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Seminar on medieval castles of South-Eastern Poland


In the next monthly seminar of the CMS, Dr Michał Wojenka from the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, will present a paper entitled "Castles in South-Eastern Poland in the Middle Ages (13th–beginning of 16th Century)". The seminar will be held in auditorium 307 of the Tallinn University Institute of History (Rüütli St 10) on Wednesday, May 9 at 16.15.

The beginning of the late medieval period (in Polish conditions from mid 13th c.) brings important changes in defensive structures of South-Eastern Poland or "Little Poland". Since 1252 the erection of fortifications was no longer an exclusive privilege of the head of state, but they could also be raised by the nobility or clergy.

Until the late 13th century the typical model of defensive architecture in Little Poland was wooden-ground stronghold. The first stone elements (excluding the royal castle of Krakow) – cylindrical towers – appear in the late 13th–beginning of 14th c. The oldest stone fortifications are known from the so-called Pieniny Castle in Krościenko nad Dunajcem, archaeologically dated to the 2nd half of 13th c. Since the beginning of 14th c. stone castles are more frequent, but during the whole post-medieval period wooden-ground fortifications are also observed.

Due to political conditions, the 14th century became the heyday of castles in Poland. During the reign of king Casimir the Great (1333–1370) a lot of them were erected or rebuilt (e.g.Ojców, Lanckorona, Bobolice, Ogrodzieniec, Rabsztyn). The end of 14th and the whole of 15th c. resulted in smaller amount of castles, but many were renewed.

Most of the castles known from South-Eastern Poland were founded on elevated topographical forms, using its natural defense. Some of them consist of two or more parts (e.g. Ogrodzieniec, Olsztyn, Będzin, Smoleń).

Medieval castles of Little Poland can be divided into three groups according to ownership structure – state-owned castles (e.g. Kraków or Ojców), castles of nobility (e.g. Korzkiew, Biały Kościół) and foundations of bishops (e.g. Sławków, Lipowiec).