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Common board – common heritage

New look on Polish and Turkish castles on Dniester


The earliest mention of the existence of a fortified post called Horodok at the confluence of the Seret and the Dniester comes from 1418. In this place near a ford in the Dniester, merchants were to make a stop on their journey along one of the routes connecting Black Sea ports with Red Ruthenia. The favourable location made the settlement flourish. In 1530, Kulakiv Horodok, as it was called (after the nearby village Kulakivtsi), was already referred to as a town (oppidum). At that time, it was probably already a hereditary property of the Jazłowiecki (Monasterski) family, who kept it for almost the whole 16th century. When the Jazłowiecki family died out, Jazłowiecki’s estate complex, which probably included Kulakiv Horodok, changed owners until 1643, when it was taken over by the Koniecpolski family. It is known that in this period, Horodok was fortified and there was probably a fortified manor house and an accessory structure called przygródek there. It may have been a small castle – it is indicated by maps by Guillaume le Vasseur de Beauplan. The military significance of the town can be seen in the fact that in 1600, a part of the Crown army was concentrated there before they set out on Jan Zamoyski’s Wallachian expedition.

The strategic location of the town was both a source of benefits and a curse because as a result of Tatar invasions and wars in the mid-17th century and later times, Horodok became depopulated. In the Ottoman defter (a kind of census) of Podolia from 1681, Kulakiv Horodok is called a village. It was inhabited then by around 100 people.[1] The settlement was abandoned completely as a result of another war between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire started in 1683. In 1684, King Jan III of Poland was going to use the ford in the Dniester between Horodok and Vasyliv and build a bridge there, planning to dispatch his army across it to Moldavia. Nine years later, Horodok was no longer called a settlement, but a wilderness. The depopulation of the village was probably the effect of a conscious strategy of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which transferred peasants from Podolia to Volhynia and Red Ruthenia in order to “starve” the Turkish garrison of Kamyanets-Podilsky.

The decision to locate a Crown garrison in the Horodok wilderness, in the area of the former town of Kulakiv Horodok, resulted from a number of factors. Above all, this move was to give Hetman Stanisław Jabłonowski full control of the middle reaches of the Dniester. The river was the main supply route to the Ramparts of the Holy Trinity and Soroca garrisoned with Polish troops. Moreover, Horodok was on a land route to the Ramparts. The route started at Yazlovets garrisoned with Polish infantry, continued through Tors’ke, crossed the Dniester near Horodok and then ran on the Moldavian side all the way to the Ramparts, where it crossed the Dniester again, protected by the fortifications. To secure these routes, apart from Horodok, Jabłonowski wanted to garrison the castles in Khotyn and Tors’ke as well as the village of Babyntsi (between Horodok and the Ramparts of the Holy Trinity). Ultimately, the plans were not carried out, probably because of insufficient infantry and money for fortification work. The Dniester was also used as a supply route by the Turks – Podolian peasants tried to transport food, which was then sold in Kamyanets, down the river. By garrisoning an area on the Dniester, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth tried to put an end to this practice. Furthermore, the ford near Horodok was very often used by Crimean and Lipka Tatars for plundering raids from the area around Kamyanets to Polish Pokuttia. Finally, in Kulakiv Horodok, there were remains of town fortifications from the 16th century and the first half of the 17th century (called “the old rampart on the Seret” by Jabłonowski), which could be relatively quickly adapted to the needs of the Polish garrison.

Although Hetman Jabłonowski made a decision to build the rampart near Horodok as early as at the end of 1692, it was not before the next campaign that the plan was put into practice. On 24 July 1693, the hetman ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Jan Krzysztof von Hondorff to set off with new recruits from the infantry regiments stationed in the Ramparts of the Holy Trinity of Jan Dobrogost Krasiński, Voivode of Płock, Rafał Leszczyński, Voivode of Łęczyca, Józef Karol Lubomirski, Court Marshal of the Crown, and Major General Wacław Wilhelm Dobszyc, as well as the infantry regiment of Wacław Szczuka, Chamberlain of Wizna, the free company of Lieutenant-Colonel Henryk Henrykowski and two (three-pound and six-pound) cannons. Moreover, Hondorff was to get a supply of ammunition, building tools (spades, hoes, drills and axes) and four waggons (each drawn by a pair of oxen). He was to be accompanied by a Crown artillery engineer, a carpenter and a master gunner. With all this, covered by a cavalry squadron, the lieutenant-colonel had to go to the above-mentioned wilderness of Horodok and start building the rampart. Considering the prolonged construction of the Ramparts of the Holy Trinity, the hetman specifically ordered the engineer (unfortunately, his name has not been preserved) to design a structure that the dispatched soldiers could erect within three or four weeks. The plan of the fortifications (also not preserved) was to be delivered to Jabłonowski. After the construction work, the recruits along with Hondorff were to rejoin their primary units in the Ramparts of the Holy Trinity, and Major Józef Szczuka, commander of the infantry regiment of Wacław Szczuka, was to remain at the newly built rampart as the commandant, with its unit and the free company of Henrykowski. Thus, the hetman wanted to use the construction of the fortifications as a pretext for reinforcing the garrison of the Ramparts and for introducing newly enlisted soldiers to military discipline. A total of several hundred people participated in the construction work.

