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Motte, Iłża
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

The motte is inextricably linked to the origins and development of the city of Iłża. Original cultural accumulations (layers of soil, where there are objects and movable archaeological finds) provides information about the original appearance, functioning and date of origin of the city, supplementing the few mentions of the earliest history of Iłża, derived from written sources.

Location and description

The motte, known locally as the ‘Tatar Mound’ or ‘Tatar Grave’, is situated 1.5 km to the north-east of the present centre of Iłża, on the right bank of the Iłżanka river, in the area of the so-called Old Town.

The motte was part of a settlement complex, together with a settlement, cemetery and the wooden the Blessed Virgin Mary Church probably destroyed simultaneously with the castle and then rebuilt. The dimensions of the oval motte are 44 x 39 m with the ramparts now being over 3 metres in height. The ramparts surround the inner part of the motte which features a tower made of thick wooden logs, having a square floor plan, with the dimensions of approx. 9 x 9 m. At the time of the discovery the building was preserved to a height of 1 metre. Wooden elements were covered with a layer of clay in order to provide additional protection. Numerous finds indicate that iron nails were used in construction of the structure.

Most likely, it was a typical residential tower on a mound, surrounded by a rampart and wooden palisade. It consisted probably of several storeys. Similar tower were built in Poland in the Middle Ages, especially in the second half of the 13th century and the first half of the 14th century and served as defences of ducal and church estates.


The motte with a wooden defence and residential tower was erected in the first half of the 13th century, most likely as the seat of the Bishops of Kraków and an administrative centre. The complex was built in the area of a craft and trade settlement which was founded at the crossroads of trade routes, near a passage across the local river. It follows from an archeological investigation that the operation of the tower came to an end after a fire destroyed it. The fire may have been caused during one of the numerous Tatar or Lithuanian invasions of Iłża in the second half of the 13th century. The location of the town was changed for the safer, in the immediate vicinity of the highest hill, on which a new, more durable seat of the bishops - castle was built.

Condition and results of archaeological research

The first excavations of the site were conducted by Professor J. Rozpędowski and Professor J. Kaźmierczyk from the Department of History of Polish Architecture of the Wrocław University of Technology. The works were continued by M. Niemczykowa from the Institute of History, Architecture, Art and Technology of the Wrocław University of Technology and Olga Lipińska from the State Archaeological Museum (Państwowe Muzeum Archeologiczne) in Warsaw (1973-75).

Archeological investigations have shown that settlements developed there before the fortified settlement was founded. An investigation of the area beneath the embankment revealed the remains of a early medieval half-earth lodge destroyed in a fire, as well as older objects dating back to the period of Roman influence (1st-5th century AD), including furnaces bearing testimony to the functioning of a smelting settlement there, among others. The motte was constructed of a raised mass of earth from the surrounding area, as evidenced by the arrangement of layers constituting a reversal stratigraphy of the area surrounding the structure. Older everyday objects which were found during the investigation of the mound, such as a bone hook, button, spindle whorls or temple rings, were brought with earth.

Archeological excavations of the inner part of the motte (maidan) revealed the side walls and corners of the tower, as well as burnt wooden structural elements fallen due to fire, iron nails, flakes of pugging. Researchers did not find any settlement layer associated with the use of the building. The investigations also embraced the area of the settlement around the motte, which helped to obtain much data about the functioning of the settlement, although it is still not possible to restore the reach of settlements. Residents of the motte were rather wealthy. They were engaged in breeding, farming, fishing, hunting, weaving, smelting and processing of iron, as well as producing objects made of bone and antlers, although the latter for their own use; no horn workshop has been found so far. The area of the settlement was also inhabited by highly skilled potters; there were several pottery workshop where items of pottery in various forms were made. The tradition of pottery making for which Iłża is famous dates back to the origins of the city.

Although the structure is not open to visitors, it is easily visible from the road to Chwałowice.

Compiled by Agnieszka Makowska, National Heritage Board of Poland, 01.10.2015 r.


  • Guerquin B., Zamki w Polsce, Warsaw 1984, p. 163.
  • Informator archeologiczny. Badania rok 1973, Warsaw 1974, pp. 177-178.
  • Informator archeologiczny. Badania rok 1974, Warsaw 1975, pp. 164-165.
  • Informator archeologiczny. Badania rok 1976, Warsaw 1977, pp. 178-179.
  • Informator archeologiczny. Badania rok 1977, Warsaw 1978, pp. 168-169.
  • Lewicki J., Dzieje i architektura zamku w Iłży. Problematyka badawcza i konserwatorska, [in:] Kajzer L. (ed.), Siedziby biskupów krakowskich na terenie dawnego województwa sandomierskiego, Kielce 1997, pp. 57-58.
  • Lipińska O., Osadnictwo na „Starym Mieście” w Iłży we wczesnym średniowieczu w świetle dotychczasowych prac wykopaliskowych, „Biuletyn Kwartalny Radomskiego Towarzystwa Naukowego”, vol. 17, issue 4, 1980, pp. 26-35.
  • Kołodziejski S., Uwagi o średniowiecznym budownictwie obronnym biskupów krakowskich, „Teki Krakowskie”, vol. 3, 1996, pp. 137-138.
  • Malinowska-Sypek A., Sypek R., Sukniewicz D., Przewodnik archeologiczny po Polsce, Warsaw 2010, pp. 294-295.
  • Nowakowski P., Iłża miasto kościelne, Radom 2012, p. 19.

General information

  • Type: hillfort
  • Chronology: XIII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Iłża
  • Location: Voivodeship mazowieckie, district radomski, commune Iłża - miasto
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland


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