Fortifications, Zamość
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Zamość - the private fortified town of the great crown chancellor Jan Zamoyski - remains the perfect embodiment of the concept of the Renaissance ideal city and one of the most eminent works of defensive architecture anywhere in Poland, with its roots going back all the way to the 16th century. The state-of-the-art fortification system was extended during the first half of the 19th century; today, it continues to bear testimony to the changes which took place in defensive architecture over the ages.


The town of Zamość was erected from scratch - “in cruda radice” - as a private initiative of Jan Zamoyski, who issued the relevant charter establishing the town in 1580. In designing the town, Bernardo Morando, the chancellor’s court architect, applied the principles of the Italian concept known as citta ideale - the ideal city - inspired by the Renaissance philosophy of anthropocentrism. These principles extended both to the layout of the town - based on an irregular pentagon adjusted to the surrounding terrain - and to all of its major buildings: the founder’s residence, the places of worship, the town hall, the ideal towns for the local burghers, the city gates, the armoury and the state-of-the-art bastion fortifications. The first stage of the construction process was completed somewhere around 1618, with a total of seven bastions linked by a curtain wall being built. The fortress featured a total of three gates - the Lublin Gate in the north, the Lviv Gate in the east and the Szczebrzeszyn Gate in the south. The aggregate length of the walls amounted to nearly 2400 metres, with the surface of the town amounting to 24 hectares in total. To the south and the west, the Łabuńka and Topornica river floodplains and a complex system of dams and causeways provided natural protection, while a deep moat leading around the town was intended to discourage attacks from other directions. In the 1st half of the 17th century, the works on the fortifications were carried on by the architect Andrea del Aqua. In 1648, the armies of Bohdan Chmielnicki have besieged the town to no avail; later on, the Swedish forces led by king Charles X Gustav have also tried to capture the town, but their efforts have also proved to be in vain - all thanks to the innovative design solutions applied. During the 1680s and the 1690s, a few of the defensive structures forming part of the fortress were modernised on the basis of designs produced by Jan Michał Link. In 1772, the Zamość fortress was taken over by the Austrian forces, while in 1809 - for the only time in its long history - the fort was captured by the Poles; in 1813, it has managed to withstand 8 months of siege as the Russian armies drew near; in 1831, the fortress surrendered to the Russians, being the very last point of resistance which was still fighting at the time. In 1821, the Zamość fortress was sold by the Zamoyski family to the government of the Kingdom of Poland, allowing it to attain the status of a “national” fortress. In the years 1821-1831, the fortifications underwent a comprehensive modernisation programme under the direction of an eminent military architect, general Jan Mallet-Malletski, with the works in question also including the extension of the forefield. In the second half of the 19th century, the fortress was abandoned due to its outdated design, with parts of the fortifications being demolished. The fortifications have succumbed to gradual decay; the process of the reconstruction thereof has begun back during the interwar period, as the local community was beginning to realise the unique cultural value of the town of Zamość - a notion soon to be confirmed by the conferral of a historical monument status and the enactment of a strict conservation policy. In 1992, following a period of comprehensive restoration, the historical urban complex was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The influx of EU funds allowed the entire complex to be restored in years 2007-2014, with most works taking part in years 2011-2014. A number of buildings which originally formed part of the fortification system have been reconstructed during that period.


