Defensive walls with a gate and a fortified tower, Pyrzyce
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Defensive walls with a gate and a fortified tower

Pyrzyce

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The complex of medieval walls in Pyrzyce constitutes one of the most interesting and well-preserved systems of urban fortifications in Western Pomerania, exhibiting an outstanding research and historical value. Both the ring-shaped complex of defensive walls, the gatehouses, the fortified towers, the lookout points in the form of low, open-gorged towers, the pedestrian gates was well as parts of the revetments - the ramparts and moats (now serving as garden and park areas) have survived to the present day.

History

The defensive walls in Pyrzyce were built in four stages, from the moment when the town was chartered back in 1263 until the second half of the 16th century. Phase I - until 1301: construction of the ring walls along with lookouts and pedestrian gates. Phase II - mid-14th century: two of the narrow pedestrian gates were replaced with the lower storeys of two gatehouses, with three open-gorged lookout structures being transformed into fortified towers. Phase III - 15th century: construction of three fortified towers, redesign of gatehouses, upward extension of the walls. Phase IV - mid-16th century - extension of the defensive complex brought about by the advent of artillery warfare. Construction of roundels, bastions and sconces, upward extension of fortified towers and gatehouses. During the period in question, the defensive complex around the town of Pyrzyce was completed, resulting in the construction of a system of defensive walls with the length of approximately 2000 metres and the height of 7-9 metres along with two gatehouses and foregate areas, 44 lookout points, 8 overhanging lookout points and 6 fortified towers (including two cylindrical ones). The entire city was surrounded by a double ring of ramparts and moats having the total length of approximately 2250 metres. The water was supplied to the moats using a system of water locks which released water from four artificial ponds that were in turn filled with water from the nearby Sicina river (a tributary of Płonia). Until the year 1574, the fortifications around Pyrzyce have managed to withstand all incursions of the Brandenburg, Polish of Hussite armies that occurred during the intervening years. After 1750, some of the earthen ramparts have been levelled, while the rest of them were converted into a promenade in the years 1830-45. The moats were filled with earth in 1860, with new gardens established in the areas where they once had been. Towards the end of the 18th century, the structures preceding the Banie Gate were demolished, with the foregate of the Szczecin Gate likewise being razed after 1854. During the 19th century, the fortified towers served various utility functions (including that of a workshop and an ice house). The former lookouts have been adapted to serve as homes for the poor. In years 1835-1843, the damaged fragments of the walls have been restored, while in 1879 a fragment of the wall positioned on the axis of Szeroka street was demolished, with numerous pedestrian gates being added in the surviving walls. During World War II, the Szczecin Gate and the Monk Tower have both been completely destroyed, while the upper storeys of the fortified towers and the Banie Gate sustained significant damage. During the period after 1945, the fortifications were being subjected to a systematic programme of renovation and conservation works.

Description

The defensive walls surround the Old Town area of Pyrzyce, designed on an irregular oval plan, the overall shape of the fortifications being similar to that of a rounded trapezium, its top section facing north; the overall dimensions of the site are about 600 x 600 x 150 metres. Today, the defensive walls - following their revitalisation and partial redesign - are preserved in 80-90%, with missing sections in the southern and eastern parts of the complex. The surviving components of the original system of fortifications include the Banie and Szczecin Gates (the latter surviving partially, in the form of the ground floor section of the former gatehouse), the Owl Tower, Ice Tower, Gunpowder Tower and Drunkard Tower, ruins of the Sleeping Beauty Tower and the Monk Tower as well as about 30 lookout points in the form of low, open-gorged towers having an almost identical height as the walls themselves.

The defensive walls were constructed using ceramic brick laid in a monk bond, with the dimensions of individual bricks being 10 x 14 x 30 centimetres. The walls feature an erratic rock wall base. Due to the lack of plaster finish, visitors can admire the exposed brick surface of the walls. The height of the walls is approximately 5.5 metres from the side of the town and approximately 7 metres from the garden side. Traces of slots where wooden beams supporting exterior walkways (galleries) and hoardings had once been anchored are still present in the walls. A small gate from which the defenders of the city could launch counter-attacks against encroaching enemy forces survives near the Ice Tower.

