way across the Bug river, destroying the castle in the process. An inventory compiled in 1765 contains a mention of castle ruins and a newly erected manor house occupied by the local alderman. During the early 20th century, the site of the burgstall was noted as being free from any buildings. In 1916, the ramparts were ploughed under, with the remains of bricks, stones, tiles and metal objects all being simply thrown away into the river. It is believed that the stone table, bench and two statues of lions which grace the Horodło market square to this day were originally parts of the fixtures and fittings of the now-vanished castle.

Condition and results of archaeological research

No excavation research has been carried out on the site so far.

The location and height plan of the site was drawn up by Kazimierz Bęcek in 1986.

Surface surveys of the site within the framework of the ‘Archaeological Picture of Poland’ project were carried out in 1984 by Sławomir Jastrzębski.

Surface surveys have shown that the area around what is now known as the town of Horodło has seen an intense settlement activity in the early Middle Ages. It is believed that a hillfort had occupied the site of the present burgstall back in the 12th and 13th century, as evidenced by fragments of clay vessels which were found on the surface of the site. The hillfort was accompanied by open settlements situated alongside the Bug river, some of them dating much further back than the fort itself (the earliest known settlement originates from the 8th century). A total of 20 such settlement sites have been identified within the current administrative boundaries of the town. Most of the settlements located in the vicinity of the hillfort were large, open settlements. Traces of the largest of all these settlements, dating back to the 12th century according to the archaeological artefacts found, have been identified south-west of the hillfort; it is now believed that this was, in fact, the actual auxiliary settlement which supported the functioning of the hillfort on an everyday basis.

In the course of ad-hoc site surveys conducted by monument protection services, fragments of clay vessels, tiles and hand-made frogged bricks dating back to the period between the early Middle Ages and the early modern period are still being discovered on an ongoing basis both on the surface of the motte and on the escarpment which is slowly subsiding into the river - all this despite the poor terrain visibility caused by dense vegetation.

The site of the burgstall is open to visitors. It forms part of the so-called “Bur River Trail”.

compiled by Ewa Prusicka, , Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Lublin, 20-09-2012.

Bibliography

  • Banasiewicz E., Grodziska i zamczyska Zamojszczyzny, Zamość 1990, pp. 73-75.
  • Gawarecki H., Stankowa M., Zamki nadbużańskie w Grabowcu, Horodle i Kryłowie, “Biuletyn Towarzystwa Regionalnego Hrubieszowskiego” 1978, Vol. 16, no. 4 (57), pp. 13-15.
  • Gurba J., Grodziska Lubelszczyzny, Lublin 1976.
  • Gurba J., Pradzieje i wczesne średniowiecze Horodła, “Biuletyn Towarzystwa Regionalnego Hrubieszowskiego” 1988, issue 3, p. 5.
  • Horodło, T. Piotrowicz (ed.), Hrubieszów 1928, (reprint 1988)
  • Katalog Zabytków Sztuki w Polsce, red. R. Brykowski i E. Rowińska, Warsaw 1964, vol. 7. Województwo lubelskie, issue 6. Powiat hrubieszowski, p. 14.
  • Prusicka E., Horodelskie Zamczysko, “Zamojski Kwartalnik Kulturalny“, 2013, no. 3 (116), pp. 33-34.
  • Stamirski H., Powiat horodelski w roku 1472, Hrubieszów 1958, p. 11

General information

  • Type: hillfort
  • Chronology: XII - XIII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Horodło
  • Location: Voivodeship lubelskie, district hrubieszowski, commune Horodło
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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