Lublin – city defensive walls

History

   In the middle of the 13th century, the town gained its first wooden and earth ramparts. The beginning of the works on the construction of defensive walls probably took place around 1342, and although the work had to last for a long time, it is assumed that during the reign of Casimir the Great, that is before 1370, the ring of fortifications was not closed around the town. The construction of permanent fortifications was carried out as part of the reconstruction of Lublin after the Mongol invasion in 1341 and fell on the very successful period of town’s development. This investment was related to the person of king Casimir the Great, who showed special concern for Lublin and was the founder of a number of urban facilities, probably including walls. It is doubtful whether the town after total destruction could get financing for the works.
   
Already at the turn of the fourteenth and fifteenth century, the first works on the development of the town‘s defense system were undertaken, namely the Cracow’s Gate was raised. From the beginning of the 16th century, work on the modernization of fortifications has gained a greater momentum, followed by numerous royal privileges, which financially support these ventures. It follows from them that the defensive walls and their maintenance were at that time at the discretion of the town. Reconstruction covered all elements of fortifications, that is walls, towers and gates, which were, among others, adapted to the needs of the artillery. It is also known that at that time the foregate of Cracow’s Gate was founded. The renewed intensification of works was noted after the dangerous town fire of 1574, in which the fortifications were also affected. The reconstruction concerned mainly the Cracow’s Gate, which tower then received the highest octagonal part.
    
In view of the strong development of the town, in Lublin early began to grow unfavorable phenomenos of building the foreground of the walls and adding buildings to the walls. The town also had difficulties with maintaining the walls in proper condition. For this reason, Lublin let in without a fight the Cossacks of Chmielnicki in 1655, and a year later the Swedes. The walls suffered some damages when Poles were taking back the town. In the eighteenth century, walls definitely fell into disrepair. It was decided to demolish part of the walls and allowed to overbuild their western section, while both gates underwent general renovation around 1785. The Castle’s Gate was completely transformed then and lost its medieval form.

Architecture

    The circumference of the defensive walls, adapted to the terrain features, was pear-shaped, lengthening and narrowing towards the north-east. The area of ​​the town within the walls was about 7 ha, the length of the fortifications line about 1050 meters. From the side of the town the underwall street ran around, only the Dominican church lying in the south-eastern part of the circumference was in direct contact with the walls, that connected with the presbytery.
 
The defensive wall in Lublin was erected in a mixed, stone and brick technique, with the limestone occurring inside the wall, and the brick was at the face. The wall was 2 meters thick and its total height was 7 meters. It was crowned with a battlement. Later, perhaps at the beginning of the 16th century, the crown of the wall was modernized on certain sections by bricking up the battlement and creating a continuous windowsill with arrowslits. After reconstruction in the western and northern sections, the sidewalk of the defenders was protected by wooden, covered porches.
   The wall was
filled with towers, the number of which can be reconstructed at around fifteen. Their spacing was the densest and most regular from the endangered western side, where it was 35-45 meters, less regular and less frequent from the north and south, while from the east, in the area adjacent to the Dominican church, probably there were none. The towers were rectangular in plan and, despite various reconstruction forms, it can be assumed that initially they were of the same and typical form, that is they were protruding outside the walls and were open from the town side. They could be equal to the wall or higher than one floor. In addition to the typical towers, there was a round tower in the north-west corner of the town. The second atypical object was the semi-circular tower preserved to this day, the first to the southeast of the Cracow’s Gate. It comes from the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth century, as shown by its architectural forms, however, judging from the spacing could have arisen in the original place. This radical way of remodeling from scratch has probably been used exceptionally in this case. Because all other towers were only modernized, they received back walls and roofs, some have high polygonal superstructures erected.
    
The town had two main gates: from the south-west Cracow’s Gate was led to the town, and from the north-east the Castle’s Gate. They were originally located in passageways, rectangular gatehouses with the dimensions of a projection of about 10X10 meters and a wall thickness of 2,5-3 meters. The well-known Cracow’s Gate was initially about 12 meters high, its second storey was connected to the sidewalk of defenders on the defensive wall. The crowning is not known, perhaps it ended with a battlement, which was led by stairs that existed in the wall thickness. The gate was closed with a portcullis and probably a drawbridge. Both gates have been seriously expanded several times, both upwards and forwards. Already at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries, the gatehouse of the Cracow’s Gate was raised to a height of about 25 meters. In the 16th century, rectangular foregate were added, which was additionally raised at the beginning of the 17th century. The Castle’s Gate after the extensions consisted of a high gatehouse and a rectangular foregate that was closed by a drawbridge.
   
The line of fortifications from the north, east and partly from the south did not require additional external reinforcements due to sharp falls of the area. From the south west and from the west there was a dry moat and a single earth rampart, probably made along with the construction of the walls in the fourteenth century.

Current state

    There are two town gates and a tower in Lublin. The Cracow’s Gate located in the south-western part of the circuit, consists of the original gate tower and foregate added to it. Above it rises a early modern octagonal superstructure with a helmet. About 60 meters southeast of the gate there is a semicircular tower. Both the general form of the object and the details in the form of key arrowslits indicate that it is not the original element of fortifications. On the opposite side of the town, at the north-eastern edge of the town, there is the Castle’s Gate. During the reconstruction, it completely lost the medieval form. In addition to the three objects mentioned above, numerous fragments of defensive walls are stuck in the walls of later buildings.

show Cracow’s Gate on map

show semicircular tower on map

return to alphabetical index

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