utorok 17. mája 2011

Hillforts and Fortified Settlements in Slovakia - Slovak History


Building of hillforts or fortified settlements is very characteristics for Slavic population in region of Slovakia, Czech republic, Poland, Ukraine and some other countries, where Slavs lived in past centuries. Their purpose was different compared to later medieval castles, which were mostly a residence of nobility. Hillforts, or at least some of them had much more functions. Hillforts were used also as seat of craftsman (mostly potters, blacksmith, baker or jeweler), merchants and of course – retinue of prince. We can say that some of these hillforts, or fortified settlements were forerunners of later medieval fortified cities. Many artifacts, found on these hillforts  shows, that old Slavs, who lived there more than thousand years ago, had high level of      forwardness and many of them were very rich and advanced. 

Original Principality of Nitra

When building fortified settlements, used Slavic tribes, the most exalted places in inaccessible terrain to provide natural protection. On a flatland areas they have used natural water flows and lake or marshy environment as protection. Protection that provided nature, they have strengthened by the construction of fortifications, which were often built with very sophisticated construction and in their times – we are talking about age from 7 th. to 10 th. century – they were very hard to conquer for enemy armies. Construction of walls you can see here: Construction of walls

We have some written records from 10 th. century, for example from Arabian merchant and traveller Ibrahim Ibn Jacob, who has visited Slavic countries on his journeys through the Central Europe. He wrote: “Most castles built Slavs in this way: Find the meadows, rich in water and bushes and mark them for a round or square space, depending on what shape and size they want to have a castle. After that they are digging around, pile up the earth, which make planks and poles. They create walls that they increase until the walls have the required amount. Then they find place for appropriate gate and build a bridge to it, which they use to enter through.”

Great Moravia in the time of king Svatopluk

Hill forts, or fortified settlements were built also by ancient nations in the region of Slovakia – mostly by Celts, and elder nations, which name fall into oblivion, but Slavs have achieved the most sophisticated technical level in their construction. After fall of state of Great Moravia and formation of Hungarian kingdom by King Stephan I., some of these hill forts became administrative centres of new state, and preserve continuity of Great Moravian institutions in new created kingdom. Function of Slavic hillforts was very similar as better known Celtic oppida (for example Alesia).

With fortified settlements - a fortress which from a functional point of view were the forerunners of later medieval castles, or fortified cities, we can see throughout all the Slavic population. In the Eastern and Western Slavs, this form of estates very pronounced, and so even the period in which the crystallization of Slavic tribes took place (early medieval time), is known as time of Hillforts, in German terminology Burgwallzeit. The southern Slavs also met with the Slavic fortified housing estates, but there is not such a significant occurrence, because they often followed the ancient forts of civilization (mostly Roman), which in its penetration of the Slavs in the Balkans often conquered and then use for themselves.

Reconstruction of Slavic Hillfort in Moravia

Slavic uprising against the Avars

About Slavs custom to build hillforts tell us the written sources. The earliest mention is in the record of Fredegar Chronicle, which comes from an unknown Analyst, who lived at residence of Franconia monarch Dagobert in 7 th century. He recorded uprising of Slavs against the Avars in 623, leaded by Frankish merchant Samo. Under leadership of Samo, Slavs defeated army of nomadic Avars, who came into Panonia and overruled Slavic tribes for long time, causing them horrible suffering. After Slavic army defeated Avars, Samo became a prince, or king of them, and created the first state of Slavs in history, called Samo's empire. This empire achieved also independence from biggest kingdom of those times – Frankish kingdom. During Sam's battle against the Frankish king Dagobert, Frankish chronicler states that a serious military engagement, successful for the Slavs, was at a place called Wogastisburg  We don’t know exactly where this place is situated at, in the scientific literature referred to five options, but this was the territory of Samo's empire, which stretched somewhere north of the middle Danube. According to ends title burg, we can assume that it was a hillfort. This means that the Slavic castles - fortified emerged over the middle of Danube in the 7th century, as recently confirmed by archaeological research.
One of the biggest fortiffied settlements - Mikulčice stood on isle in river Morava (todays border of Slovakia and Czech)

The fact that in the 9th century was the construction of fortified settlements standard, another source informs us, so called Bavarian geographer. It's an anonymous description of countries and castles on the northern side of the Danube made for strategic reasons for the needs of the Frankish Empire in the years around 815 - 817 Describes the Slavic tribes and their castles on the territory of today's Germany, Poland, Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia, but also in the southern part and eastern Slavs. It states for example. That '... in the Bohemia is 15, fortresses, Moravians have 11 "and later transcription of the Moravians even out to 30 castles," the Bulgarians ... country is large and has great people and 5 castles ... " etc. It is not excluded that with increasing distance of writer on the country, information may be less precise, certain is that fortified settlements of Slavic tribes were typical and represented a kind of power and military potential.

