The hillfort at Zawodzie was built in the swampy Prosna urstromtal around the 9th / 10th centuries, although uninterrupted settlements in Kalisz were found from the neolithic period through the Bronze Age, the early Iron Age, the pre-roman period and the period of roman influences. The above facts and the similarity of the medieval name Kalisz to ancient Kalisia, mentioned in 158 AD by Claudius Ptolemy, are the reason for recognizing Kalisz as the oldest center in Poland. However, it appeared for the first time in an unquestionable record in 1106.
The foundation of the hillfort enlivened the development of the already existing craft settlement with the church of St. Adalbert and the creation of near, open, trade settlement. The complex of both settlements with time has become one of the most important politically and commercially castellan hillforts. According to Gal Anonim’s chronicles in 1106, Bolesław Krzywousty won and burned the hillfort after a fight with his brother Zbigniew. Rebuilt in the following years, Kalisz was recorded as the seat of the diocese in the life of St. Otto of Bamberg, during his journey from Germany to Gniezno in 1124, and in 1136 in the bull of Innocent II, the hillfort was placed among the settlements belonging to the archbishop of Gniezno. Zawodzie experienced the greatest development during the times of Mieszko III the Old, who expanded the hillfort, and in the mid-12th century he founded a new, stone church in the place of an older, timber one.
After the death of the prince, for 30 years conflicts and struggles for the rights to Kalisz land lasted. In 1233, Henry the Bearded invaded the Greater Poland land, destroyed the Kalisz hillfort in Zawodzie, and then erected a new one, 1,5 km to the north, where the center of Kalisz is now located. From that time on, the old, destroyed hillfort was gradually degraded. At the end of the thirteenth century, prince Przemysł handed the settlement into private hands to the knight Jasiek, and at the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the role of the Zawodzie church of St. Paul was taken over by the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary located in the new settlement. The end of the old hillfort was brought by the Teutonic Knights in 1331.
The 9th century stronghold had a small oval-shaped ramparts. In the 10th – 11th centuries, i.e. in the early Piast period, changes were made to its layout. The stronghold was significantly enlarged, especially on the south side, but also in the east and west, including several natural elevations created by the river. The interior was divided into a sacral part and a residential – administrative part on the southern side. Both parts were separated by a depression related to the original course of the river bed. In the southern part of the hillfort, a wooden building was situated, perhaps being the seat of the local ruler. At that time, the entire stronghold occupied an area of about 100 x 175 meters. Residential and economic functions were taken over by numerous open settlements in Zawodzie and the Old Town of Kielce.
The northern part of the stronghold was occupied by sacral buildings and buildings related to churches. The earliest temple was a wooden church around which the dead were buried. It consisted of a nave measuring 7.6 x 7.8 meters and a four-sided chancel with a size of 3.9 x 3.8 meters, which was shifted north due to the terrain configuration. Church was built as a log construction, probably with timbered walls. Inside, the walls were lined with clay, among which flecks of molten bronze were found, perhaps molten nails used to attach decorative fabrics. The floor of the church was also timber, with the usable level of the chancel being about 20-30 cm higher than the nave.
In the mid-12th century, a stone Romanesque church of St. Paul was built on the site of a wooden temple. In the first phase it was an aisleless building, closed in the east with a shallow chancel bay with an apse, and from the west with a four-sided tower (5,3 x 10 metrów). The latter had a characteristic form with longer sides located on the north-south line. In the second phase of expansion, the interior of the church was enriched by the western gallery, located in the nave and open to it. The entrance to it led through a staircase turret added on the south-west side, probably also connected to the main tower, while the main entrance to the church led through the southern wall of the nave.
The church had a clear gradation of height in three distinctive segments, ranging from the highest western (main tower) to the lowest eastern (apse). In the Kalisz church there was probably a merger of the local, Greater Poland tradition of equipping important princely foundations with a western massif with a tower on the axis, with a model of a three-part aisleless church spreading from the middle of the 12th century. This type was formed and spread in the Romanesque provincial architecture of Germany, strongly influencing the countries of Central Europe.
At the end of the 12th century, due to frequent floods and raising the water level at the bottom of the Prosna valley, the area of the hillfort was reduced and the defensive fortifications were significantly raised. At that time, the area of the stronghold was about 80 x 100 meters. The division into the sacral and secular parts was maintained, but the location of the ruler’s residence changed, which at that time was most likely located in the southern part of the upper part of the hillfort. Additionally, in the line of fortifications on the west side, a four-sided defensive tower was built on stone foundations.
Currently, in the medieval hillfort of Zawodzie, in Kalisz, there is the Archaeological Reserve “Kaliski Gród Piastów”, which is a branch of the District Museum of the Kalisz Land. The entrance gate with the palisade and the bridge over the moat was reconstructed. In the course of the earth ramparts preserved to this day, the tower has been reconstructed. A part of the old, wood and earth fortifications was rebuilt and the foundations of the romanesque church were reconstructed, inside which the outline of the earlier wooden church was marked. Seven residential huts were also built, varying in size, wall construction and roofing, as well as purpose. These are huts: a saddler, a ruler, weaver, a servant’s hut, a knight’s cottage, a blacksmith and a potter. The reconstruction of the burial mound was also taken into account, and even the dugout boats were reconstructed. You can also take part in numerous outdoor events taking place in the hillfort.
Baranowski T., Najwcześniejsze budownictwo sakralne Kalisza [w:] Początki architektury monumentalnej w Polsce, red. Janiak T., Stryniak D., Gniezno 2004.
Murowana architektura romańska i gotycka w Wielkopolsce, red. J.Tomala, tom 1, Kalisz 2007.
Rodzińska – Chorąży T., Kościół pod wezwaniem św. Pawła na Zawodziu w Kaliszu w kontekście architektury w Polsce na przełomie XII i XIII wieku [w:] Kalisz na przestrzeni wieków: konferencja naukowa pod przewodnictwem prof. dr hab. Henryka Samsonowicza, red. Baranowski T., Buko A., Kalisz 2013.
Rodzińska – Chorąży T., Kościół pod wezwaniem św. Pawła na Zawodziu w Kaliszu – na tle architektury romańskiej [w:] Modus. Prace z historii sztuki IV, 2003.
Webpage cit.kalisz.pl, Kaliski Gród Piastów Zawodzie-Oddział Muzeum Okręgowego.