Bystrzyca Kłodzka – city defensive walls


   The construction of the town defense walls in Bystrzyca Kłodzka was started before 1319 on the initiative of the vogt Jakub Rücker. For its erection, king John of Bohemia granted the town full legal independence, which put Bystrzyca in the group of royal towns. At first, there were only two entry gates: Kłodzka and Water, in 1400 the Wyszków Gate was pierced, and around 1580, a New Gate was erected in its place.
   In the 16th and 17th century, the fortifications were in poor condition, as evidenced by three recorded collapses of wall fragments. In 1745, as a result of heavy rainfall, water flooded the town, and under its pressure a fragment of the wall at tower house collapsed. Despite renovations, the fortifications continued to deteriorate since the mid-18th century. Even in 1778, with a lot of work, all suburbs were surrounded by palisades, and several bridges for cannons were erected on the walls. However, demolition began already in the 1840s: the New Gate was dismantled, followed by the Kłodzko Gate, with only the tower left. In 1870, a moat was filled in and the alleys were arranged at its site.


   The layout of the defensive circuit in Bystrzyca was dictated by the specific terrain in the form of a steep, high escarpment determining the town’s range from the south and east. Thanks to this, the town did not require additional protection from these sides by a moat, which was only dug from the west and north. On the west side, the curtain ran fairly straight up to the northwest corner narrowing in which the parish church was located. There, the defensive wall turned and ran north side eastwards to the mentioned escarpment.
   Medieval city walls were built of unworked stones. Their thickness was about 1 meter, they had a crown in the form of a wall-walk for defenders and a breastwork with battlement. From the east and south side of the escarpment, they were reinforced on the outside with densely spaced buttresses, where the wall reached the highest height, over 10 meters from the base of the hill. Due to the favorable terrain, it was not necessary to erect many flanking towers, only two or three towers were built at sensitive points. Entry into the town was ensured by three gates: Kłodzko Gate in the north-east, Water Gate on the south, and since 1580 also the New Gate, built on the site of the previous Wyszecka wicket.
   The Water Gate, also called Low or Mountain Gate, was built on a quadrangle plan with dimensions of about 5 x 6 meters. Inside, at the ground floor level it received an ogival passage with a barrel vault. From the field side, on the face of the wall, a semi-circular recess was created, which acted as a portcullis guide. On the town side an external staircase was erected, leading to the room covered with a wooden ceiling above the passage. Above there was another room, illuminated by narrow arrwoslits. Battlement and a pyramidal brick top were added in 1568.
   The Kłodzko Gate was a small rectangular gatehouse placed in the perimeter wall line, which was flanked by the nearby Kłodzko Tower. The tower was built on a square plan with a side of 5 meters. Originally it had a wooden helmet, which in 1568 was replaced by a brick one, having the shape of a pyramid. On all walls in its top floor, two arrowslits were pierced, and between them gargoyles, used for draining rainwater. Tower was connected to the gatehouse with rectangular openings, existing on two floors.
   The Knight’s Tower, in the past also called Crow, Black or Butchery, was located on the eastern side. Its base received dimensions 4.5 by 4.5 meters. Initially, the building had a wooden roof, later converted into a brick one in the form of a pyramid. From the street side portal was pierced with an ogival arch, at which remains of stone corbels have survived, which once served as a support for the porch, and above for the balcony. Narrow vertical arrowslits were located in all walls at different heights.
   The unknown tower was located between the Water Gate and New Gate. Quadrilateral, topped with battlements, it had three floors pierced with numerous loop holes. However, the key to the city’s defense system was the residential and defensive tower, the seat of the vogt, situated on a steep rock near the Water Gate, separated from the town by a rampart and a ditch. It was 90 feet high (about 27 meters) and crowned with a battlement. On the north and south side there were two small turrets. The lower part of the tower housed two cut in rock, vaulted cellar chambers. Higher probably were living and representative rooms. In front of the tower there was to be a smaller building where stones were stored in case of a siege, also stables and a garden were to be located nearby.

Current state

   Bystrzyca belongs to the towns which have preserved the defensive walls on almost the entire perimeter, although lower than the original one. Only the demolished fragment in the western part of the town did not survive, gaps are also on the north side. Currently, the best preserved fragments of fortifications are: the Water Gate, the Kłodzko Tower and the Knight’s Tower. The latter was converted into a church belfry in 1823, and therefore double ogival windows with a brick frame were pierced in it. On the wall from Okrzei Street can see the remains of a gable roof covering the Kłodzko Gate once. In addition, large fragments of walls have survived along the streets of Międzyleska and Wojska Polskiego, often used as structural elements of later houses. The remnant of the medieval tower house is the rebuilt house placed on a high escarpment at Podmiejska 1 Street.

show Water Gate on map

show Kłodzko Tower on map

show Knight’s Tower on map

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Bartnik K., Bystrzyca Kłodzka, Wrocław 1992.

Pilch J, Leksykon zabytków architektury Dolnego Śląska, Warszawa 2005.
Przyłęcki M., Mury obronne miast Dolnego Śląska, Wrocław 1970.