Zamość - Historic Town Enclosed by 19th-Century Fortifications, Zamość
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Zamość - Historic Town Enclosed by 19th-Century Fortifications



The construction of a private town was both a complicated and a costly enterprise. But the Chancellor and Hetman Jan Zamoyski, closest associate of King Stefan Batory, could afford it. An excellent statesman, tribune of the nobility and graduate of the University of Padua, he determined to found an ideal citywhich would also serve as the administrative centre of his estate. He prudently chose a site located on the route between the Baltic and the Black Sea. Designing this type of settlement was a significant mathematical and architectural challenge requiring regularly laid out plots and buildings of uniform character. Zamość was founded in 1580 based on a plan drawn up in 1578-1579 by the Italian architect Bernardo Morando. The regularity and stylistic homogeneity of this urban complex was redolent of Italian cities (e.g. Vigevano, Livorno), and was the earliest of any similar projects undertaken north of the Alps. It became a model of urban planning for the most beautiful private cities of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth: Żółkiew (1603), Stanisławów (1662) and Sieniawa (1676). The inscription of Zamość on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1992 provided emphatic contemporary affirmation of the intense admiration that this city has inspired over the centuries.

Morando imbued his town plan with anthropomorphic symbolism: Zamoyski’s residence represented the ‘head’, the collegiate church - the ‘heart’, and the market square with its town hall - the ‘viscera’. He employed Mannerist and Renaissance forms based on popular architectural models, which he deftly adapted to suit both local conditions and the tastes of the town’s founder. Zamość has a pentagonal layout with a main square known as the Great Market (Rynek Wielki) and two subsidiary ones: the Water Market (Rynek Wodny) and Salt Market (Rynek Solny). The whole town is relatively small; together with the palace it occupies approximately 24 hectares, extending across an area of 600 × 400 m. The substantial, symmetrically designed Great Market Square is one of the most beautiful urban interiors in Poland. Zamoyski and his architect dictated a standardised composition for houses lining the market square: they had to be two-level, arcaded buildings topped by an attic storey (e.g. the house known as Under the Angel), so that the frontages circumscribing the square would be symmetrical and harmonious. By using a range of colours for the house façades the square is devoid of monotony despite the uniformity of its buildings. The square is dominated by the town hall. Morando’s earlier, overly modest building was remodelled in 1639-1652, when it was enlarged and given added height. In 1767-1770 a monumental stairway was added, leading above the guardhouse straight to the first floor.

A striking aspect of the town was that it featured houses of worship of all rites and faiths represented by Zamość’s merchants and craftsmen: Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Armenian Apostolics and Jews. Facilities essential to the realisation of fundamental economic activities, such as trade (goods depots) and various craft industries, were also built, though some were located beyond the town’s fortifications. The concessions and privileges available to the inhabitants of Zamość, as well as its ring of stout fortifications (1587-1606, including the Lubelska, Lwowska and Szczebrzeska Gates), attracted many settlers, among them Germans, English, Scots, Italians, Hungarians, Spaniards, Turks, Persians, Ruthenians, Vlachs, Armenians and Greeks. In 1589 Zamość and its fortress became part of the hereditary estate known as the Ordynacja Zamojska. Zamoyski’s original residence (at the western edge of the town), designed by Morando and built in 1579-1586, was separated from the town by its own fortifications. It was rebuilt in Baroque style in 1747-1751.

The nearby collegiate church (since 1992 cathedral of the Zamość-Lubaczów Diocese) is often regarded as the most artistically accomplished ecclesiastical building raised in Poland at the end of the 16th century. In time, this grand basilica, imitating the late Renaissance churches of northern Italy, accumulated a collection of valuable furnishings. The Zamoyski Academy, founded in 1594, is also noteworthy. It was the Academy which made Zamość one of the country’s notable centres of intellectual life. Zamoyski had also intended that a secular citizens’ school be built, where children of the nobility would be brought up in a spirit of patriotism. This project did not reach fruition until 1639-1648.

In 1821, in view of its military significance, Zamość was nationalised by the government of the Congress Kingdom, who set about restructuring the town into a modern fortress.

General information

  • Type: urban layout
  • Chronology: koniec XVI - 1. poł. XIX w.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Zamość
  • Location: Voivodeship lubelskie, district Zamość, commune Zamość
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland


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