Silesian landscape with a castle in the background. A Wrocław donjon of the prince-crusader

Małgorzata Chorowska, Roland Mruczek



The article is an attempt at outlining the cultural landscape of Silesia in times of breakthrough, in the 2nd and 3rd thirds of the 12th century, which was seen through the prism of studies on the early patronage of the Silesian Piasts. The symbol of deep transformations – apart from colonization and rental economy – became the then brick architecture of Lombard genesis, which north of the Alps was connected with Italian aspirations and the imperial power of the Hohenstaufen’s dynasty (1154–1186).     The purpose of this work is to present the genesis of the innovative brick eighteen-sided donjon of the princely castle in Ostrów Tumski in Wrocław against the background of the journey of Bolesław I the Tall (exile years: 1146–1163) as well as political, economic, and legal transformations which he initiated in Silesia in the first decades of melioratio terrae (rule years: 1163–1201). That time, which was initially dominated by the Piast conflict with magnates and then by the first successful economic and settlement experiments, preceded widely known in source literature huge architectural and urban investments of European momentum undertaken by his son Henry the Bearded (1201–1238). This work is based on archaeological and architectural research results and analyses of the selected existing tower objects, mainly European, as well as on historical sources.     The brick Wrocław donjon is a manifesto of power of Prince Bolesław I the Tall returning from the exile who regained the main gords of the province with difficulty (1163/1166). Similarly to numerous early French and English towers, it was an innovative experimental building but it did not have any direct formal imitations. In the search for its genesis, it is appropriate to refer to Lombard brick models, among which Milan’s defensive walls, which were destroyed after a long siege in the years 1161–1162, can be of great importance. In 1163 Bolesław I the Tall returned to the country from a long exile and initiated a “brick breakthrough” in fragmented Poland. It constituted one of the stages of the great “brick revolution” north of the Alps, which was initiated by the Hohenstaufen’s Italian policy.     Currently, the remaining cross-braced collar beam roof structures over both arms of the transept and chancel of the cathedral in Kamień Pomorski are included in the architectural research. A wider study on this type of mediaeval roof structures, and attempts to compare the roof structures of the Kamień Pomorski cathedral against a broader background are desirable in the future.

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