Just as in the case of the Ramparts of the Holy Trinity, the rampart had to be garrisoned with a relatively strong cavalry unit (apart from infantry) in order to serve its purpose effectively. For this objective, Jabłonowski designated three semi-heavy cavalry squadrons from the Ramparts unit: of Józef Stanisław Potocki, Castellan of Kamień, Mikołaj Radecki, Standard-Bearer of Horodło, and Bełżecki, son of the voivode of Podolia, as well as the Wallachian squadron of Stefan Bidziński, Castellan of Sandomierz, also stationed so far in the Ramparts. The whole cavalry was to be under the command of Mikołaj Tyszkowski, Lieutenant of Potocki’s squadron.

Despite all the precautionary measures, the construction work dragged out. It was not before 15 October that the hetman could send the recruits from the fortifications, which were already called the Rampart of the Virgin Mary,[2] to their primary units in the Ramparts of the Holy Trinity. However, the rampart was not ready yet, it was necessary to deepen the moat and finish the przygródek before the time of freeze. For this purpose, Commandant Szczuka obtained 200 zlotys from the hetman.

The first serious battle test of the cavalry unit from the Rampart of the Virgin Mary took place during the Tatar invasion in the summer of 1694. The cavalry from the Rampart under the command of Tyszkowski joined the cavalry from the Ramparts of the Holy Trinity under Colonel Konstanty Zahorowski and headed towards the area of Pomoryany to join the rest of the Polish army. On its way there, on 11 June, near the village of Hodiv, the unit encountered the main Tatar forces. During the first clash, Tyszkowski[3] was taken prisoner and the Polish troops, severely outnumbered by the enemy, had to take refuge in the village buildings, where they repulsed Tatar assaults for several hours. At last, the Horde had to retreat. Szaniawski, Lieutenant of Radecki’s semi-heavy cavalry squadron, became the new commander of the cavalry in the Rampart of the Virgin Mary for a short time and at the end of July, he was succeeded by Jan Kadłubiski, Colonel of Bełżecki’s squadron.

In the winter of 1694, the number of cavalrymen in the Rampart of the Virgin Mary radically decreased from four squadrons to only one – Mikołaj Radecki’s squadron. It probably fought with the Tatar invasion in February 1695. At the end of 1695, the Regiment Commander of the cavalry in the Rampart was Grądzki, Lieutenant of the semi-heavy cavalry squadron of Jakub Morsztyn, Starost of Kowal. It is unknown whether the cavalry left the Rampart of the Virgin Mary at the time of the military confederation of 1696–1697. The infantry probably remained there. At the beginning of 1698, the fortifications were still garrisoned with around 200 infantrymen from Wacław Szczuka’s regiment, complaining about lamentable supply conditions. In the same year, small Turkish parties from the garrison of Kamyanets roamed the area around the fortress.

When Kamyanets was regained in 1699 and the war with the Porte ended, it was no longer necessary to maintain the fortress near Vasyliv. The infantry was withdrawn first, the cavalry was stationed there until 1702 (the semi-heavy cavalry squadron of Michał Potocki, Starost of Krasnystaw). As early as during the Turkish war, inhabitants started to return to Horodok protected by a Polish garrison. In the 18th century, the town was rebuilt (it returned to its former name Kulakiv Horodok).


Fragment of a map of Podolia presenting Kulakiv Horodok in the first half of the 17th century (G. le Vasseur de Beauplan, Ukrainae pars quae Podolia palatinatus vulgo dicitur, [Amsterdam 1670], collection of the National Library of Poland).


