For the first time Levoča was mentioned in the documents in 1249, although the oldest traces of settlement on the place of a later town, archaeological research dates back to the 11th century. In the middle of the 13th century, Levoča had fortifications consisting of a wooden palisade. The stone defensive walls were built in the second half of this century, probably after the Mongol invasion of 1241-42. Most of the outline was completed in the next century, perhaps already around 1310. Over time, the defense system was modified in various ways, and the last reconstructions took place at the beginning of the sixteenth century, when artillery was already widely used.
As in other towns, all citizens were obliged to defend and maintenance them. Particular sections of the walls and towers were separated between craft guilds, which had the obligation to keep adequate stock of weapons, gunpowder and bullets.
Due to the long-lasting siege of the town by the imperial troops during the uprising of Francis Rakoczi in 1710, the fortifications were in poor condition. Because of the impoverishment of the city, their renovation significantly extended over time, still in 1728 they were not completely covered with shingle. During the 18th century, however, the defensive walls have lost their usefulness. That is why in 1803 the Viennese Court Chamber allowed the sale of some fortifications. Towers were intended for residential purposes, while the grounds of the former moat were turned into vegetable gardens and orchards.
The defensive walls were about 2,5 km long and surrounded the entire town of that time. The thickness of the defensive wall was up to 2 meters. The height of the main wall was 6-8 meters, and the lower external wall was 3-3,5 meters. Between them was wide 4,5 – 6 meters zwinger. The whole was surrounded by a 13-15 meters wide moat, which could be filled with water from the Levoča Stream.
In the course of the fortifications, there were originally 13 towers, named depending on their location or specific features (Hrubá vež, Klášterní vež, Putscherova vež, Sedmá vež, Spálená vež, vež Ostrý kút and others). With time, their number was increased to 15. The oldest towers came from the 14th century and were then open from the inside (so-called half towers).
Originally, the town had only two gates: Upper or Košice Gate from the north-east and Lower, or Polish Gate from the west. Next to the Polish Gate there was a four-sided tower of the monastery church, which gateway passage provided communication along the underwall street, and at the same time constituted the entrance to the economic part of the monastery. In the south-east part of the circuit the third gate – Menhard Gate – was built a little later. However, it was seriously damaged during the great fire of the town in 1599 and already in 1603 it was closed. It was replaced by the south gate that has not been preserved until today.
Up to now, about 80% of the town’s defensive walls have been preserved. Missing fragments, lengths less than 500 meters, are located in the southern part of their perimeter. Some fragments of existing walls have been reconstructed, the rest has been renovated since 1996 and protected from degradation. 6 towers, including Merchant Tower, Powder Tower and two city gates, have survived to this day. The defensive walls in Levoča are one of the best preserved old defense systems in Slovakia.
Sypek A., Sypek.R., Zamki i obiekty warowne Słowacji Wschodniej, Warszawa 2005.
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