The Banie Gate forms part of the southern section of the walls; it was erected in three stages during the late 13th century, the first half of the 15th century (lower levels) and the 16th century (the tholobate). The gatehouse was designed as a two-tier structure, its lower section being a four-storey building designed on a square floor plan measuring 7.8 metres at the side, its walls supported by a pair of buttresses. The upper section, designed on an octagonal plan and topped with a pyramid spire, measured about 5.4 x 5 metres at its base. The lowermost part of the gatehouse features a pointed-arch gateway, with a number of embrasures piercing the walls on the upper levels. The gatehouse is also adorned with blind windows of varying sizes, dentil and arcaded friezes as well battlements surrounding a fighting platform at the top. The octagonal section featured both embrasures and battlements providing protection for those present on the fighting platform encircling the spire. The walls are made of ceramic brick (monk bond) in their lower section, with the exposed brick surface still visible due to the lack of plaster finish. Traces of a bricked-up dansker (latrine) can still be seen in the eastern façade of the structure. Today, only the quadrangular, four-storey lower section remains, restored to its former glory through a series of revitalisation works. The octagonal top section, however, is no longer extant.

The Szczecin Gate is located in the northern section of the wall, having been incorporated into the existing system of fortifications somewhere around the mid-14th century and then extended upwards during the second quarter of the 16th century. The gatehouse has only survived in vestigial form, with only the revitalised pointed-arch passage being present. The walls of the structure are made of ceramic brick laid in the monk bond. The exposed brick façades are adorned with blind windows topped with arches of varying shapes, separated with dentil and band friezes and topped with battlements. The gatehouse was originally designed as a two-tier structure, with a four-storey lower section designed on a quadrangular plan. The upper section featured an octagonal tholobate and came equipped with two-storey cylindrical turrets. The entire structure was crowned with a pyramid-shaped spire.

The Owl Tower (Prison Tower) forms part of the northern section of the wall; it was erected somewhere around the mid-14th century, based on the former semi-circular lookout point, and extended upwards in the mid-16th century through the addition of the tholobate on top. It is a four-storey, two-tier structure, cylindrical in shape. The structure was built on an irregular circular plan,

its outer diameter being approximately 5.7 metres, while the diameter of the tholobate measures about 3.4 metres. The total height of the tower is about 14 metres in total. The tower originally featured a dungeon on the ground-floor level and an entrance on the second storey. The defensive section was located on its third storey, while the fourth storey featured a fighting platform protected by battlements. The walls are made of ceramic brick, with both the monk bond, the Polish bond and an irregular bond being used. The walls are about 85 centimetres thick, their brick structure left exposed. Their surfaces are pierced with embrasures positioned on the third storey of the structure. The tower walls are topped with an arcaded frieze and battlements.

The Ice Tower forms part of the western section of the walls. It was erected somewhere around the year 1420 (four lower storeys) and extended upwards in the second half of the 16th century (two upper storeys). It was designed as a cylindrical structure, its outer diameter being about 5.3 metres. The ground-floor level originally served as a dungeon; the defensive level was positioned right above it, while the fifth storey contained rooms for the guards. The sixth, final storey features a fighting deck protected by battlements. The walls are made of ceramic brick, with both the monk bond an irregular bond being used for their lower sections, while the upper part of the structure features an irregular Polish bond. The walls are about 150 centimetres thick, their brick structure left exposed. Their surfaces are pierced with embrasures positioned on the fourth storey of the structure. A plain band frieze breaks the monotony of the tower walls slightly above mid-height, while the crenellated parapet provides the finishing touch.

The Gunpowder Tower forms part of the western part of the defensive walls. It was erected somewhere around the mid-14th century and then extended upwards in the mid-16th century (1540). The lower section of the tower was designed on a rectangular floor plan, replacing the former lookout point. The dimensions of the tower at its base are 5.6 x 4.1 metres. The upper section was designed on a circular plan with an outer diameter of approximately 2.4 metres. The entire structure is topped with a low, pyramid-shaped roof. The walls are made of exposed ceramic brick (monk bond) in their lower section, with an irregular bond used for the upper parts of the tower. The lower section of the tower is a three-storey structure topped with battlements, its entrance positioned on the side facing the town, while the embrasures pierce the façade which overlooks the open field beyond. The upper section, on the other hand, had two storeys in total and features both embrasures and a top fighting platform with battlements.