Fragment of a map of Pokuttia presenting Kulakiv Horodok in the first half of the 17th century (G. le Vasseur de Beauplan, Ukrainae pars quae Pokutia vulgo dicitur, [Amsterdam 1670], collection of the National Library of Poland).


Based on:

Atlas historyczny Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej: Epoka przełomu z wieku XVI-go na XVII-sty (A Historical Atlas of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth: The Period of the Turn of the 16th and 17th Centuries), Section II, ed. A. Jabłonowski, Warszawa – Wien 1889–1904.

Library of the Czartoryskis in Kraków, manuscript No. 2524.

Library of the Czartoryskis in Kraków, manuscript No. 2699.

The Library of the Polish Academy of Learning/Polish Academy of Sciences in Kraków, manuscript No. 1081.

D. Kołodziejczyk, Podole pod panowaniem tureckim: Ejalet kamieniecki 1672–1699 (Podolia under the Turkish Rule: the Eyalet of Kamyanets-Podilsky), Warszawa 1994.

W. Majewski, Najazd Tatarów w lutym 1695 r. (The Tatar Invasion in February 1695), “Studia i Materiały do Historii Wojskowości” (Studies and Materials on the History of Military Science), Vol. IX/1 (1963), p. 125–178.

The Ottoman Survey Register of Podolia (ca. 1681), ed. D. Kołodziejczyk, Vol. I, Cambridge (US) 2004.

Polska XVI wieku pod względem geograficzno-statystycznym (16th Century Poland in Terms of Geography and Statistics), Vol. VIII, ed. A. Jabłonowski, Warszawa 1889.

J. Sowa, “Ludzie niezwalczeni”: Rejestry chorągwi jazdy zaciągu narodowego w Okopach św. Trójcy 1693–1695 (“Invincible People”: Registers of National Cavalry Squadrons in the Ramparts of the Holy Trinity 1693–1695), [in:] Studia nad staropolską sztuką wojenną (Studies on the Old Polish Art of War), Vol. II, Oświęcim 2013, p. 259–299.

M. Wagner, Stanisław Jabłonowski (1634–1702): Polityk i dowódca (Stanisław Jabłonowski (1634–1702): Politician and Commander) Part 2, Siedlce 1997.

M. Wagner, Kampania żwaniecka 1684 roku (The 1684 Zhvanets Campaign), Warszawa 2013.

Z. Wielebska, Powstanie majątku Stanisława Koniecpolskiego (1591–1646) hetmana wielkiego koronnego (The Beginning of the Estate of Stanisław Koniecpolski (1591–1646), Grand Hetman of the Crown), “Studia Historyczne” (Historical Studies), Yearbook XXIV/4 (1981), p. 547–556.

J. Wimmer, Wojsko Rzeczypospolitej w dobie wojny północnej 1700–1717 (The Army of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at the Time of the Great Northern War 1700–1717), Warszawa 1956.

J. Wojtasik, Ostatnia rozprawa zbrojna z Turkami i Tatarami w 1698 r. (The Last Armed Conflict Against the Turks and Tatars in 1698), Part I, “Studia i Materiały do Historii Wojskowości” (Studies and Materials on the History of Military Science), Vol. XIII/1 (1967), p. 63–127.

J. Wojtasik, Podhajce 1698 (Pidhaitsi 1698), Warszawa 1990.

M. Wolski, Potoccy herbu Pilawa do początku XVII wieku: Studium genealogiczno-własnościowe (The Potocki Family of the Pilawa Coat of Arms until the Beginning of the 17th Century: A Study on Genealogy and Property), Kraków 2013.

М. Жбанова-Гуменюк, В. Олійник, В. Уніят, Городок, [in:] Тернопільський Енциклопедичний Словник, Т. 1, Тернопіль 2004, p. 402–403.


[1]15 homeowners and 9 bachelors to be precise. D. Kołodziejczyk, who studies the demography of Podolia under the Turkish rule, assumes that in one household there were 6 people.

[2]Hetman Jabłonowski gave expression to his Marian devotion also by naming the town he founded on the Dniester Mariampol (ukr. Mariyampil’).

[3]He was ransomed very soon, because already at the end of 1695, he commanded the semi-heavy cavalry squadron of Aleksander Jabłonowski, Standard-Bearer of the Crown.

Autorzy zdjęć/grafik:Krystian Trela (10) - w sumie 10.