The Maiden Tower (the Tower of the Seven Cloaks), Szczecin
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The Maiden Tower (the Tower of the Seven Cloaks)

Szczecin

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The only surviving section of the medieval fortifications that had once protected the city of Szczecin, apart from a fragment of a defensive wall near Św. Ducha street. The tower also forms an interesting example of a fortified structure that was designed with the use of firearms in mind.

History

The medieval fortifications surrounding the city of Szczecin were erected in stages from the second half of the 13th century, with the very first mentions thereof dating back to the years 1302 and 1311. The fortifications came equipped with three gateways - the Passau Gate in the south-western section, the Mill Gate in the northern section and the Maiden Gate in the north-eastern section. There were also seven water gates which led towards the wharf along the Oder river. The Tower of the Seven Cloaks formed part of the northern section of the walls, positioned east of the Maiden Gate, in its immediate vicinity, at the end of the main street of the lower part of the Old Town known as Panieńska street (Maiden street). The task to be performed by the tower was to ensure the protection of the adjoining segment of the wall as well as the area preceding the Maiden Gate. The references made in 1546 to the order issued by duke Barnim XI to modernise the fortifications and deepen the adjoining moats may also point towards the time when the tower may have been constructed. The fact that the tower was built at a relatively late stage, during the final phase of the modernisation of the medieval fortifications which took place somewhere around the mid-16th century seems to be confirmed both by the architectural features of the tower (such as the presence of round arches) and by certain characteristics of its structure (the remarkably thick walls, the early modern vaulted ceilings above the individual storeys as well as the deep embrasures, the latter suggesting that the tower was being prepared for combat with the use of firearms). The structure of the walls indicate that the embrasures were originally round in shape and were converted into narrow slits at a later date. Due to the absence of surviving images, the appearance of the uppermost section of the tower remains a mystery; it is impossible to determine whether it was simply topped with a flat platform, or whether it features a brick spire similar to that which was added during the most recent reconstruction efforts. In the 17th century, when the city was overrun by the Swedish forces and when early modern bastion fortifications were erected, the old medieval walls have lost much of their former significance. The surviving iconographic sources show that these walls were still extant during the siege of the city by Brandenburg forces in 1677. According to a Swedish cadastral map from 1706, a small, narrow street ran alongside the defensive wall all the way from Panieńska street to the fortified tower, behind the adjoining parcels of land. A subsequent map from 1721, however, shows no traces of this little alley. The demolition of the medieval fortifications commenced shortly after the incorporation of the city into Prussian territory in 1720. The area located near the former moat, between the dismantled defensive wall and the cluster of buildings surrounding the former church of the Cistercian nuns (known as the Klosterhof) was subdivided into smaller lots back in the 18th century, with new developments appearing there shortly thereafter. As a result, the old fortified tower found itself in the backyard of one of the parcels of land on Kłodna street which bore the number 989 back in the first half of the 19th century. That number was changed to 35 in the mid-19th century and then became no. 30 during the 20th century. This particular parcel of land - much like all the neighbouring lots - was characterised by a narrow, elongated shape. Its remarkably long back yard with a short back building positioned on the left (western) side of the townhouse and a utility building on the eastern side was separated into two by the fortified tower standing in its midst. The rear part of the yard was occupied almost in its entirety by a residential building which was then demolished in 1911 due to its poor technical condition. The erstwhile owner of the land, Richard Heyden, erected a two-storey metalworking workshop in its place. In the mid-19th century, the fortified tower was adapted to serve residential purposes. An octagonal top section was erected, featuring two additional residential storeys and a garret. During World War II, the surrounding buildings have all been destroyed, most likely due to aerial bombardment in 1944. The ruins were finally demolished in 1956, with the fortified tower itself being restored as a free-standing structure in the years 1961-1964. Its upper storey - along with the brick spire and crenellation - was reconstructed despite the absence of any sources confirming their previous existence, with the works being performed by way of analogy with other surviving structures. Following its reconstruction, the historical monument performed various functions, often forced to endure periods of abandonment. During the late 20th century, the redevelopment of the former Castle Grounds began, with new tenement houses being constructed on the ground-level outlines of the old, vanished houses, sometimes even using their surviving foundations. The developments in the quarter located near the former defensive wall followed an identical pattern. The fortified tower was now located on a piece of land at 47 Panieńska street. In 2004, the land was purchased by a real estate development agency which commenced a comprehensive restoration of the building and later adapted it as its own registered office, designed to accommodate both office space and design atelier.

