Biecz – city defensive walls

History

    Settlement on the city hill developed at the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and soon after that, a city was founded in this place. Its development was based mainly on a military factor; it was a border point of defense along the main route from Hungary, crossing in Biecz with a road with a latitudinal direction. The first mention of Biecz as a city comes from 1361, and two years later king Casimir III the Great confirmed the municipal privilege under the Magdeburg Law.
    
The date of construction of defensive walls in Biecz is not known. The work probably began before the reign of Casimir the Great, maybe in the times of Władysław the Elbow-high, because they are not mentioned by the chroniclers Jan Długosz and Janko from Czarnków, among the foundations of Casimir. The first mention from 1399 already speaks of the need to repair walls, whose renovation was carried out in the fifteenth century. The next serious work was carried out in the sixteenth century. Both stages of modernization works led to the complete transformation of the former walls and the construction of new towers and reconstruction of the gates. However, already in the years 1568-1569, the walls were in a very bad condition. Restoration – including reconstruction of the destroyed gate – ended in 1610 – 1611, and its effects can be seen in the Hogenberg print. Works to maintain the fortifications in proper condition lasted until the end of the 17th century. At that time, the city had yet to invest seriously, in 1655 a general renovation of the walls was carried out in relation with the Swedish war, and in 1657 the Lower (eastern) gate was rebuilt. At the end of the 18th century, the demolition of the poorly preserved fortifications began.

Architecture

   The circumference of the defensive walls in Biecz defined an irregular, elongated shape, depending on the form of the hill. Its eastern part was formed by a promontory, on which the royal court was situated. The length of the fortification line was about 1200 meters.
   
The appearance of the original defensive wall is unknown. It was probably built of sandstone or a mixed stone and brick technique, the thickness of the wall was between 1 and 2 meters. After reconstruction, the wall had a simple ending and was equipped with a wooden, probably covered, porch of defenders and arrowslits. It is not known whether the original wall was reinforced with towers. Mentions about them come only from the beginning of the sixteenth century, only the tower in the north-eastern corner of the city is probably earlier than others.
    
The city had two gates: from the west the Upper and the Lower from east, sometimes called Pilznen. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, foregates of both gates were highly developed, especially the west, whose defense system included four further defended entrances.

Current state

    To this day, fragments of the wall near the parish church and the remains of the walls with the ground part of the square tower near the Holy Spirit hospital, have been preserved. Only three out of seventeen towers are preserved in their entirety: the Smith Tower, also called Clergy Tower, and the Council Tower. In both museums are located. In addition, there is a belfry that used to function as a tower, called the Butchery Tower. Also near the church there are foundations of barbican.

show Clergy Tower on map

show Council Tower on map

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bibliography:
Widawski J., Miejskie mury obronne w państwie polskim do początku XV wieku, Warszawa 1973.