History of the Nysa fortifications. PDF Print E-mail

>> Nysa Stronghold history timeline 

Since the dawning of ages travel routes crossed Nysa, which supported the settlement’s development. In order to project it from frequent pillages, Nysa, like many medieval towns, was surrounded by walls with towers and turrets. A woodcut from the year 1493 AD shows their outlook. As war technology evolved, defensive systems of the town were modernized.


The first modern fortifications in Nysa were built in 1594 AD, designed by Johannes Schneider of Lindau, from the inspiration of bishop Andreas von Jerin. These fortifications were soon thereafter rebuilt according to Dutch and new Italian school principles, emphasizing wing defence. New fortifications were built, and the number of ramparts was increased. The settlement was surrounded by 10 ramparts, 4 ravelins and a moat with water.

A hidden road spanned all the ramparts. The repeatedly modernised St. Hedwig’s Rampart on Piastowska Street survived to this day.


The year 1741 was decisive for Nysa’s fortifications. At that time during the war between Austria and Prussia, the Prussian king Friedrich II captured the city. According to the ensuing peace treaty, Silesia, and with it Nysa, came under Prussian reign. Friedrich II, acknowledging the Nysa’s strategic placement and existing fortifications, decided to turn it into a citadel. On his commission the Dutch engineer Gen Cornelius von Walrawe rebuilt the fortifications surrounding the city, called the Lower Ramparts. Simultaneously, the Upper Forts were built on the opposite riverbank. A new town, Friedrichsstadt, was thusly erected. It was a barracks, a military camp (today it’s one of Nysa’s districts – Radoszyn). On both bank redoubts were built – Cardinal’s and Capuchin.


The new stronghold was a fortified camp defending the borders of the newly acquired Silesian province on the eastern section of Sudety Mountains, almost from Moravian Gate to Golden Mountains. Fort Prussia was also built at that time, along with lines of ramparts, called Jerusalem Ramparts coming out radially towards the river. Apart from that, a dry moat ran almost all the way to the railway tracks (Grodkowska Street); it was called the Upper Ramparts. Architectural solutions used in these fortifications were very modern for their times. In case the enemy captured the city, there was a possibility of flooding it. Modernisation of the fortifications was furthered by von Walrawe’s successors until XIX century.


Nysa was considered one of the strongest and most up-to-date strongholds of contemporary Europe. This opinion was confirmed when in 1807 AD Napoleon’s army laid siege to it for 114 days, constantly firing at Nysa with heavy artillery. Its firepower was so great, that only five houses survived in the town. Nysa was eventually forced to surrender because of ammunition and food shortage. A memento of the siege is a cast iron ball fixed in the Town Scales House. The evolution of warfare and development of screwed-barrel cannons in the XIX century caused a decline in the importance of fortifications. The year 1871 marked the beginning of their gradual removal. In 1903 Nysa officially ceased being a stronghold. Fortress elements frequently served as prisons or prison camps. Marquis de La Fayette, a politician in the French Revolution, on of the authors of Human and Citizen Rights Declaration, was held here. In 1916, during the World War I, Charles de Gaulle, the future president of France was held here. Soldiers of the III Silesian Insurrection were detained in the now-inexistent Earth Fort on Paderewski Square. Today an obelisk stands there, commemorating these events. During World War II a branch of the Gross Rosen concentration camp was placed in Nysa, and the city was once again declared a stronghold. To this day roughly 60% of old fortifications survived, placed on 230 hectares of terrain.


During almost 150 years of the stronghold’s enlargement there have been a few periods of intensive works:

1740-56 Building of upper and expansion of lower fortifications

1767-91 Addition of side wings to the upper fortifications

1809-12 and 1839-49 Minor enhancements and enlargement

1865-88 Modernisation of ramparts and building of forts on the foreground


Builders of many nations participated in the design and enlargement of the stronghold, including such names as:

- Cornelius von Walrawe

- Rothengatter

- von Wrede

- Lefevre

- von Castillion

- Freud

- von Harroy


From the point of view of spatial development of the stronghold, after its state in 1741, we can distinguish two stages:

- Extension and rebuilding of the city ramparts on the right bank and fortification of the Radoszyn suburb on the left bank with Fort Prussia and Capuchin and Jerusalem Ramparts.

- Fortification of the hills on the left bank and on the left and right wings of Prussia fort and the fortification of Zawodzie suburb.


According to Friedrich the Second’s concept the stronghold was meant to be a “fortified camp”. This idea predated by a few dozen years the visions of Montelembert and Rogniat.

This concept found use in other Silesian strongholds guarding the border along the Sudety mountain range and mountain passes at Klodzko and Swidnica, and also – to a certain degree – in the typical mountain stronghold at Silver Mountain.

In Nysa, apart from the weapon factories in the main town, the garrison house and rally point were placed in the Radoszyn suburb, along with barracks and storehouses, and Zawodzie suburb with wide camp and training fields.

In its last stage of development, the fortress took a wide area serviced by railway running through the inner stronghold.

The parts of the stronghold that remains represent various types of fortifications on mountainous, plain and flooded terrain from XVIII and XIX century rich in historical, didactic and landscape value.






Building of first modern-times fortifications designed by Johannes Schneider of Lindau 

1618 - 1648

The Thirty Years’ War 


Capture and pillaging of the city by margrave von Jagerndorf 


Saxon elector Johannes Georg I Wetting takes the city 


Rebuilding of fortifications according to the Dutch and new Italian schools


Rebuilding of St. Hedwig’s Bastion


Building of upper and enlargement of lower ramparts


Prussian king Friedrich I takes the city


Commencing of stronghold construction according to a design by Dutch engineer Cornelius von Walrawe. Building of Capuchin Redoubt, Cardinal’s Redoubt, Fort Prussia and Water Fort


Erection of inner Jerusalem Ramparts. Rebuilding of St. Hedwig’s Bastion


Building of Ixodic Counterguards 


Rebuilding of Water


Siege by Austrian army. Building of High Battery


Building of outer Jerusalem Ramparts designed by Lefevre and Castillon


Modernisation of Fort Prussia, including expansion of anti-mine tunnels and erection of three outer shooting positions


Building of High Ramparts


Napoleonic Wars, siege and bombardment of the city by wirtembergian units ended in surrender of Nysa


Minor enhancements and rebuilding of fortifications


Building of New Shooting Stand


Modernizing of the High Ramparts


Building of temporary Fort I and II


Modernisation of ramparts, erection of a fort on the foreground


Building of temporary Fort III


Rebuilding of temporary Forts I, II and III as permanent


building of Railway Ramparts


Building of Low Battery


Rebuilding of Water Fort. At that time it was given its square shape (with the back remaining open) and surrounded by earth ramparts


Enlargement and reinforcement of Fort III


Nysa officially ceases to be a stronghold. Fortress elements are used mostly as prisons and storehouses.


Building of Officers’ Casino in the corner of Capuchin Redoubt


Water Fort becomes an ammunition storehouse


Fort Prussia becomes a military equipment storehouse


World War I. Fortress elements served mostly as prison and prison camp. Participants in the IIIrd Silesian Insurrection were held in the now inexistent Earth Fort on Paderewski Street.


Railway Ramparts turned into a park, casemates into storages


Demolishing of part of the inner Jerusalem Ramparts


Forts I, II and III turned into weapon and ammunition storages


The II World War. A branch of the Gross Rosen concentration camp operated in Nysa, the city was once again declared a stronghold


Capturing of Nysa by soviet army

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