Gniezno – city defensive walls

History

   It is not known whether the stone fortifications in Gniezno were preceded by wood and earth fortifications. The brick walls were erected at the end of the 13th or 14th century. Iconographic messages indicate that fortifications were created before the 15th century, but there are no references to fortifications during the Teutonic invasion in 1331.
   
The defensive walls were maintained until the 17th century. It seems that after the fire in 1613, which ruined the town, the walls were no longer brought to a satisfactory state. The information about the attempts at repair has been accompanied by reports of poor fortifications from that time. Nevertheless, in 1629, the city received from king Zygmunt III the privilege of charging the “horn” tax for the repair of fortifications, and the starost accused the townspeople of not taking care of the town fortifications. At the end of the 17th century, the walls were lowered, in order to obtaining a demolition brick. In the 18th century, only city gates played a certain, though not defensive, role. Systematic demolition began in 1797 from the demolition of both the gates of Toruń and Pyzdry, which had been preserved until that time, and from 1800 the gradual demolition of the remaining walls and filling the moats began. The last traces of fortifications were obliterated during the leveling works during the regulation of the town in the 1820s.

Architecture

   The circuit of the Gniezno defensive walls was irregular, quite compact shape, adapted to the form of the hill, with a smooth line of contour. The area of ​​the town within walls was less than 6 ha, and the length of the fortification line was about 850 meters. The town was surrounded by a underwall street, which shaped before the construction of the walls and was irregular and variable in width.
  
The brick defensive wall was crowned with a battlement with arrowslits placed, judging from the old views of the town, in every merlon. Wall dimensions are unknown, it did not have towers. This is evidenced by the lack of their traces from the more endangered south-eastern side, known from iconographic sources. The city had three gates at the outlets of roads, formed long before the location and converging in the center of the settlement. From the west was the Poznań (Tumska) Gate, from the East – Toruń Gate and from the south Pyzdry Gate called also Warsaw, Holy Trinity, Parish, and probably Kalisz or Słupecka Gate. The gates were placed in rectangular towers embedded symmetrically in the line of the defensive wall. They were not extended horizontally, from later reports it is known that they were closed by gates.
  
The Srawa river was flowing directly from the west and the north of the town hill. The artificial branch of the river was led along the eastern and southern sides of the town, closing a water circle around it, perhaps already before the location.

Current state

The defensive walls in Gniezno have not survived.

return to alphabetical index

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