Namysłów – city defensive walls


   The construction of brick town fortifications began in 1350 on the initiative of the Czech king Charles IV, who partially financed their cost. The completion of the work took place at the beginning of the 15th century. Later, in the years 1471-1497, an even smaller external wall was built with cylindrical low towers, which did not have only the eastern section of the Namysłów fortifications. They were probably deemed unnecessary there, because of the additional protection of the second trench existing there since 1428. Modernization of the walls was also carried out in the 16th and 17th centuries as well as in the first half of the 18th century. In the second half of the eighteenth and the nineteenth century, there was a gradual destruction and removal of old and unnecessary city fortifications. They were used to build new buildings next to them. A promenade was set up on the site of the former moat around the city.


   The terrain and the Widawa River, flowing along the northern border of the town through a wide, wet valley, meant that the Namysłów was most at risk from the east. An irrigated moat was dug from this side and from the south and west, in front of the perimeter of the defensive walls.
   The defensive walls of Namysłów were built of bricks with a Flemish bond, on some sections they had a foundation made of stones. The perimeter on the north and south was 1.7 meters thick, the walls on the east 2.2 meters thick. Their height was 6 meters. The ring of walls was reinforced with forty-pair towers of various forms, irregularly spaced at distances from 23 to 36 meters, i.e. at a distance of an effective crossbow shot. It protruded a few meters (about 4-5 meters) beyond the face of the perimeter wall, initially some of them were probably also open from the town side. The more massive towers of a closed form were erected at the most sensitive defense points, i.e. in the eastern corners (Kaczmarska and Piekarska towers). Two more massive four-sided towers flanked the Wrocław and Kraków gates.
   In the second half of the fifteenth century from three sides of the town was erected a second, outer ring of walls with semicircular and polygonal bastions. It was 0.7-0.75 meters thick, about 3-4 meters high and was reinforced with buttresses in at least some parts. During the implementation of the bastion circuit, the breastwork of the high internal wall was rebuilt, in which the top with battlement was replaced with a wall with loop holes and with a covered wall-walk.
   A west German gate led to Namysłów, also called Wrocław or Brześć, the east gate called Polish, Kraków or Kluczbork and the so-called Water Gate. The Kraków Gate was flanked by a high four-sided tower with dimensions of 7.6 x 7.8 meters and a wall thickness of the first floor 2.5 meters. Its height was 24.8 meters. Its lowest storey had a vaulted prison cellar, while the higher ones, of which there were at least six, were covered with timber ceilings.
   On the west side, the fortification ring was connected to the castle, equipped with its own walls. Perhaps, however, until the end of the fourteenth century, the castle, and earlier the hilllfort, were separated by the arm of Widawa from the town. Only then the river channel was diverted to the north, which was to be confirmed by the construction of the Castle Mill there. Thus, around 1400, the town would be enlarged by a western monastery and hospital district and, as a consequence, it would be connected by walls with a castle into one compact fortification system.

Current state

   The main element of the fortifications preserved to this day is the Cracow Gate. Fragments of defensive walls with towers also have survived in the north-west and north-east part of the town. Interesting are the two arcaded culverts in the wall through which flows the branch of the river Widawa.

show Cracow’s Gate on map

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Atlas historyczny miast polskich. Tom IV Śląsk, red. R.Czaja, red. M.Młynarska-Kaletynowa, red. R.Eysmontt, zeszyt 11 Namysłów, Wrocław 2015.

Pilch J., Leksykon zabytków architektury Górnego Śląska, Warszawa 2008.