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Medieval Tunnel Found Under Poland’s Famous Ducal Castle In Szczecin

Medieval Tunnel Found Under Poland’s Famous Ducal Castle In Szczecin

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According to The First News, researchers have discovered a secret tunnel underneath the Ducal Castle in Szczecin, Poland. The researchers made this discovery after exploring Nazi-era passages built during WWII. The scientists have analyzed elements of the tunnel and concluded that it is from medieval times. According to the director of Ducal Castle, Barbara Igielska, the brick-and-mortar materials used to make this ancient tunnel are indeed from the medieval period.

The recently discovered tunnel beneath Ducal Castle has two sections, a brick-and-mortar section and a reinforced concrete section, both of which date from different eras. Researchers found the tunnel section in good shape, but since the tunnel entrance hasn’t been open for centuries, humidity may affect the tunnel’s strength and safety. The brick tunnel section serves as a runoff channel for groundwater. This runoff makes it even more critical for experts to ensure the safety of the underground structure for the protection of future tourists and to maintain the structural integrity of the castle above the tunnel.

The medieval brick and mortar section of the tunnel beneath Ducal Castle. (Zamek Książąt Pomorskich w Szczecinie)

The Long And Illustrious History Of Ducal Castle

Ducal Castle was built in 1346 AD. The structure was burned in a fire in 1551 but was rebuilt on the order of Prince John Frederick in the 16 th century. The air raids of World War II destroyed most of the castle again, but it was rebuilt after the war between 1958 and 1980. Despite the destruction done to the castle over the centuries, the elaborate tunnel system is in good condition except for a few sinkholes.

Historians aren't sure why people during medieval times used the tunnel, but they believe that the Nazis may have used it for shelter and storage.

From 1121 to 1637, the Griffin dynasty ruled the Duchy of Pomerania from Ducal Castle. They erected several castles, but Ducal Castle was the most important among them.

Ducal Castle was constructed under Barnim III, Duke of Pomerania, in 1345, who ruled Pomerania-Stettin from 1344-1368. He co-ruled the Duchy with his father, Duke Otto I, until 1344, when his father passed.

Then Barnim III became the sole leader and during his reign he aimed to make the duchy independent of Brandenburg, Germany. In 1348 he achieved his goal with the help of Charles IV of Luxembourg. This alliance strengthened the political position of the duchy but created additional conflict with Brandenburg.

In commemoration of Barnim III’s deeds, Barnim IX had a limestone plaque made in 1543, which now hangs on the wall of the northern wing of the restored Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle (also located in Szczecin, Poland).

The reinforced concrete section of the Ducal Castle tunnel, which dates from WWII. (Zamek Książąt Pomorskich w Szczecinie)

The reinforced concrete section of the Ducal Castle tunnel, which dates from WWII. (Zamek Książąt Pomorskich w Szczecinie)

Other Famous And Powerful Residents Of Ducal Castle

The Griffin dynasty controlled Ducal Castle until the 17th century. However, they weren't the castle's only tenants. The Swedish governor resided in Ducal Castle, as part of the conditions set by the Peace of Westphalia.

Countess Catherine Opalinska, Queen of Poland, also lived in the castle with her daughters between 1705 and 1711. Stanisław Leszczyński, king of Poland, joined them briefly in 1711.

In 1720, under the Treaty of Stockholm, Ducal Castle became Prussian property. Many changes to the castle took place under Prussian rule, which lasted from 1720 until 1945. In particular, they removed most of the Gothic and Renaissance elements. For instance, the building was made higher by removing the Gothic attics and removing the mansard roof. A fence replaced the old gateway to the Great Courtyard with panoplies carved by Silesian sculptor Erhard Löffler. The castle served as a residence to numerous Prussian and German emperors during this time.

Today, the castle serves as a cultural facility consisting of a concert hall, theatre, opera, cabaret, and modern cinema.

Ducal Castle is one of Poland’s most significant historical buildings. The tunnel underneath the castle will become more important as researchers learn more about what it was used for.

So much needs to be learned about this tunnel. What was its purpose during medieval times? Will the tunnel be able to withstand heavy tourist activity, or is it too fragile? Could the tunnel put the castle's structure at risk?

Barbara Igielska wants to maintain the tunnel for tourists instead of filling it in.

Karol Krempa, head of the castle's renovation and investment department, believes that further work is vital to understanding and safeguarding the castle. He also had this to say:

"Initial exploration demonstrates that we're dealing with a far more complex situation than we first imagined…We can't rule out that there might be much more to the 270-meter section of tunnel than we are currently aware of."

Top image: Ducal Castle is one of Poland's most famous medieval structures with a long and illustrious history. The newly discovered tunnel beneath the castle will add to the site's historical attractions once it has been deemed safe and secure.        Source: Dorota Kowalik / CC BY 3.0

By ML Childs

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Mel Childs was born in St. Louis, Missouri but now resides in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.  She moved to Georgia to attend college at Spelman College and loved it so much that she decided to call Georgia home.  At... Read More

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