Eldest hillforts

In Slovakia, the oldest fortified settlement accompanied by archaeological research comes to the period of end of 8 and the beginning of the 9th century. It seems that the end of 8 and early ninth century occurs in our territory to a certain crystallization process in which smaller clans have united under rule of local landlords. This reflected in the building of fortified settlements in which the prince and his retinue settled. The well-investigated fort from the turn of the eighth - 9 century is Pobedim   located in Váh lowland floodplain. Its use in building the inhabitants of a slight ridge between the rivers and streams Dudváh River Dubová, the attack came to fort fortified forecastle, which was, in some parts of the special construction of fortifications. Formed by the chamber with walls of woven from wicker and filled with burnt clay, which creates a sort brick material. Chamber, with brick walls was then filled with clay. In some parts of the fortification walls of the front wall consisted of a stone wall. Life at the fort existed sometime in the first half of the 9th century. In the obviously dysfunctional fortifications were in the second half of the 9th century embedded graves. Despite the termination of fortress non fortified surrounding villages have continued throughout the ninth century.

Slavic fortress Majcichov in Slovakia

Great Moravian rider - member of Nobility

Unification of Principalities – Great Moravia

Great Moravia was a Slavic state that existed in Central Europe and lasted for nearly seventy years in the 9th century whose creators were the ancestors of the Czechs Moravians and Slovaks. It was a vassal state of the Germanic Frankish kingdom and paid an annual tribute to it. But after Svätopluk became a king of this state, it became independent until his death in 894. Its core area lay on both sides of the Morava river, the territory of today's western Slovakia and in Moravia and Bohemia (today's Czech Republic), but the entity also extended during king Svatopluk into what are today parts of Hungary, Poland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine and Germany. According to Slovak historian Richard Marsina, Great Moravia was inhabited by the ancestors of modern Moravians and Slovaks, who see the basis of the Slovak nation in the cultural heritage of Great Moravia and this is referred to in the modern Slovak constitution.

Types of walls used in Slavic Hillforts

The empire reached its greatest territorial extent under Svatopluk I (871–894), although the borders of his dominions are still under debate. He also received a letter from Pope John VIII who styled him "king" Svatopluk.
Fortified settlement in Majcichov (Slovakia)

Reconstruction of hillfort Ducové - the seat of important landlord in Slovak teritory in 9. th. and 10. th. century you can find here

The major hill forts of this period in Slovakia belonged to Nitra  The research results are known to roost only fragmentary information, but can be presumed that it belonged to an important settlement, where life continued even after the termination time of the Avar Empire and the formation of Great Moravia. Evidence of this is the finding of basis of the old church at its height. There are also findings of basement of some brick buildings, probably palace of prince.

Central hillfort in Nitra (9. th century)

Slavic houses found on Hillforts

Slavic settlement in the northern suburb of Avar Empire had to be strong and viable, because shortly after its demise in the last decade, 8th century came near today’s city of Štúrovo, fort on the banks of the Danube in Mužla-Cenkov. Other fort, as witnessed by the findings mostly from private collectors, are probably situated at the beginning of 9th century in Smolenice - Molpír   

Church of St. Margaret in Kopčany (Slovakia) - the only standing building fom age of Great Moravia

In the northern and eastern part of Slovakia also early 9th century emerged hillforts as a residence of nobles. Biggest Orava's hillfort was on the Ostrá skala at Vysny Kubin, In eastern Slovakia a hillfort was document in the Čingov. Neither their fate was the same. On the Ostrá Skala went on throughout the ninth century, then fort in Čingov about half of the 9th century disappeared and instead a close, Slavs in Spišské Tomášovce built a new hillfort. Similar developments took place also in Piestany, where after the termination of fortress in Pobedim originated on the other side of the scale, on ruins of the old prehistoric settlement, in Ducové   above the village, the fortified seat of prince, where the church - a rotunda and the manor court was built. Certainly it was established by ruler and therefore took over in center Považie leadership.

