Gliwice – castle and town defensive walls


   Gliwice was surrounded by defensive walls in the fourteenth or even in the fifteenth century. It certainly took place after the town’s foundation, which was carried out at the time of Władysław of Opole increased foundation activity after 1260, and before 1470, when they were first confirmed by sources. In the initial period of its existence, when Gliwice belonged to the Duchy of Opole, and after its division into Duchy of Bytom, the town probably did not perform a more important residential function for the princes, as there is no information about the local castle in the sources.
   During the Hussite wars, the Taborites captured and plundered Gliwice without a fight, making the town a starting point for their armed expeditions. In 1431, Duke Konrad the White recaptured the town, but he was to murder or imprison a large part of the townspeople favoring the Hussites, and to a large extent destroy its fortifications. After the Hussite wars, the fortification system, if it already existed then, required rebuilding.
   The first castle in Gliwice was probably built in the mid-fourteenth century during the reign of Siemowit, the prince of Bytom. It functioned as a prince’s property also in the next century. In 1465, the town, by way of purchase, briefly became the seat of the militant and restless prince Jan IV, but in 1482 the ruler was forced to pledge the principality to Jan Bielik, the starost of Upper Silesia. At the end of the 15th century, the town lost its importance as a ducal residence, as written sources provided information about the end of the Gliwice castle, whose demolition began in 1491. The castle, or in fact the court house (known today as Piastowski), appeared in historical sources in the first half of the 16th century as Cetrycz’s Court (Zetritz Court). Its reconstruction was carried out in the years 1558-1561 by the then tenant of the town, Frederick von Cetrycz.
   In the second half of the 18th century, the defensive walls were lowered to about 7 meters, which allowed for further rebuilding of the court, which increased its living space at the expense of defense (one of its towers was lowered, but the buildings on the northern and eastern sides were enlarged). At the end of the 18th century and throughout the 19th century, there was a gradual demolition and liquidation of the already obsolete medieval town fortifications. In the mid-nineteenth century, in place of the dismantled eastern tower at the Cetrycz court, a new eastern wing was erected, modeled on the west wing.


    The circumference of the town walls had a shape similar to an oval with a bent in the north-west corner of the Gliwice. It was 1125 meters long, the height of the walls was 8.5-9 meters, and the thickness was sometimes even up to 1.2 meters. The circuit was built mostly in the opus emplectum technique with a brick face in the Flemish bond. The foundation was mainly made of erratic stones. The use of different building materials for the construction may suggest that they were created in several stages. A wooden guard porch ran along the crown of the walls, at the battlement. According to the urbariums, in the 17th century, the fortifications additionally consisted of a high earth rampart, a moat about 7 – 12 meters away from the wall line, about 16 meters wide and about 5 meters deep, and a slope with a wooden palisade, behind which it was located town ​​wall.
   Within the fortifications, there were 29 (according to other sources 36) towers and two gatehouses: White, also called Bytom Gate from the east, and Black, also called Racibórz or Kożle Gate from the west. The Black Gate had a tower form with a rectangular base with dimensions of 6.3 x 7.3 meters. It had five floors with a vaulted passage and an ogival portal in the ground floor, probably closed with a portcullis, and from the outside it was protected with an additional foregate. The towers were rectangular with regular external dimensions of 2 x 8 meters and were originally mostly open from the inside. The exceptions were the towers absorbed by the castle and the tower at the Black Gate, which, although built with the wall and clearly tied to it, were about 0.2 meters thicker than it. Their height was probably slightly higher than the curtains and was about 9 meters.
   The first castle in Gliwice has not been located until today. One can only assume that it was located in the north-west corner of the town. The basis for the construction of the late-medieval castle, or in fact a court, were two towers of town fortifications, connected with each other by a curtain wall and a wooden porch. Contrary to most of the Gliwice towers built on the plan of the letter “U”, the castle towers were built on a square plan. They probably played the role of an arsenal at the time. In the middle of the 16th century, a two-story brick building with five axes of windows was built between the towers, and the ground floor and the first floor of the west tower were adapted. The mono-pitched roof adjoined the defensive wall. The manor house was separated from the town by a fence made of clay.

Current state

   To this day, fragments of medieval fortifications have survived, among them a curtain with a tower, which was used in the construction of the castle, and a fragment of the wall near the parish church of All Saints. Currently, the renovated castle buildings house a museum. Demolitions, especially those related to the creation of new streets, divided the preserved relics of the town walls into 9 sections, distributed fairly regularly along the entire Gliwice. There are relics of 9 towers, including 3 completely preserved in plan, but not in full height.

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Leksykon zamków w Polsce, L.Kajzer, S.Kołodziejski, J.Salm, Warszawa 2003.
Przybyłok A., Mury miejskie na Górnym Śląsku w późnym średniowieczu, Łódź 2014.
Sypek A., Sypek.R., Zamki i obiekty warowne od Opola do Żywca, Warszawa 2014.