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The Middle Ages (1291-1500)

Long, long time ago … that is how our story about the history of the Town Hall Tower could begin. The beginnings of our Town Hall Tower as well as our town can be associated with remote times of the 13th century. However, information from this period referring to the oldest buildings of Świdnica are extremely insufficient and uncertain. There are not plenty of written sources preserved and if any – they are brief and do not satisfy our curiosity and intentions to recognize.We are forced to base our knowledge about the oldest times of the Town Hall Tower on archaeological researches comparable to other premises of such type which are similar to medieval municipal building industry in Lower Silesia.

We can start our story from 1291 from which the first mention of the bricked Merchant's House come from situated in the middle of Market Square where the commercial life was gathered and which before the erection of the proper Town Hall Tower performed official functions. In spite of popular beliefs the Merchant's House with several commercial rooms, located at each sides of broad passage in the central part of Mid-Market block, wasn't the first bricked house in the Market Square. As proved by researches conducted in the last years the first building of such type in the Market Square was the Town Hall Tower. It was placed in the central part of the later Mid-Market block, close to broad passage on east-west axis and above perpendicular pasage north-south which led through the gate in the ground floor of the tower. It is very probable that the tower was the first of the premises which included commercial rooms, somehow pasted up from east and west side to the tower and forming the above-mentioned Merchant's House. Probably also the tower and the Merchant's House originated in the place of old wooden premises – chambers of drapers halls – it can easily be concluded from the preserved document of the Wrocław duke Henryk IV of 1285.

The building of bricked tower and short afterwards the remaining bricked premises in the central point of the town confirms the energetic development not only for Świdnica's commerce but also for the needs of the middle class growing rich. Not only practical functions of the tower should be taken into consideration. It was possible to hold in one's gaze the entire town and its closest neighbouring area in order to guard the town concurrently warning against military dangers or even fires. It was also the position finding point for merchants and travellers coming to Świdnica. The building was also performing representative functions concurrently being the evidence of the wealth of its residents and independence of rural self-government.

How did the first Town Hall Tower look like? This can only be guessed. The structure (its section being 7,5 x 7,5 m was seated on foundations made of granite block of stones, joined with limestone mortar). However, nobody knows what the height of the walls was. The tower was decidedly lower from the one which older generations of residents could remember from before the times when it collapsed in 1967. It is not even certain whether it was made as bricked from the very beginning or whether the upper parts covered with simple hip roof were made initially in shingle technology. Due to the fact that the entire ground floor was occupied with the entrance in the Mid-Market block on north-south axis the entrance to the tower was probably situated on the ground floor and a wooden porch led to it. Further vertical communication was led in the tower's interior.

A half century passed. This is a long period and despite the fact that in written sources no information on the Town Hall Tower was preserved, it is certain that together with the town it shared its fortune. At that time it was certainly subject to various – smaller or bigger – reconstructions caused by destructions which could result from successive great fires of the town, for example the one of 1313 when only one parish church was supposed to survive.

The Town Hall Tower could be heard of in1336. In the statute of stall-keepers from Świdnica there is the information that manufacturers of money-bags, belts, etc. can sell their goods „undir deme turme” which means „under the tower”. However, it was not long that the residents of Świdnica enjoyed the tower. An extremely unlucky period came in and it lasted 100 years. Chronicles in which notes from that period survived are not consistent with dates and it is not known when the first tower was destroyed. The span of dates is thirty years and each of the three information refers to the fire that broke out in the building. The tower was supposed to be burnt down during the fires of 1361, 1389 or 1393. The chroniclers' mistakes may be explained by the fact that the two last fires were written under the same date on the day of the St. Bartholomew's (24th August) which seems to be a great coincidence. Anyway, at the latest in 1393 the residents of Świdnica lost the „pride”of their town. While despairing about a great natural disaster the townspeople in the earliest possible time started to restore the tower. Then they probably built another storey in the shape of octogon and embellished it with eight gilded figures of the rulers of Świdnica-Jawor Duchy, Czech kings and emperors from Luxembourg. Nevertheless, the curse of fiery cockerel seemed to prevail over the town as successive big fires devastating the town of Świdnica in 1406 and 1420 certainly impeded the process of renovation. Probably as early as in 1405 historical sources give the information on the tower's reconstruction for the first time providing detailed description on its outlook. The tower almost doubled its height reaching certainly approximately 40 m, as on its square shaft subsequent storeys in the shape of octogon were erected covered with equilateral roof with copper covering coated with lead. In the upper part of the tower beautiful sculptured balustrade was installed and in the lower part – a clock. An idea of how new elements of decor of the entire tower could look like gives us the appearance of almost twin tower in Jawor, where figures on the tower can still be seen until today. As far as concerns the clock it was not the first, as with the information referring to the burning of the tower in 1393 the chronicler inserted the information on the destruction of the clock „which nobody in the entire country owned”. This can become the evidence of the fact that as early as in the 14th century the tower could have the superstructure in the shape of octogon but it was not as impressive as the one of 1450.

 

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