Srebrna Góra - 18th-Century Mountain Fortress, Srebrna Góra
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Srebrna Góra - 18th-Century Mountain Fortress

Srebrna Góra

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The fortress at Srebrna Góra (also known as Silberberg) is an exemplary 18th-century mountain fortress, which survives to this day in its original form, representing a work of architecture unique in Europe. Built in keeping with the principles of the Old Prussian school of fortification (incorporating Dutch, Italian and, in particular, French concepts devised by Sébastien Vauban), it constitutes a cohesive complex. The fortress was raised in the Central Sudetes Mountains, which form a natural boundary between the Kłodzka Valley and the Silesian Lowlands. It was intended to reinforce the system of defences protecting the southern border of the Silesian province, under threat at the time from the armies of Austria. The new fortifications were meant to bridge the gap in the existing defences, cutting off the Silver Pass (Przełęcz Srebrna), which until then had offered easy access to Silesia between the Owl Mountains (Góry Sowie) and the Bardzkie Mountains. The nature of the stronghold and the rocky substrate on which it stood led the fortress on Srebrna Góra to be known as “the Gibraltar of Silesia”.

Built on the orders of Frederick II the Great, King of Prussia, in 1765-1777, to a design by Ludwig Wilhelm Regler, it was laid out across three hills: Ostróg (627 metres above sea level), Warowna Góra (686 m a.s.l.), and Wielki Chochoł (740 m a.s.l.). In 1765-1768 a keep (regarded as the largest structure of its kind in Europe) and six bastions were erected. The horn-works known as Fort Rogowy I and II (with esplanades), Fort Ostróg and a number of concealed roads were added from 1768 to 1771, whilst in 1770 work began on the construction of fortifications atop the Wielki Chochoł, Średni Chochoł and Mały Chochoł, continuing until 1777. The entire complex extends almost across 3 km. The fortress could accommodate around 4000 soldiers in 350 rooms. The fort’s magazines were designed to hold vast stores of ammunition, foodstuffs and firewood - enough to withstand a year-long siege. Nine wells were dug, the deepest (measuring 84 m) being located within Fort Ostróg. Defensive firepower was provided by 264 cannon, howitzers and mortars. The fortress was the only one in Silesia never to be conquered, and in 1807 it even withstood a Napoleonic siege. In 1830-1848 the keep served as a Prussian jail. In 1860 the fortress was abandoned, and in 1867, in view of the changes that had taken place in military technology, it was decided that it should be decommissioned. It did not comply with new structural requirements and was deemed out-dated. A military training area was subsequently established at this site.

By the late 19th century Srebrna Góra’s fortress had become a tourist attraction. The growth of tourism prompted reassessment, conservation and renovation work to be carried out on nearly all of the fortress’s features. The youth hostel built on Fort Ostróg in 1913 was the largest at that time in Germany. In 1926-1928 Fort Wysoka Skała was restored to serve as a police training centre, and in 1930 Fort Rogowy was adapted as a police holiday resort. During World War II the fortress became the venue for the Oflag VII B prisoner of war camp, housing Polish officers taken into captivity in 1939. In 1941 the camp was replaced by Stalag 367, where Polish, Soviet, Belgian, French, Greek and Finnish soldiers were detained.

After the war Srebrna Góra was included within the new boundaries of Poland. During wartime and the early post-war years the fortifications fell into decay, whilst state authorities showed no interest in this 18th-century structure. Conservation and adaptation work was not undertaken until the 1960s. In 2002 the Srebrna Góra Fortress Cultural Park was brought into being, its main objective being to protect and revive the fortress.

General information

  • Type: defensive structure
  • Chronology: 1765 - 1777
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Kręta 4, Srebrna Góra
  • Location: Voivodeship dolnośląskie, district ząbkowicki, commune Stoszowice
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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