Piast Tower, Opole
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The Gothic Piast Tower on the Pasieka island in Opole is one of the most valuable monuments of the city and important dominant feature in the panorama of Opole. It plays the role of the symbol of Opole and Opole Voivodeship. It is the only surviving remnant of the Piast castle demolished in 1928-1931 situated in one of the parts of Opole called Ostrówek. The monument is a classic example of a donjon-type tower of ultimate defence.

The Piast Tower is also a background of scenography of the annual National Festival of Polish Song taking place in Opole, hence it is well-known throughout Poland. In 2014, it was the winner of the contest of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage — Well-Kept Monument.

History

The cylindrical brick tower was constructed by Duke Bolko I probably in the later 18th century and is one of the oldest monuments of this type in Poland. Originally, it was a fragment of the castle complex built in the area of a former fortified settlement. The tower was located inside defensive walls, adjacent to the entrance gate. In 1602, repairs work was done at the tower and the tower was covered with a new roof. The whole complex was going through various vicissitudes: in 1615, 1737 and 1739 it was destroyed by fire, then it was reconstructed. In 1838-1855, the fortifications were demolished and the area was levelled. After 1860, the castle was adapted for use as district offices. In connection with the construction of the new Upper Silesian District (1931-1933), in 1928-1931 the whole complex was demolished, leaving only the tower.

The tower has changed its shape many times over the centuries. Its appearance varied in the 14th and 15th century, changes to the crown were made in 1608, 1730, 1740, 1838, 1890, 1906, 1934, 1938, 1953, and 1962.

As a result of architectural studies conducted in 2011, the history of the tower can be divided into 10 periods:

Phase I - Gothic I, phase II - Gothic II, phase III - Gothic/early Renaissance, phase IV - late Renaissance, phase V - Baroque, phase VI - 1835-1855, phase VII - ca. 1880, phase VIII - ca. 1906, phase IX - ca. 1934, and phase X - ca. 1962.

Based on the aforementioned studies the monument underwent thorough conservation in 2012-2013.

Description

The Piast Tower is located in Opole on the Pasieka Island, in its northern part called Ostrówek, in the vicinity of the modernist Upper Silesian District Building which was erected on the site formerly occupied by the demolished Piast castle and today houses the Voivodeship Office and part of the Marshal’s Office of the Opole Voivodeship, between this building and the amphitheatre.

The building consists of five overground storeys separated by cornices. The fourth storey is crowned with a decorative arcade frieze. The lowest storey, previously not accessible from the outside, served as a hunger dungeon. The entrance was located in the armoury, about 9 m above the ground and led through a wooden gallery running around the tower, connected to the walls. The upper storeys housed a chamber, kitchen, and storage rooms. The uppermost storey was designed to be used for active defence purposes.

The interior is cylindrical in shape on the ground floor, then turns into a hexagon in the upper parts, and returns to its oval shape in the penultimate storey. A wooden staircase is designed to provide vertical access, only the second and third storeys are connected by a staircase running through the thickness of the wall and consisting of brick steps.

In addition to improving the technical condition and introducing educational functions, the Conservation works conducted in 2012-2013 brought interesting scientific findings. The walled-up brick bond sockets revealed fragments of stone supports, on which a wooden gallery running around the tower was probably resting. The walls of the corridor leading out of the tower revealed very important findings including medieval rites, drawings and inscriptions, probably made by castle guards. Fragments of Renaissance plasters and an inscription made on plaster during renovation in the late 19th century were also discovered and conserved. Thin-layer plasters and slaked lime were used for finishing the inner walls, emphasising the texture of the brick wall and stone embankment. At the ground floor level, cement plasters were removed and brick walls were exposed; unfortunately, the walls were covered with facing in the 1930s. All the masonry bonds have been preserved in their diversity; the original shape of the joints has been respected and preserved. Renovations included the installation of lighting, fire, alarm, heating systems and multimedia projection equipment (Bolko I's speech, shadow theatre, animated panorama of old Opole).

The silhouette of the tower has remained unchanged. The cupola has gained a new lighter ceramic tile cladding, and its structure has been renovated and reinforced. The terrace has been renovated in order to ensure tightness, new ceramic flooring and new rainwater drains were installed. It is very important because the rain damaged the tower due to moisture penetration especially strong in the upper parts. The heated floor of the terrace facilitates the removal of snow deposited in the winter.

During the work the causes of the destructive processes were effectively eliminated, and their effects were also removed (as far as possible due to technological process). A successive correction, among others, to the salinity of the walls, has been planned for the coming years.

The terrace balustrade was clad with copper sheet metal, and a stainless steel balustrade was also installed for safety reasons. Under the sill there are cameras that capture the panorama of the city, the images from which are available in the basement of the Voivodeship Office adapted for use as tourist facilities. The facilities may be used by people with disabilities or others who have difficulty in climbing up stairs. Tourist facilities for the tower are located in the basement of the building of the Voivodeship Office.

The monument is open to visitors.

compiled by Maria Burian, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Opole, 18-05-2015.

Bibliography

  • Katalog Zabytków Sztuki w Polsce, vol. VII, Województwo opolskie, issue 11: Miasto Opole i powiat opolski, T. Chrzanowski and M. Kornecki (eds.), pp. 5, 33-34.
  • Opolski Informator Konserwatorski, Opole 2012, pp. 103-120.
  • Wyniki badań architektonicznych Wieży Piastowskiej w Opolu, typescript in the Archives of the Regional Monument Inspector in Opole,
  • M. Chorowska, Rezydencje średniowieczne na Śląsku. Zamki, pałace, wieże mieszkalne, Wrocław 2003, pp. 32,81,82, fig. 27.
  • T. Kozaczewski, Zamek piastowski na Ostrówku w Opolu, Zeszyty Naukowe Politechniki Wrocławskiej, no. 16, Architektura II, Wrocław 1957, pp. 65-66,
  • W. Dziewulski, Miasto lokacyjne w Opolu w XIII-XIV wieku, (in:) Studia Śląskie, vol.1, 1958,p. 41,
  • U. Zajączkowska, Zamek piastowski w Opolu, Opole 2001.

General information

  • Type: defensive architecture
  • Chronology: k. XIII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Piastowska 14, Opole
  • Location: Voivodeship opolskie, district Opole, commune Opole
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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