Town defensive walls, Żory
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Żory (known as Sari in Latin, Žory in Czech and Sohrau in German) is one of the oldest towns in the region. It was founded by duke Władysław Opolski (Vladislaus II of Opole, born ca. 1225, died 1281 or 1282), who, during his stay in Racibórz, acquired the village of Żory from the knight Chwalisz (also known as Chvalisius in Latin) and elevated it to the status of a town. The medieval town walls in Żory are thus some of the oldest in the Upper Silesia region and present an immense historical and research value, with the mere sight of its ancient, age-worn walls producing a powerful emotional response.

History

The construction of the late mediaeval town walls began in the final quarter of the 13th century, with the works being completed before 1345. The researchers agree that the construction of the complex may have begun in 1272 at the earliest, i.e. only after the town was officially chartered. The reason why the fortifications must have been completed by 1345 is that the residents of Żory successfully stood their ground against the siege mounted by the armies led by King Casimir the Great (born 1310 - died 1370). The Polish king attempted to regain control of this part of Silesia - the duchy of Racibórz - from the Bohemian crown, which it remained part of from 1336 onwards. One should also add that, despite being unable to gain control of the town of Żory, Casimir the Great has actually captured the larger cities of Racibórz and Rybnik. The town walls have fulfilled their purpose on two more occasions. In 1433, during the Hussite wars (1419-1436), the town was unsuccessfully besieged by duke Bolko the Hussite, who has succeeded in capturing Gliwice and many other towns and cities. Later on, in 1473, the walls proved their worth once again as the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus (born 1443, died 1490) invaded Silesia during the war for the Bohemian crown against Vladislaus II of Hungary (born 1456, died 1516). From the late 15th century onwards, the importance of the town walls saw an inexorable decline, partially due to the advent of artillery. From the 16th century onwards, more and more new buildings sprang up in the suburbs of Żory, while the increasingly anachronistic walls were gradually dilapidating despite the occasional renovation works, such as the ones carried out in 1510. To make matters worse, fragments of the fortifications were destroyed during the devastating fires that swept across the town, such as in 1552, when the lower gatehouse was lost to the blaze, 1587, when another fire engulfed the main gate and many other structures, 1661 and 1702. An even more catastrophic fire engulfed the town in 1807, forcing the residents of Żory to embark upon a comprehensive reconstruction programme, with the old town walls being mostly demolished to obtain the construction material necessary to rebuild the houses that have been gutted by fire.

Description

The town walls in Żory surrounded a town with a quintessentially medieval urban layout, built on a fusiform plan with a rectangular central market square and a pair of gates. The foundations of the town walls were made of field stone and split stone, while the rest of the structure was constructed using handmade Gothic brick. Four main sections of the walls have survived to the present day: the southern section (length: 137.4 metres, maximum height: 6.5 metres), the northern section (length: 272.5 metres, maximum height: 6.5 metres), the north-eastern section (length: 13.2 metres, maximum height: 7.5 metres) and the south-western section (length: 11.3 metres, height ca. 6.2 metres). The northern section of the wall is older than the rest and was built using the so-called monk bond, whereas the southern section is a more recent structure featuring the use of the Polish (Gothic) bond. It should also be added at this stage that the walls were built in sections measuring about 45 metres each and in layers of between 80 and 100 centimetre each. The so-called seam - the place where two sections erected at the same time met - has survived in the southern section of the wall. One should also mention that such spots are the weakest spots of any fortifications next to the gatehouses.

Limited access to the historic structure. Only the outer, northern section of the walls, located along the boundary of the so-called old cemetery in the vicinity of the Gothic church of St Philip and St Jacob the Apostles, can be accessed without restrictions.

compiled by Michał Bugaj, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 07-09-2015.

Bibliography

  • Cimała B., Delowicz J., Porwoł P., Żory. Zarys Dziejów. Wypisy. Żory 1994.
  • Panic I., Żory we wczesnym średniowieczu. Z badań nad historią miasta. Żory 2000.
  • Panic I., Żory pod rządami Przemyślidów i Habsburgów. Z badań nad historią miasta w latach 1327-1742. Żory 2002.
  • Pańczyk E., Średniowieczne mury obronne miasta Żory, Wiadomości Konserwatorskie Województwa Śląskiego, vol. 4, 2012.
  • Pierzak J., Średniowieczne mury obronne w Żorach w świetle wykopalisk, Kalendarz Żorski 1997. Żory 1996.
  • Pierzak J., Miejskie mury obronne na Górnym Śląsku na przykładzie Bytomia, Bielska - Białej, Żor i Gliwic, [in:] Dominik Abłamowicz, Mirosław Furmanek, Monika Michnik (eds.), Początki i rozwój miast Górnego Śląska. Studia interdyscyplinarne, Gliwice 2004.
  • Sibińska U., Wiśniewski M., Badania architektoniczne miejskich murów obronnych w Żorach (unpublished - available in the archive of the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Katowice). Cracow 1970.

General information

  • Type: defensive wall
  • Chronology: 1275 r.- 1345 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Żory
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district Żory, commune Żory
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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