Ducové hillfort - seat of prince in 9 th and 10 th  century (Slovakia)

The administrative centres of political and ecclesiastical power unquestionably belonged to Nitra (original name recorded in 9 th century was Nitrava), as the most significant central hillfort complex, originally established by ancestors of Prince Pribina. He also built here for his wife (from important Frankish noble family) the first known Christian church in central Europe in the year 828, which was consecrated by bishop Adalaram from Salzburg. After defeat of Pribina, the other principes of Mojmír family (Moravian prince family) residenced here and also established here a Christian church organization. Its presence underlines the importance of several fortified settlements on a narrow territory of today Nitra. Important role played well fortified place (later bishop's castle), where probably at the time of Great Moravia, a diocese was situated. In area of Nitra there was system of at least 4 Hillforts with large-scale of surrounding settlement. We could say, that agglomeration of Great Moravian Nitra was bigger then today’s city of Nitra. Nitra was also original residence of Svätopluk, who became a king of Great Moravian Empire in the last decades of 9 th centuries.

Inside the House of Noble man

When we talk about Christianity, we must mention the mission of holy Konstantin and Metodius. Prince Rastislav, who ruled after death of Mojmír, did one of the most significant deed for all Slavs in Europe – asked East Roman emperor Michal III to send some Christian clerics, who can speak Slavic language to come to Great Moravia and to teach people the Christian doctrine in their Slavic language. After this, roman Emperor sent him two wiseman – Konstantin and Metod, who could speak old Slavic language. Base of their mission was to create a brand new alphabet for Slavic language, and to translate parts of Holy Bible and other important writings into Slavic language. This way they created first Slavic alphabet ever – so called Glaholic. The Glagolitic script and its successor Cyrillic were disseminated to other Slavic countries, charting a new path in their cultural development. Cyrilic is still alphabet, which is used by some Slavic countries (Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Bulgaria).

Ducové - basements of church and part of fortification of Hillfort

Another hillfort with a central political and ecclesiastical function, was Bratislava     (original name recorded in year 907 was Breslavaspurch, later Braslava, Possonium (lat), Pressburg (ger), or Poszonyi (hu)) - present capital of Slovak republic with massive fortification, that was on top of a today’s castle hill. On this hillfort, archeologists found small stone palace building and the stone three-aisled church, with walls decorated with paintings, which had around graves of 9 century. Name of magnate who rulled this place was probably Braslav. Both sites, Nitra and Bratislava, will retain its importance and later, during the emerging Kingdom of Hungary, they became the county castle.

Hlaholitic alphabet created by Konstantin and Metod

Devín castle, or Hillfort   which is situated few kilometres from Bratislava, belongs to the most famous places, associated with the written history of Great Moravia and Slovakia. According to Fuld Annals from 9th century, in the year 864, Frank king Ludvig der Deutsche lead the war against prince of Great Moravia Rastislav, who residenced with his army behind the walls of “city” called Dowina, and army of king Ludwig was not able to defeat Rastislav in this huge hillfort. Archaeological research uncovered three - parts church with a lower cap on top of the fort. Archeologists also found a lot of basements of wooden houses from 8. and 9. century. At the foot of Devinska Kobyla hill there were two other hillforts of 9 Century – Piesky and Lom. These three Hillforts together created very strong fortress system and with large settlement in its vicinity we can call it together with Nitra to be one of the biggest and most important agglomerations of that period.


Another important hillforts from period of 9.-10 century were:

Bojná, where unique evidences of first Christian missions in central Europe was found (bell from 8. th. Century, parts of portable altar), and which belongs to the biggest and most important hillforts in Slovakia.

Reconstruction of slavic wooden house from 9. th century in Bojná

Blatnohrad - Mosapurc (todays Zalavar in Hungary)  which was important residence of Prince Pribina in Panonia (near lake Balaton) after he was defeated by Mojmir and forced to leave his original principality of Nitra. It was centre of Christianity and culture in Panonia

Mikulčice - Kopčany  at todays border of Slovak and Czech Republic

Inside the Mikulčice

Divinka (near Zilina)  – biggest hillfort in northern Slovakia

Divinka hillfort
Hillfort Pružina
Fortiffied settlement Bíňa (9.-10. ct)
Hillfort near Devín

Hillfort Modra





Svätý Jur - Neštich  and many others, mentioned in this blog.

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2 komentáre:

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