Średniowieczne kamienne wieże ziemi chełmskiej
Medieval stone towers of the Chełm Land
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Remains of three medieval stone towers are curiosities of the Chełm Land. They are located on the Cathedral Hill in Chełm, in Chełm-Bieławin and in Stołpie. The latter is the only one which has survived throughout the centuries in its almost original form. In contrast, the tower from Bieławin has been almost completely destroyed. And the remains of the tower (or towers) from the Cathedral Hill in Chełm are hidden among ruins of the presently excavated residence complex of King Daniel of Galicia from the 13th century. The stone tower in Stołpie is located less than 8 kilometres west of Chełm. Although archaeological excavations of the tower were initiated over 100 years ago, it has been permanently an object of interest. Excavations which took place in the years 2003–2005 revealed that the tower together with an accompanying embankment were situated inside a denudation niche with numerous springs. Their intensity of water flow is still significant (fig. 1). The tower measures 6.33 x 5.74 metres, is maximally 18.8 metres in preserved height and its interior is diverse in shape. The lower part of the interior (the filled-in storey) resembles the form of a polygon which turns into a cylindrical shape above the ground level and into an octagon on the top storey (fig. 2). Depending on the storeys, the thickness of the walls varies between 1.3 to 1.9 metres. The tower is part of a larger (two-part) building complex, and the second part is hidden under the earthen embankment adjacent to the tower. A rectangular stone platform measuring 12.5 x 15.4 metres has been identified there, which rises to a height of approximately 2.5 metres above the ground level. The tower stands obliquely in the south-east corner of the platform (fig. 3). The area of the courtyard was lined with stone slabs, some of which are still visible in situ. A wooden buildings partially protruding outside the stone platform stood on the edges of the stone structure. The entrance to the courtyard was situated in the north-east part of the embankment. Excavations have shown that the tower created a harmonious whole with the stone rectangular platform and they both were part of the same building program (fig. 4). Four kilometres further east, in Chełm-Bieławin, relics of another stone tower are visible in the Uherka River valley (fig. 10). It was built on a sandbank, far from modern urban development. The tower had been situated on the area of older settlement from the first centuries of our era and from the early Middle Ages, especially from the 9th and 10th centuries. The remains of the tower from Bieławin are visible today in the form of rectangular contour reconstructed to a high of 2 metres above the ground level, made of sandstone boulders (cf. fig. 8). But even in the 2nd half of the 19th century the rectangular outline of its western wall, indicating at least a four-storey building, was visible on the Uherka River's floodplain. A semicircular outline of an arched vault had been visible on the last but one storey then (fig. 9). The tower's external dimensions were 11.40 x 11.80 metres, the thickness of the walls ranged from 1.60 to 1.75 metres. It was therefore twice as big as the tower from Stołpie. In contrast to the latter, the interior's outline of the tower from Bieławin was rectangular. The height of the tower would reach more than 16 metres (Rappoport 1952, 205). It was built of basal chalks, green glauconites (used mainly as frames of window and door openings) and Tertiary shell conglomerates. These are broken stones of irregular shapes, but some of them are also sorted and intentionally worked. Bricks with finger marks and glazed ceramic tiles were used to decorate the interior (Ruszkowska 1990). Three kilometres further, in the centre of the modern city, there are relics of next towers (cf. Buko 2005). Excavations from previous years and the verification excavations from the years 2010-2012 revealed a stone tower. It was a rectangular outline of a stone building with dimensions of 12 x 12 metres (Zin, Grabski 1967, 727), which was built in walls of a palace building (cf. fig. 13). The southern wall with a length of 11.05 metres in the SW-SE axis was revealed in whole. Fragments of the western and eastern walls with a length of circa 2.3 metres have been also excavated. The rest of the building still lies beneath the mound. It was established that the width of the wall varies from 1.5 to 1.7 metres depending on the size of the used stones, but mainly is 1.6 metres. Faces of the wall were exposed to a depth of 60-80 centimetres, and in archaeological excavations to a depth of about 1 metre. The wall was built of flat, grey Tertiary sandstones. The wall faces were made of equal, flat stones connected to each other at a width of 30-40 centimetres and bonded with white lime mortar. The large number of green glauconite sandstones, bricks and glazed ceramic tiles were used. In the absence of relevant stratification evidences, it can only be presumed that after the fire in 1257 the construction of additional chalky band was completed. At the same time there had been a change in the structure of the tower. The problem of dating of the aforementioned buildings is a key issue. In the case of the tower from Stołpie, it was built probably before the end of the 12th century and it functioned at the latest to the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries or to the beginning of the 14th century. Sacred character of the tower is clearly marked. It is expressed by characteristic location near water springs and interior design of the tower as well as by the chapel placed on the top floor.(Buko 2009: 116 and next; see further bibliography there). It remains to be determined for whom the alleged monastery tower was built. The idea of monastery towers was widespread in the Mediterranean region, especially in its eastern part, where similar buildings had a long tradition from the early Christian period (the hermitic idea) until the end of the Middle Ages. From there, the idea of similar structures radiated to other areas, including Italy, Bulgaria and Ruthenia. Strong relationships of rulers of Galicia with the court of the Polish Piasts, the Hungarian court and the Byzantine Empire could result in building initiatives coming from different cultural backgrounds. Many evidences indicate that the idea of a private ducal foundation – associated with the Romanovich dynasty – in this case is highly probable. The tower from Stołpie distinctly differs from the other two towers in terms of form, chronology and its attributed function. On the other hand, there are many similarities between the other two towers. Their plans are similar – the rectangular outlines with similar length and width of the walls. And yet both towers had different context and relation to the immediate environment. Speaking about the building from Bieławin, it is a detached tower standing on one of many sandbanks of the Garka River's valley. The case of the tower from Chełm is different. It was built on the top of the northern walls of the King Daniel's palace, so it was partly built in older residential buildings (cf. fig. 13, 14). The question is whether these towers were built at the same time or in a specific chronological sequence, and what function should be assigned to them. In the light of the research to date, the tower from Stołpie seems to be the oldest building, which could be built as early as in the time of Duke Roman (the end of the 12th century). Later, in the 13th century, it could be rebuilt and fulfil the role of a private religious place for someone of noble birth. There are definitely fewer arguments to determine the chronological sequence of the other two towers from Chełm. It appears nevertheless that the tower from the Cathedral Hill in Chełm could be built earlier, for the reason that only in the late 1230s large building investments were initiated in the city by Duke Daniel. The chronology of the tower from Bieławin is probably within the same chronological horizon. At the current status of research, there are no tangible arguments to undermine this thesis. However, it is difficult to determine whether the tower from Bieławin was built during the life of Daniel, or after his death. Regardless of further answers to these and many other questions, it is already clear that this is an architectural complex of at least three stone towers from the 13th century, which is a cultural and architectural phenomenon in this part of Europe. While it is easiest to attribute a symbolic significance, related to the sacred sphere, to the tower from Stołpie, the tower from the Cathedral Hill in Chełm was primarily a manifestation of the ducal rule. Such purpose of the tower had appeared on pages of the chronicle of Galicia-Volhynia. And the third tower, located almost midway between Chełm and Stołpie, had probably a military significance
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