Wschowa – town defensive walls


   Wschowa was initially surrounded by wooden-earth fortifications. In 1345, the construction of the palisades was planned, and on that many historians dated the town’s defensive walls for a later period, mostly for the 15th century. This document does not, however, exclude the existence of a defensive wall in one section, while on another another there are still wooden-earth fortifications. The fortifications were replaced by defensive walls gradually, for a longer period. Works from 1345 were probably aimed at removing the damages that fortifications had gained during the conquest of the town two years earlier by the Polish army of king Casimir the Great. It is known that during the fights the Poles made a breach through which they entered and captured Wschowa. The town itself was not destroyed at that time, because the king planned at the expense of the Duchy of Głogów to permanently join Wschowa to the Kingdom of Poland.
The beginning of the construction of the town fortified masonry took place not later than in the second half of the fourteenth century, the privilege of 1409 mentioned the old walls and moats. However, it is possible that the first part of the ramparts dating back to the early half of the century or even at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. The earliest phase of construction is the preserved stone and brick fragment in the north-eastern part of the perimeter, erected from the most endangered side, because not protected by natural obstacles. Time and sequence of construction of further sections is difficult to determine. It is very likely that the closure of the circuit occurred after 1409. This suggests the content of the privilege of the year in which the king ordered the town to be fortified with a wall and the old walls to be repaired. With the completion of the construction of the first line of town walls, the town and castle were merged into one defensive system.
Renovation and modernization of the town walls began almost immediately after the construction of the town walls. The work was undertaken on the initiative and with the support of the kings, and one of the reasons for concern for the town‘s defense was its border location. In the 15th century the most important undertaking was the construction of the outer wall. It was first mentioned in 1444, so it was started before that date. The work probably continued for a long time, and perhaps foreseen in the privilege of 1534, the construction of towers and ramparts was concerned, among others final stages of work on the outer wall. During the modernization work, the defense system was expanded around the town and the defensive walls were repaired; especially after the fighting in 1474 and after the fire in 1529, which consumed the wooden elements of the fortifications. The heavy but unsuccessful siege of Wschowa by Maciej Korwin in 1474 caused damage to the walls and at the same time it was a good test of their efficiency. In 1587 the walls were significantly increased from the south, and in the course of further work the gates were rebuilt. In the eighteenth century, the fortified walls dilapidated, soon after, in 1801 and 1803 both town gates were demolished.


   The walls of Wschowa lay down a form similar to a wheel, somewhat flattened from the north east and south-west, probably for field reasons. The town walls were locked in the castle, so that they moved out into the eastern part of the perimeter, forming a short neck. The area of ​​the town was 5 hectares and the length of the fortification lines was about 950 meters. In the western part of the town, in the immediate vicinity of the fortifications, a parish church was located, whose tower could be considered as a defensive post.
   Defensive walls of Wschowa were mixed stone-brick. Its lower part, up to a height of 2.8 meters, was made of erratic stones joined with lime mortar, above were the bricks laid in the monk bond. From the beginning of its existence, the walls were reinforced with buttresses. The thickness of the wall was 1.6 to 1.9 meters, the height and type of the finish are not known. The latter was probably supplemented by hoarding. The story of 1529 tells of the low turrets that burned down during a town fire. The culmination of the wall had to change during its rise at the end of the sixteenth century. The inner defense wall had no towers. Listed in 1529 bastions probably reinforced the later outer wall, which was probably added shortly before 1444. The outer wall did not form a full ring, but was only added from the most dangerous north-eastern and western side, near the parish church. These sections constituted separate, independent and closed defense points. The external wall had a thickness of about 1.5 – 1.6 meters and the culmination in the form of a crenellation, placed at a height of 6-7 meters. In addition to battlements, it also had shooting holes.
Wschowa had two gates: Polish from the north and Glogowska from the south. Both lay on the main traffic route, which ran through the town, with two arms embracing the market. Głogowska Gate consisted of three parts. The first was a two-storey gatehouse. The ground was covered by a passage, and on the first floor there was a room accessible by an external timber staircase. On the ground floor there was also a guard’s room. The gate was protected and closed with a drawbridge. Next to the gatehouse, a defensive tower stood in the line of the defensive wall. Its form is not sure. Probably on a square base stood a circular part. In the lower storey of the tower was custody, available only from upper floor by a rope or ladder. Above there were two more storeys. The third part of the gateway was the foregate with the front gate standing in the line of the earth ramparts. To this gate led the bridge through the moat.
The layout of the original Polish gate is not known. Probably with it was related a four-sided building with dimensions of 14.5 x 17.5 meters added to the outer side of the defensive wall. In its lower part there were gaps between which the moat was flowing. The height probably did not exceed the height of the wall and was about 9 meters. Bartizan was hung in its corner, and on the inside the stairs lead to the crown of the wall and this building. It burned down in 1529, and probably than the passage of the Polish Gate was shifted further to the east. Its second element was a two-storey gatehouse.
Beside the two gates, Wschowa had wicket gates. The oldest of them probably built in the sixteenth century, the wicket Poland Gate lay in the western part of the circuit behind the parish church and was a fully defensive structure. The brick building of the gate was joined by a neck with a small barbican standing in the line of the earth ramparts. A wooden bridge crossed the moat. Other wicket gates were of late origin and were created during the fall of fortifications. They had the form of ordinary holes pierced in the wall.
The outer part of the fortification belt was made up of a moat and an eart rampart. These devices were probably related with early wood-and-earth fortifications and with defensive walls since the beginning of their existence. The moats were mentioned for the first time in 1409 as old, and the earth ramparts in 1426. The moat was located 2 to 5 meters from the defensive wall line, it was about 11-13 meters wide and 1.3-1.5 meters deep. Its slope was reinforced with wooden piles. It was irrigated, which is confirmed by the regulation of the inflow of water to it, made in 1532. It was during this period that the general expansion of the outer defense zone around the town began. As a result of these works, the following layout arose: behind the wall, the rampart road continued, then the earth shaft ran, followed by a wide moat. The moat was then moved about 20 meters from the main defensive wall and expanded to about 25-50 meters wide. Originally from the east, south and south-west, the town was surrounded by a strip of vast wetlands, while from the north there was a wooded, slightly mountainous area.

Current state

   In Wschowa large parts of the defensive walls were preserved, as they were not planned to be dismantled. In no case did the upper part of the fortifications reach our times. The height of the relics is generally 2-4 meters above the present level of the terrain from the outside.
In the southern part of the perimeter the remains of the walls are stretched several hundred meters from the castle to the parish church. In the western part of the town, behind the parish church, the inner defense wall is not visible. It remains are probably under the plaster of the former jesuit college. In this section there is a fragment of the outer wall. Between parish church and the former gate of Poland, that is in the north-western part of the perimeter, further parts of the inner wall are preserved again over a distance of over 100 m. The preserved tower of the front gate, standing in the line of the outer wall, has been transformed into a belfry of the Evangelical church. In the north-east section, a fragment of a defensive wall, located near the castle, is preserved.

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Drgas J., Fortyfikacje Wschowy w średniowieczu i czasach nowożytnych, Wschowa 2018.
Widawski J., Miejskie mury obronne w państwie polskim do początku XV wieku, Warszawa 1973.