Town hall town hall, currently serving as the Museum of the Pałuki Region, Żnin
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Town hall town hall, currently serving as the Museum of the Pałuki Region

Żnin

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The tower - a dominant feature in the landscape of the town of Żnin - remains a notable example of Gothic secular architecture in the Pałuki region.

History

Following the great fire which swept across the town in 1447, as vividly described by Jan Długosz in his Annals, the construction of a new town hall began in the town’s main square. This was no easy task, however, since the entire area has always been waterlogged and swampy. As a result, massive stone blocks had to be used for the purposes of building the town hall foundations. Yet it was only somewhere between 1494 and 1500 that the construction of the edifice was completed, partially due to the subsequent fires as well as the miasmatic “bad air” which, back in those days, was blamed for the spreading of various diseases. The town hall featured a tall, five-storey tower with an observation deck on top, its edges secured by means of a crenellated parapet. At the first-floor level, there was a passage leading into a wooden porch or walkway which linked it to the wooden town hall, which was a two- or three-storey edifice; today, all that remains of this connecting section is the niche in the northern side of the tower, incorporating a bricked-up passage at the first-floor level.

The wooden part of the town hall is believed to have been lost to the blaze during the Swedish invasion of 1656. The tower was also damaged during that period, even though certain sources indicate, that the damage was caused by a fire which engulfed the structure in 1692. During the period in question, the tower took over the functions of the town hall. Towards the end of the 17th century, the tower attained its current form. In the course of reconstruction works, the decision was taken that the uppermost storey would not be rebuilt; in addition, the tower now had a new roof - a tented roof topped with a Baroque cupola - which existed until the mid-19th century. A tower clock and a bell, funded by the erstwhile mayor, Zenon Konwerski, were installed at the top of the structure. From the 18th century onwards, the tower’s cellar served as a prison. Following the completion of renovation works in 1865, the ground-floor level was adapted to serve the needs of the local fire brigade. During the 1920s, further construction works were performed, with the main entrance being added on the northern side of the structure. During the interwar period, the tower served as the municipal archive. In 1957, the decision was taken to establish the Żnin Museum, founded at the initiative of the Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society (PTTK). In 1963, the Museum opened its doors to the public. In 1992, it was renamed as the Museum of the Pałuki Region.

Description

The four-storey, free-standing Gothic town hall tower rises in the middle of the Żnin market square, known today as Plac Wolności (Freedom Square). The tower is quadrangular at the base and octagonal from the first-floor level upwards; the entire structure is topped with a low, octagonal pyramid roof. The main entrance is positioned in the northern wall. The seamless transition from the quadrangular base to the octagonal shaft was possible due to the use of squinches (a type of tapering construction fillings in the upper angles of a square room designed so as to form a base to receive an octagonal or spherical dome or other structure). The upper storeys of the tower are separated by plain cornice bands, their surface covered with plaster. The scant illumination of the interior comes from small, segment-headed windows. A pair of clock dials facing the north and the south are positioned at the uppermost storey of the tower.

Inside, the individual storeys are connected by means of a wooden staircase. Remnants of a medieval central heating system known as the hypocaustum have survived in the cellar of the former town hall. These consist of a hearth from which heat would be routed to the different part of the building by means of internal ducts located inside the walls, at the entire height of the structure. It is difficult to determine with any degree of certainty what the exact functions of the individual storeys of the tower had originally been. Today, its reconstructed interiors contain the armoury at the ground-floor level and the so-called Municipal Bench - an assembly hall for municipal council members which also served as the venue of the court of assize, dealing with cases of lesser importance - which is found at the first-floor level. At the second-floor level there is a municipal treasury containing the smaller of the two municipal weighing scales, while the garret level houses the historic tower clock mechanism. The stone cannonballs embedded in the walls of the tower are a highly original reminder of the 17th-century Swedish invasion of Poland, known today as The Deluge.

The monument is open to visitors.

compiled by Agnieszka Wysocka, Historical Monument and National Heritage Documentation and Popularisation Department of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Cultural Centre in Bydgoszcz, 26-11-2014 - 8-12-2014.

Bibliography

  • Katalog Zabytków Sztuki w Polsce, vol. XI: Województwo bydgoskie, issue 21: Żnin i okolice, Chrzanowski T. and Kornecki M. (eds.), Warsaw 1979, p. 50
  • Sikorski Cz., Zarys dziejów Żnina, Żnin 1990, p. 85
  • Górczak Z., Lokacja miejska Żnina oraz dzieje osady do końca średniowiecza [in:] Żnin. 750 lat dziejów miasta, collective work edited by Janicki T., p. 65

General information

  • Type: town hall
  • Chronology: 2. poł. XV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: pl. Wolności 11, Żnin
  • Location: Voivodeship kujawsko-pomorskie, district żniński, commune Żnin - miasto
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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