::           Opening The Town Hall Tower 17.11.2012          

Modern Times (1500-1945)

Irrespective of what kind of line of time division will be adopted with reference to historical stages, the residents of Świdnica entered the Modern Times with beautiful Town Hall Tower which they were proud of and which certainly aroused genuine visitors' admiration.

It still performed a significant function in the life of the town concurrently being one of the most representative buildings. Unfortunately, the fate hanging over the town could once again be heard of. Nevertheless, it occurred not before 108 years from the last destruction of the tower. Let's focus on Kapturowa Street (today Franciszkańska Street) for a while.

It is certainly warm the 9th May 1528. The town vibrant with life is spread with a piece of news that a fire broke out in the tailor's workshop, Wolfgang Mose. The fire rapidly spread on wooden shingles on roofs and is still consuming for the most part the wooden part of the town centre. After four hours the entire town centre is burning, together with the Ducal Castle, the Town Hall and the Tower. As old chronicles inform the last one was burnt as a result of heat which the fire caused. Equilateral finial of the tower and chiming clock were destroyed. The figures of the rulers placed on the tower were destroyed as well and its interior was burnt down. Due to the fact that the great fire destroyed considerable part of the town it was after 20 years that the municipal councillors could think of the reconstruction of the Town Hall Tower. The reconstruction in question was so significant that for the first time the top of the tower was supposed to be embellished with cupola with two gaps, resembling the cupola of the tower in Lubań the shape of which was similar to the one that was placed on the tower in Świdnica before its collapse. In 1548 the walls of the tower were repaired, figures of dukes and kings which survived the fire were placed on the tower and the spire with the sphere were seated on the copper-covered cupola painted green.

The last feature of the reconstruction of the tower was the assembly of a new clock with 24-hour dial 7 years later. It worked relatively short, only until 1593, when it was changed into a clock with more comfortable 12-hour dial. On the occasion of this reconstruction the chroniclers for the first time noted down the names of builders engaged in the entire reconstruction process. As we can call it today the function of „building site manager” was performed by Peter Seliger, „wealthy in talents”, carpenter from Jawor whom his son (whose name is unknown) helped. Inside the tower the walls were covered with new paintings by two painters from Świdnica – brothers Eustachius and Pantaleon Beuchel. In such a form the tower survived 168 years, until 1716. Only from time to time chroniclers informed about its small destructions caused for the most part by weather conditions which however was still in everyday use. The Town Hall Tower successfully survived, among others, the period of the the Thirty Years' War (1618-1848) which ruined Świdnica and stopped its development for longer.

Dear Reader! If you think that the building so many times consumed by fires was finally forgotten by fiery cockerel you are not right. Let's set off further in our journey through centuries and let's transport in time, 168 years before, to Świdnica to 1716. Despite the fact that since 1601 Świdnica had been equipped with a wooden water-pipe and the majority of buildings were built of brick and stone as well as covered with roofing tiles instead of wooden shingles, the danger of fire on large scale was equally real as in the Middle Ages. On the 12th September the residents of Świdnica became painfully convinced of this when again, seemingly harmless fire broke out in the inn „Pod Czarnym Krukiem” located just behing Strzegomska Gate (the surrounding areas of Komunardów and Muzealna Streets today). Probably it would be possible to nip the element in the bud if – as chroniclers inform – it wasn't for the strong wind which was blowing on this day. It caused that the fire spread rapidly on the neighbouring buildings in such a way that after a short time the entire town centre was burning. All in all the fire consumed 165 buildings, including the Town Hall Tower which according to the then annalistic note was destroyed „up to the walls”. Nobody knows whether the figures of rulers placed on the tower were destroyed as well. Four figures resembling the previous ones were later placed on the top of facade of the west block of the Town Hall where they have been looking at the town until today. The remaining ones were still probably placed on the tower as they can be seen on the drawings from the 18th century. However, this time the authorities of Świdnica almost immediately started to reconstruct the tower which was renovated during scarcely half a year! The works supervised by the master of carpentry, Fendler, were started in April and finished in October 1717 when a clock - delivered by a clockmaker from Kłodzko, Faulhaber – started to measure time again. The works performed turned out to be the 18th century's … botch up as far as concerns at least the covering of roof as announced by Dobrauschke, a coppersmith. Already in 1733 the leaking roof covering made of copper was supposed to be changed, alongside with rotten timbers of cupola structure. This time the carpentry works were conducted by Michael Seeger, the guild's master from Świdnica, the copper covering was made by carpenters Gottfried Weiß and Georg Rüffer and it was Johann Maisel who seated the cupola on the spire.

At the very beginning of our journey in time, while discovering the beginnings of the Town Hall Tower, we mentioned numerous functions it performed. The half of the 18th century particularly emphasized another one – a military function. Dear Reader! The building in the town centre with no connection with external defence system was its specific element. It was the next, after the tower of parish church, vantage point from which it was possible to control the moving of hostile armies in the distance of a lot of kilometers from the walls of the town. It was probably this function that became the cause of the next destruction. After almost 100 years, when since the completion of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) Świdnica enjoyed peace, year 1757 came. Prussia and Austria fought against each other for Silesia – called by descendants as the Seven Years' War. On the 26th September from municipal towers the Austrian armies approaching the town (which on the 13th October started to siege the town) were watched from several sides. The Austrians, after the prior short fire at the parish church the cupola of which was destroyed, at the beginning of November started to fire at the Town Hall Tower systematically. Chroniclers give various dates when the tower in question was destroyed. The Austrian incendiary bullet hit the cupola of the tower on the 8th November (around 10 a.m.) or the 9th November (around 7 a.m.). Almost immediately the tower burnt up to the height of the clock.

The actions leading towards the reconstruction of the tower were immediately undertaken after signing the peace treaty in 1763. The works lasted two years and were supervised by Kube, master of bricklaying and Richter, municipal architect. The clock was repaired by Krause, a clockmaker and it was Johann Gescheidt from Legnica who moulded the bells. The works were completed in April 1765 and the tower almost resembled the tower which survived until it collapsed in 1967.

As a matter of fact our journey through ages of the history of the tower could at this moment accelerate considerably. Disaster passed over the Town Hall Tower through the next 202 years. In this period it was repeatedly subject to small-scale renovations and repairs – for example in 1822 plastering works were carried out but they didn't significantly change its outlook. The spire of the cupola was repaired not to mention the fact that window and door frames were replaced several times as well. Basically, the tower itself was used exclusively as a vantage point and some kind of informative element. On numerous occasions, as the preserved photographs show, it was decorated with wreaths and flags. When the tower was equipped with electricity loudspeakers were installed also used for various presentations of music, speeches, etc. Among all its fuctions it has performed for ages it is still the role of dominant feature of the town (proving its wealthy history) to be played.

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