Wleń – castle

History

   The castle was built on the site of a wooden-earth hillfort, raised in 1108 to the rank of castellan by Boleslaw the Wrymouth. The erection of the first brick building is attributed to prince Boleslaw the High in the late 12th century after his return from exile. At the beginning of the 13th century prince Henry the Bearded was often visited the castle, and built in it residential tower and chapel. According to tradition, the stronghold was than the place of frequent visits to Saint Hedwig. In the middle of the 13th century the castle was owned by duke Boleslaw II Rogatka. In the castle tower he imprisoned in 1256 the bishop Tomasz I, and in 1277 imprisoned his niece, prince Henry IV Probus. After the partition of the Duchy of Legnica between the sons of Rogatka, the castle became a property of Bernard of Lwówek, as evidenced by the castellan of Wleń, Maciej Mezyvog, appearing on document from 1281.
  
In the middle of the fourteenth century, during the reign of the duke of Świdnica-Jawor, Bolko II the Small, there was another expansion of the fortress by the so-called middle castle. After his death, the widow after him, princess Agnes passed the castle in 1368 in a pledge to knights von Zedlitz. In 1377 the owner of the castle was Tymo von Kolditz, who expanded and fortified the fortress. In 1428, during the uprising of the Hussite castle was unsuccessfully besieged by insurgents. The assault was then fight off by Tristram von Redern.
   In the following years, owners changed frequently and did not care about the building. From 1465 it was owned by Hans von Zedlitz. Together with his sons Kacper and Melchior, he participated in the succession war in Silesia as a supporter of George of Podebrady, and later Vladislaus II against Wrocław and king Matthias Corvinus. He undertook numerous military expeditions in the western part of Lower Silesia, involving the robbery of Wrocław merchants, and Wleń became than a place where looted goods were stored. This activity resulted in gratitude from Vladislaus II, but at the same time, however, Matthias Corvinus undertook armed expeditions. At least one of them in 1478, led by Jan Zelene, reached Wleń. The siege did not end with the conquest of the castle, but only with the commitment of Hans Zedlitz to appear in front of the king in Hungary. Eventually, the castle survived or returned to the hands of Kacper and Melchior Zedlitz before 1502. In the years 1567-1574 the next owner of the castle Sebastian Zedlitz carried out the renaissance reconstruction of the castle. The end of functioning brought the year 1646 when it was blown up during the Thirty Years’ War.

Architecture

   The first castle was erected on the top of the mountain, covered in the lower parts of the area with stone rubble. In the second half of the twelfth century, in the western part, a romanesque house (possibly of a tower type) and a chapel was built, and then in the early 13th century a six-sided tower was placed on the southern edge of the castle. The whole was surrounded by a defensive wall, which in its oldest phase was about 2 meters thick and was built of unworked stone, bonded with lime mortar. The romanesque house had an outline of a quadrangle and external dimensions of 7.5 x 10 meters. It was erected in the opus emplectum technique, that is with stone blocks in the outer parts and rubble inside. Established a little later, the chapel was a small orientated building with a length of 9.1 meters with a rectangular nave, a short chancel and a semicircular apse. It was built of unworked stone with the use of sandstone at the corners and at the entrance portal. The romanesque six-sided bergfried tower with sides 5.5 x 6.3 x 3 x 6.2 meter and wall thickness 3-3,6 meters probably had a diameter of about 10 meters. The shape of its interior generally reflected the outer outline of the polygon.
   
In the second, gothic phase of construction, which was in the late 13th or early 14th century, the six-sided tower was replaced by a cylindrical bergfried tower with a diameter of 10 meters and a wall thickness of up to 3 meters. The current tower height, starting from the base, is 17 meters. The original entrance to it was from the north at an altitude of as much as 13 meters. Between the cylindrical tower and the chapel, a new building (the so-called Kinderstube) was created with a square-like outline, internal dimensions of 6.2 x 6.4 meters and a wall thickness of up to 0.85 meters. The original entrance was in the south wall. Probably around 1300, a building was erected in the northern corner of the castle, near the gate, which due to the considerable thickness of the walls could take the form of a four-sided tower. Then a building was created that filled the space between this tower and the romanesque house.

   At the end of the 14th century, a long, rectangular building (the so-called gothic palace) was erected at the eastern curtain of the castle. It had dimensions of 9 x 26.5 meters and had at least two floors. The lower one was made up of a vaulted basement, to which the descent was located from the side of the courtyard. The floor is supposed to had a tripartite appartement with a large room in the middle and two smaller ones at the ends to which a spiral staircase in the wall thickness led. This building was probably warmed by a brick oven on a stone foundation, discovered at the southern wall.
   
Still in the Middle Ages, a romanesque house was rebuilt. It was pulled down to a height of 3-1,7 meters and was topped with a wall of unworked stones. The room on the ground floor was equipped with a barrel vault, and in the south-west corner there was a hole pierced, in which a furnace of the hypocaustum type was introduced. From the side of the courtyard, the building was provided with a porch, from where entry led to the room on the first floor. From the Middle Ages come also small buildings, filling the space between the described buildings.
   
The middle castle was founded in the late Middle Ages on the plan of an elongated oval. The gate was located on the north-east side, fortified with a gate’s neck running along the southern section of the defensive perimeter of the middle castle.
   
The lower castle is a multi-phase complex. The oldest relics of the earth ramparts date back to the 10th and 11th centuries, but the visible earth ramparts and the moat running around the lower castle from the north, west and south sides are relics of the 13th-century fortifications. Originally, it was a system of double earth ramparts separated by a moat carved into the rock. In the case of the inner rampart, it was found that the external face was a diagonally rising stone wall on a clay mortar. Around the second half of the fifteenth century, a perimeter wall was erected with five semicircular half towers. In the northern part of the lower castle there were economic houses.

Current state

   Wleń is probably the oldest brick castle in the Polish lands. It survived as a ruin with a dominant cylindrical tower of incomplete height. After the last years of the rescue work, the monument is again open to the public.

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bibliography:
Boguszewicz A., Corona Silesiae. Zamki Piastów fürstenberskich na południowym pograniczu księstwa jaworskiego, świdnickiego i ziębickiego do połowy XIV wieku, Wrocław 2010.

Chorowska M., Rezydencje średniowieczne na Śląsku, Wrocław 2003.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, L.Kajzer, S.Kołodziejski, J.Salm, Warszawa 2003.