Klodzko Fortress

Kłodzko, Poland

Kłodzko Fortress is a unique fortification complex of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship in southwestern Poland. The fortress once was one of the biggest strongholds in Prussian Silesia, however, in the whole German Empire, it was regarded as a minor one. Now, together with an extensive network of tunnels, it is one of the biggest attractions of the town of Kłodzko, with its underground labyrinth and a repository of different objects, from old fire engines to local glassware.

A stronghold on Kłodzko's Castle Hill was mentioned for the first time in the Chronicle of Bohemians. Most probably, it was a complex of wooden buildings, protected with a palisade. Kłodzko itself is located along the strategic route between Wrocław and Prague, and its role as a trading point must have been significant since the early Middle Ages. In 1114, the stronghold was captured and destroyed by Czech troops under prince Soběslav, who at the same time reconquered the whole area.

In 1129, Soběslav rebuilt the town and placed a castellan there. Some time around 1300, a spacious castle was built on the hill, which became seat of the Kłodzko County. Gradually, the castle grew, a church and a chapel were added and in 1557, Lorenz Krischke, architect at the court of Prince Ernest of Bavaria, built the Lower Castle. In the 16th century, there were five wells in the castle with the oldest one from 1393.

In 1622, during the Thirty Years' War, after the long siege, the fortress was captured by the Austrian Army. The city was besieged in June of that year, but for a long time resisted the attackers. Finally, the Austrians brought in two large cannons to fire upon the walls of Kłodzko and the city surrendered on October 25. In subsequent years the Austrians modernized the fortress and replaced ancient fortifications with up-to-date bastions.

In 1742, during the War of the Austrian Succession the city together with its stronghold was conquered by Prussia under Frederick II. The city itself surrendered on January 14, but the fortress, with 2000 soldiers, held out until April 25, when starvation made further resistance impossible. Out of the initial Austrian garrison of 2000, only 200 survived, 'pale as shadows'. The Prussians expanded the fortress, making it a defensive one. Major works continued during the Silesian Wars, until 1770, however, the fortress was not fully completed 200 years after the Austrians began to modernize it.

In the 19th century, the stronghold, which in 1807 was captured by the French Army supported by Bavarian troops became a prison. Interestingly enough, in early 19th century, due to economic depression, prisoners’ earnings in Glatz were so low that the administration would send a prisoner every Saturday to beg for help in the city. Among prisoners there, was a British Army captain Bertrand Stewart, who in 1911 was accused of espionage and released in 1913. During World War II, the stronghold was not only a prisoner-of-war camp, but a sub-camp of the Gross-Rosen concentration camp.

In 1945, the stronghold together with the city became part of Poland. The Kłodzko Fortress, its current name, looks like it did 200 years ago with little changes, and it is one of the main tourist attractions of the city. From its top, there is a magnificent view of the Kłodzko Valley. It is also possible to visit the cellars, with an impressive labyrinth of the underground corridors, excavated in the 19th century by prisoners of war.

The stronghold’s complex covers the area of 17 hectares. Its lower walls are 11 meters thick, and the upper walls are around four meters. According to some sources, it is the largest and the best preserved fortress of its kind in Poland.

References:

Comments

Your name



Details

Founded: c. 1300
Category: Castles and fortifications in Poland

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Pavel Sklenar (2 years ago)
Very beautiful fortress. Beautifully decorated inside. Surroundings of the fortress dirty, shards and rubbish everywhere. A little mess. But the fortress is really nice and clean. A lot of work done. Thank you.
Raymond Ford (2 years ago)
Needs a little work but reviewing the wikipedia info before hand was useful. If you have weak ankles or legs be aware of uneven paths.
Vojtěch ŠAMAJ (2 years ago)
regular price, nice 360° top view to city
Jan Vlk (2 years ago)
Breathtaking, specially when you see the size of this fortification and if you imagine the life in the fortress in late 18th century.
anirudh srinivas (2 years ago)
Historic place, well maintained. Good for a visit with families..
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.

Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.

When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.

Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.

Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.

In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.

The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.

Architecture

The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.

In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.

The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.

In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.

The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.

Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.