Bieławin – tower house

History

    The development of settlements in Bieławin (now the northern part of the city of Chełm) dates back to the early Middle Ages, with particular intensity in the 11th-13th century. The creation of a defense and residential tower surrounded by a moat, is related with this period. Its functioning should be connected with the nearby power center in Chełm and the Halicz princes’ foundation in the second half of the 13th century – the beginning of the 14th century. The founder and user of the tower could be the Rus prince Yuri I of Galicia, the grandson of king Daniel Romanovych, who ruled in Chełm as part of the Principality of Galicia–Volhynia. The tower was surrounded by a contemporary, large settlement of a proto-town character. Found movable monuments and animal bones testify to the breeding, fishing, weaving, as well as crafts and trade. It is known from the Rus chronicles that the settlers worked for the needs of the royal or prince’s court in Chełm.
   
It is not known when exactly the tower was abandoned, in the light of the research it can be assumed that it was already at the end of the 14th century. The cause could be floods within the valley, due to climate change, wars in the fourteenth century for the succession of the Duchy of Galicia–Volhynia, after the ended Romanovych dynasty, as a result of which in 1387 Chełm land was joined to Poland and gave town privileges to Chełm in 1392, which could have caused the decline of craft in Bieławin.

Architecture

    The tower was built from a local stone on a rectangular plan with dimensions of 11,8×12,4 meters. The thickness of its wall oscillated between 1.6 – 1.75 meters. Tower height can be determined only approximately, probably it had 4 or 5 storeys above ground. The lowest had probably the function of the kitchen and pantry, at its western wall there was a small dungeon, which could be a small treasury or storage for water in case of siege. The ground floor was 3 meters high and did not have windows. The second and third storeys had heights not much above 3 meters. Narrow windows were placed in them, probably also used as arrowslits. The fourth storey was representative and as the only one had a rib vault. At its height, a timber porch ran outside, it also led to this floor the only entrance to the tower, leading up the stairs or a ladder from the west side. The windows on the fourth floor were large and richly decorated, and the vault was finished with green stone. The fifth floor had only a defensive function. It is assumed that there were additional timber buildings surrounding the tower.

Current state

    Before World War II, the north wall of the tower still existed almost entirely. It was destroyed by the Germans in 1944. In the 90s of the twentieth century, the ruins were secured and overbuilt from the remaining debris to a height of about 2 meters.

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bibliography:
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, L.Kajzer, S.Kołodziejski, J.Salm, Warszawa 2003.
Ruszkowska U., Chełm – Bieławin. U źródeł miasta [w:] Badania archeologiczne. O początkach historii Chełma, red. Banasiewicz-Szykuła E., Lublin 2002.

Ruszkowska U., Pradziejowy i średniowieczny zespół osadniczy w Chełmie – Bieławinie, Rocznik Chełmiński, t.20, Chełm, 2016.