The Zamość fortress was built back in the 16th century and then substantially modified in the first half of the 19th century. It is a bastion-type fort with a closed, concentric layout. The fortress encompasses two primary groups of structures (preserved to a varying degree, with some having been reconstructed in the present times): the bastion and curtain wall line (16th-19th century) as well as interior fortifications located in the forefield of the fort (19th century). The first group of structures includes seven bastions as well as the curtain walls between them, pierced with five gates as well as wicket gates and posterns, with the entire complex being surrounded by a moat. The buildings located outside these walls are arranged radially around the bastion fortifications. Both ensembles contain about 50 different structures in total. The primary categories of these structures are: the bastions no. 1-7 - earthen structures with brick and stone cladding (the only well-preserved bastions being the bastions no. 1, 3, 6 and 7), the curtain walls between the bastions, the height of their walls reaching up to 10 metres, their current appearance being the result of alterations made during the first half of the 19th century (the best-preserved, brick section of the fortifications, over 200 metres in length and containing shooting galleries with numerous embrasures, is located between bastions 6 and 7), the Old Lublin Gate dating back to the late 16th century - a Mannerist structure with a semicircular gateway, tall triangular gable incorporating the embodiment of Poland (Polonia) and patriotic inscriptions in Latin, the gateway itself having been bricked up until very recently to commemorate the fact that Maximilian Habsburg, the Archduke of Austria, was taken captive by Jan Zamoyski and brought to the town through this very gate in 1588 (only recently, after the renovation, the passage was reopened and the missing drawbridge was reconstructed); the Szczebrzeszyn Gate, located south-west of the cathedral, erected in years 1603-05 to the design of B. Morando and redesigned during the 18th century (at which point it has received its Rococo attic with stone urns and sculptures of St Florian and St Michael the Archangel) as well as during the 19th century, having served as the main entrance into the town after the Old Lublin Gate had been bricked up, with the comprehensive restoration taking place in years 2007-8 and resulting in the gatehouse regaining its original gateway and bridge; the New Lublin Gate - a Classicist gatehouse built somewhere around the years 1821-22, with an arched main gateway and a wooden bridge towards the north; the Old Lviv Gate, designed in the Mannerist style, erected after 1597 on the basis of the design created by Bernardo Morando as a brick and stone structure featuring a barrel vault with lunettes, an arched gateway, embrasures in side walls and a lavish, triangular gable towards the east, incorporating the portrayal of Christ and Doubting Thomas, flanked by the Jelita coat of arms of the Zamoyski family and a Latin inscription beneath which entrusts the fortress to God and confirms the charter granted to chancellor Zamoyski; the New Lviv Gate, erected in 1820, situated about 40 metres south of the Old Lviv Gate and featuring preserved original casemates located towards the south; the Watergate - a vaulted pedestrian passage, piercing the southern curtain wall; the moat with auxiliary structures (the Carnot wall, culverts etc.); the Arsenal - located at the south-western edge of the Old Town, erected somewhere around 1630, most likely according to the design produced by Andrea dell’ Aqua, initially as single-storey structure which was subsequently extended in years 1820-25 through the addition of the first floor level; the cavaliers on bastions no. 6 and no. 7 - brick and stone artillery turrets erected on the bastion gorges and taking the form of two-storey structures with cannon emplacements in the outer façade, their dimensions being over 94 metres and 77 metres for the cavaliers on bastions no. 7 and no. 6 respectively (the cavalier no. 7 is concealed beneath a flat layer of soil about two metres thick, intended to provide protection against projectile explosions, while cavalier no. 6 features a hip roof which was added after the structure was adapted to serve as a school); the caponier - one of the few structures of this type which were erected at the bottom of the moat in order to facilitate the defence thereof, erected in 1836 and surviving intact to the present day, located in the City Park near the Old Lublin Gate, designed as a pentagonal structure made of brick and stone and featuring a series of embrasures, with a fragment of the Carnot wall, reconstructed in 2009, adjoining the south-eastern corner of the building; the guardhouse, located south of the Szczebrzeszyn Gate and the moat - a small, Classicist building erected somewhere around 1825; the powder house, located on bastion no. 3, to the south-west of the arsenal, designed as a neo-Gothic brick structure erected before 1845 as the very last defensive structure in Zamość; the rotunda (former cannon emplacement) - a massive brick and stone fortified structure erected in years 1825-31, designed on a circular plan with a 54-metre diameter, featuring a number of embrasures and covered by a thick layer of soil, projecting more than 500 metres to the south ahead of the defensive walls and connected with the town itself by means of a reinforced causeway, used as a munitions storage during the interwar period and later, in years 1939-44, as the place of imprisonment and execution of the residents of the Zamość region by the Nazis (a total of about 8 thousand people are known to have been killed, with two times as many prisoners being kept here during those times, with the dead having later been buried around the structure and alongside the causeway; earthen fortifications located in the forefield of the fortress, created during the period of its modernisation in the first half of the 19th century, including curtain wall ravelins (the ravelins of curtain walls no. 3 and 4 as well as 6 and 7 have not been preserved), the couvrefaces of bastions no. 1, 3 and 4, the lunette of the curtain wall between bastions no. 6 and 7 and the redan, projecting some 800 metres ahead of the fortress towards the north-east.

Access to some of the structures is limited.

compiled by Ewa Prusicka, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Lublin, 08-12-2014.


  • Czterysta lat Zamościa, J. Kowalczyk (ed.), Wrocław-Łódź 1983
  • Feduszka J., Twierdze Modlin, Serock, Zamość na planach strategicznych powstania listopadowego, Lublin 1999
  • Herbst S., Zachwatowicz J., Twierdza Zamość, Warsaw 1936
  • Herbst S., Zamość, Warsaw 1954
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, compiled by J.Z. Łoziński, J.A. Miłobędzki, B. Wolff, typescript - Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw 1953
  • Kędziora A., Dawna architektura i budownictwo Zamościa, Zamość 1990
  • Kędziora A., Encyklopedia miasta Zamościa, Chełm 2000.
  • Kowalczyk J., Zamość. Przewodnik, Warsaw, 1st edition (1975), 2nd edition (1977), 3rd edition (1995)
  • Kwartalnik Architektury i Urbanistyki, 1980, vol. XXV, issue 2 (dedicated entirely to Zamość to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the town’s foundation)
  • Witusik A. A., O Zamoyskich, Zamościu i Akademii Zamojskiej, Lublin 1978
  • Zarębska T., Zamość - miasto idealne i jego realizacja, /in:/ Zamość miasto idealne, J. Kowalczyk (ed.), Lublin 1980

General information

  • Type: fortress
  • Chronology: 1580
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Zamość
  • Location: Voivodeship lubelskie, district Zamość, commune Zamość
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland


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