The Drunkard Tower (otherwise known as the Prison Tower) forms part of the eastern section of the wall. It was erected in the late 15th century (ca. 1480) on a rectangular floor plan, its dimensions being 4.6 x 4 metres. The outer walls of this tower lie flush with the defensive wall. The tower’s structure is reinforced with buttresses. It is a two-storey structure made of ceramic brick arranged in both a monk bond and an irregular bond. The tall wall base of the tower, on the other hand, is made of erratic stone. The tower is topped with a shed roof which is a later addition and was not part of the original design. The exposed brick and stone façades are partitioned with pointed-arch blind windows and openings, with a dansker (latrine) extending from the northern wall. The ground-floor level of the fortified tower originally served as a dungeon, while during the 18th century it was used as a sobering station, as evidenced by the drawings on its walls - hence the current name. The second storey, originally designed as a room for the guards, was where the corporeal punishment of flagellation was meted out against drunkards in the 18th century. The third storey of the structure was fitted with embrasures from which riflemen could fend off the incoming attackers.

The Sleeping Beauty Tower (The Ivy Tower, the Half-tower) is situated in the eastern section of the wall; it was constructed in the second half of the 15th century on a semi-circular plan, its outer diameter being approximately 5 metres. It is a two-storey structure fitted with embrasures designed for the use of firearms (cannons). The tower was erected using ceramic brick arranged in both the Polish bond and an irregular bond. The side facing the gardens features the use of erratic stone at its base. The walls of the tower have survived only up to the height of its defensive walls, their outer side overgrown with ivy.

The Monk Tower (The Monastery Tower) is positioned in the south-eastern corner of the defensive walls, in the vicinity of the former Franciscan monastery. It was erected somewhere around the mid-14th century and extended upwards in 1562. The two lower storeys of the tower were designed on a rectangular floor plan, their dimensions being 5.4 x 4.3 metres. The upper section, on the other hand, was designed on a circular plan with an outer diameter of approximately 4.2 metres. The entire structure is topped with a low, pyramid-shaped roof. The exposed ceramic brick walls feature the use of the monk bond in their lower section. Today, the fortified tower remains in a state of ruin; its upper, cylindrical part no longer exists while the lower, quadrangular section was preserved only in fragments.

Lookout points - originally, 44 lookout points were positioned around the circumference of the defensive walls; today, about 30 of them remain, spaced about 27-30 metres apart, their structure being analogous to that of the walls themselves. Most of the lookouts were quadrangular in shape, although some of them followed a semi-circular plan as well. They projected from both the outer and the inner surfaces of the wall and featured open back sections on the city side. They were designed as three-storey structures, their width being approximately 6-7 metres. The ground-floor section of each of these open-gorged structures was originally used as storage space for weaponry and other materials, with the facilities for the guards being positioned on the second storey. The third, uppermost storey came equipped with embrasures and served a purely defensive function. The lookout points extended only slightly (1-2 metres) above the top section of the walls and were topped with battlements or covered with saddle-type roofs. Today, these structures feature crenellated parapets at the top, with some of them also equipped with windows. The latter were added during the period when the former lookout points were being adapted as housing for the poor. Today, these structures remain disused and devoid of any ceilings or roofs, although they have undergone renovation works intended to ensure that their structure remains sound.

The defensive walls are accessible to visitors and form part of a designated tourist route. Viewing of the interiors of the gatehouses and towers is only possible by arrangement with the administrator (the Pyrzyce commune).

compiled by Waldemar Witek, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Szczecin, 01-10-2015

Bibliography

  • Gaedke E., Pyritz ein Musterbild Mittelaltericher Befestigungskunst, Pyritz 1930.
  • Lemcke H., Die Bau- und Kunstdenkmäler des Regierungsbezirks Stettin, Kreis Pyritz, Hf. VII, Stettin 1906.
  • Lutsch H., Mittelalterliche Becksteinbauten Mittelpommerns, Berlin 1890.
  • Rymar E., Rozwój Pyrzyc do końca XVIII w. “Zeszyty Pyrzyckie”, 1970, no. 3, pp. 53-104.

General information

  • Type: defensive wall
  • Chronology: połowa XIII w. - początek XIV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Pyrzyce
  • Location: Voivodeship zachodniopomorskie, district pyrzycki, commune Pyrzyce - miasto
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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