The city wall complex in Słupsk, Słupsk
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The city wall complex in Słupsk

Słupsk

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A representative example of medieval city walls typical of most cities in Western Pomerania. Fortified towers and brattices served as the primary defence structures in this system of fortifications, with the walls lacking battlements and mostly used for passive defence; this approach was quite unlike the one used in most cities of the Kingdom of Poland, in which the walls were topped with crenellation and could therefore be used for active defence. The defensive wall complex in Słupsk presents a unique historical and research value.

History

In 1310, the city of Słupsk was granted a location privilege by the margraves of Magdeburg; the privilege in question might even have been the second such privilege granted with regard to the city since some researchers believe that the city was originally established by duke Świętopełk II on the basis of Lübeck law back in 1265. After 1325, the construction of permanent brick and stone walls began, the aim of the project being to replace the earlier wooden palisade. The first sections of the walls to be built were the lower parts of three gates: the Mill Gate (in the east), the New Gate (in the west) and the Holstein gate (in the north). Subsequently, the gates were extended upwards through the addition of further storeys. By 1374, most of the walls in the north, west and south had already been completed. At the beginning of the 15th century, the walls alongside the Słupia river along with the Tower of Witches were built. During the mid-15th century, foregates of the Holstein Gate and the New Gate were constructed. In 1507, duke Bogusław X built a castle forming part of the south-eastern section of the defensive walls. During the 17th century, important changes were made to the system of the city’s defences - the damaged sections of the walls and ramparts were rebuilt and the construction of an early modern defence system has begun, comprising three bastions and additional earth ramparts. Around the middle of the 17th century, the Tower of Witches served as a prison for women who were being accused of witchcraft.

The archival plans of the city of Słupsk show that during the 18th century, the walls, along with the complex comprising the New Gate and the Holstein Gate, were still intact, which meant that virtually no buildings were erected outside the walls until the end of the 18th century. During the 19th century and especially in the second half thereof, the dynamic expansion of the city caused the fortifications to be perceived as a barrier to development, which meant that large sections of the walls in the north and in the west had to be demolished. In 1834, the Powder Tower was razed to the ground, with the Holstein Gate suffering a similar fate in 1867. The walls leading alongside what is now known as the Sienkiewicza street have also disappeared, while the early modern bastions and ramparts had already been completely levelled by the 1860s, superseded by grand arrangements of green areas and promenades collectively referred to as the “plantations” (planty), a name often given to former fortified zones that were redeveloped and turned into parklands. The remaining walls were surrounded with houses, while the two surviving city gates - the New Gate and the Mill Gate - were adapted to serve new functions. During the 19th century, the Tower of Witches served as living quarters, a stable, a prison for French prisoners and a storage facility.

During World War II, further sections of medieval fortifications were destroyed. Those parts of the walls which have survived have been designated as listed buildings after the war and are now being meticulously restored.

Description

The complex of the defensive walls with gates, fortified towers and brattices has once entirely surrounded the medieval city of Słupsk, located on the eastern side of the Słupia river; the complex was located between the current H. Sienkiewicza, A. Łajming, Władysława Jagiełły and Zamkowa streets.

The walls and fortified towers originate from the Gothic period.

The city walls featured a trapezium shape which remains evident even today; the longest, eastern section of the walls (leading from the church of St Nicholas towards the Mill Gate) was positioned alongside the Słupia river, with subsequent sections running alongside the current Zamkowa street, Władysława Jagiełły Street, A. Łajming street and Murarska street, completing the enclosure as they reached the church of St Nicholas once again, the final section of the fortifications incorporating the now-defunct Holstein Gate. The complex of fortifications was built using Gothic bricks (monk bond or Gothic bond), atop stone foundations. The outer side of the foundations and the walls tapers upwards in most cases. The walls are about 1 metre thick and over 6 metres high in their tallest sections. The top sections of the walls are flat (no battlements); signs of modifications or repairs are visible in many parts of the walls. The fortified towers are based on a rectangular floor plan and project slightly beyond the face of the wall; the structures are actually half towers, open on the side facing the city. The combined length of all walls including towers and gates was once approximately 2.4 kilometres; today, about 430 metres of the wall remains, divided into three fragments.

The section in the vicinity of Władysława Jagiełły and Zamkowa streets (ca. 115 metres) was erected during the first stage of construction of the fortifications in years 1348-1385. The wall is divided by Dominikańska street into two parts: the north section, about 70 metres in length, comprising three towers and three sections of the wall, and the south section, about 45 metres in length, consisting of a fortified tower, a double corner buttress and two sections of the wall. The width of the rectangular fortified towers is approximately 6.5 metres or 4 metres; the front facades of the towers feature a number of recesses with embrasures inside. The width of the buttresses is about 2.0 metres, while their length measured at the base is approximately 2.4 metres.

The fragment of the wall in the vicinity of F. Nullo street was built during the second stage of construction, in years 1410-1415; it measures approximately 155 metres and consists of four separate sections. The northernmost section is a short part of the wall incorporating the remnants of the Prison Tower, built on a circular plan and partially reconstructed in 1977 so that its walls now rise slightly above its foundations. The next section is a short, free-standing segment with fragments of two structural arches visible in the lower part of the wall. Another section are the remnants of the medieval wall with missing parts filled during the modern age, connecting two tenement houses.

The final section which contains the Tower of Witches leads all the way to the Mill Canal; the wall is lower than it originally was, reaching the height of only 3 metres, with substantial parts of the wall having been modified or replaced at a later date. Structural arches based on the stone foundations are clearly visible; corbels which have once supported machicolations are also visible on the inner side of the wall.

The Tower of Witches is built on a rectangular floor plan with a semicircular end section on the inner side of the wall, which was built at a later stage as the building was originally a half tower that opened towards the city. The tower is a three-storey structure with a tall gable roof; a semi-conical roof is used for the eastern, rounded section of the tower. During the 1970s, when the tower was being reconstructed following the damage sustained during the war, the western facade was redesigned; the wall above the ground floor level features a light steel frame and features full-width glazing, which made it possible to adapt it as an art gallery.

 The fragment of the wall in the vicinity of the church of St Nicholas forms an irregular arc, its length being approximately 165 metres. This section of the wall, about 5-7 metres in height, incorporates four fortified towers (all of them built on a rectangular plan and opening towards the city), two further half towers and five wall sections linking them together. The walls of the towers are vertical, while the outer side of the wall tapers towards the top. The northern section of the wall features a number of embrasures.

Accessible historic buildings. The walls are open to the public and are clearly visible in the landscape of the city.

Compiled by Teofila Lebiedź-Gruda, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Gdańsk, 14.07.2014.

Bibliography

  • Piotrowicz W., Słupsk - dawniej Stolp - na pocztówkach, Słupsk 2004.
  • Stachlewski W., Słupski przewodnik turystyczny, Słupsk 2000.
  • Szpilewski S., Zabytki Słupska, Słupsk 2000.

General information

  • Type: defensive wall
  • Chronology: XIV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: F. Nullo, Władysława Jagiełły, Zamkowa , Słupsk
  • Location: Voivodeship pomorskie, district Słupsk, commune Słupsk - miasto
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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