Description

The Maiden Tower is located at the north-eastern corner of the Old Town district, on the eastern side of Panieńska street which runs alongside the Oder river at the foot of the river embankment. One of the exits from the Castle Route leads right next to the fortified tower, south-east of the structure itself. Today, the building can be reached from the direction of Panieńska street. The main entrance into the fortified tower is located on the south-eastern side thereof.

The fortified tower is a structure of relatively austere appearance, its simple forms being typical of the transitional period between the Gothic and Renaissance eras. Designed on a circular floor plan, the tower is currently a three-storey structure, its uppermost storey having been reconstructed during the postwar period. It is crowned with crenellation and a pyramid-shaped spire. The tower was constructed using Gothic brick laid in the so-called Gothic bond, with the new sections being reconstructed using modern brick manufactured in Ostrzeszów in a manner intended to mimic the appearance of the original building material used in the tower’s structure. The rooms inside the tower feature domed ceilings supported by structural arches. The façade facing the general direction of the city beyond is pierced with the archivolt main entrance portal, topped with a round arch following its reconstruction. Higher up, at a level of the second storey, one can still see the former entrance into the tower, likewise topped with a semi-circular arch, which had once facilitated access from a porch positioned alongside the now-vanished defensive wall; today, the former doorway is protected by means of wrought-iron grillwork. The walls at this level are also pierced with a number of embrasures facing the former forefield, topped with semi-circular arches; one of these embrasures also survives on the ground-floor level. The original part of the fortified tower is topped with a dentil frieze. Similar, albeit slightly larger windows, topped with semi-circular arches, are arranged regularly around the entire circumference of the uppermost storey, reconstructed after the war and topped with slightly overhanging crenellation. Exposed putlock holes punctuate the entire surface of the tower walls, both in the original and the reconstructed section. Fragments of the defensive wall have been reconstructed on both sides of the main entrance. Inside, each of the storeys of the original section of the tower features a single, vaulted chamber designed on a circular floor plan. The tallest chamber is located on the basement level; originally serving as the dungeon, this level was initially accessible through a rectangular opening in the vaulted ceiling above. The walls of the chamber on the ground-floor level are partitioned by four niches, with the southern niche incorporating the main entrance; all the other niches originally contained embrasures; today, only one of those embrasures remains. The first-floor chamber features five embrasures, a gunpowder room and the southern entrance. The stairs leading into the individual storeys are positioned within the thick walls of the tower.

The building may be viewed from the outside; the interiors can be explored during the opening hours of the company, with the consent of the owners thereof.

compiled by Maciej Słomiński, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Szczecin, 14-07-2015.

Bibliography

  • Album Pommerscher Bau- und Kunstdenkmäler, Stettin 1899
  • Fredrich C., Das älteste Stück der Stettiner Stadtbefestigung, “Baltische Studien“ NF 28(1926)
  • Kroman K., Baszta Panieńska w Szczecinie, dokumentacja historyczno-architektoniczna, Szczecin 1960 (typescript available at the Regional Monument Inspector’s Office in Szczecin)
  • Architectural monument record sheet, compiled by K. Konopka, 1992, typescript available at the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Szczecin.

General information

  • Type: defensive architecture
  • Chronology: poł. XVI w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Hołdu Panieńska 47, Szczecin
  • Location: Voivodeship zachodniopomorskie, district Szczecin, commune Szczecin
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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