wybierz język: English Polski Türk Україна

Common board – common heritage

New look on Polish and Turkish castles on Dniester


Jan Jerzy Sowa

University of Warsaw




The steep promontory, situated in the bifurcation of the Gnezna River and the Pechenya Stream, once among dense forests (after all, the name “Terebovlya” derives from the Old Ruthenian verb теребити – “to fell”), has great defensive qualities. Namely, it towers over its surroundings, while being accessible from one, north side only. It was probably the location of a stronghold that was one of major centres of Halych Ruthenia in the 11th and 12th centuries. At its foot, there developed an urban centre, which later became the Old Town of Terebovlya. In the 13th century, the importance of Terebovlya dwindled, and perhaps it was then that the town was invaded by the Mongols for the first time. The steppe nomads as well as their settled descendants, the Ottoman Turks, played a significant role in the history of the town and the castle.

In the middle of the 14th century, Red Ruthenia was taken over by Kazimierz the Great, King of Poland, and he consolidated his rule over this territory e.g. by building a wooden castle in place of the old stronghold of the Rostislaviches, which was to defend the nearby border with the Tatar and then Lithuanian Podolia. The construction of the castle contributed to the development of the settlement. In 1389, it was granted Magdeburg law by King Władysław Jagiełło, and about 30 years later, the New Town sprang up on the other bank of the Gnezna River. At that time, Terebovlya became an important administrative centre, namely, it was where courts for local noblemen took place and the castle became the seat of the royal starost. Several decades later, the neighbourhood of the Tatars made itself felt again. The invaders came near Terebovlya e.g. in 1453 and 1467. In 1515, Jan Tworowski, Field Hetman of the Crown (future Starost of Terebovlya), fought a fierce battle for the town against the Horde, and one year later, Marcin Kamieniecki, Voivode of Podolia, and Stanisław Lanckoroński, Starost of Kamyanets-Podilsky, caught there and crushed a Tatar unit returning from a raid.

In 1498, Terebovlya was captured by troops of Ștefan the Great, Prince of Moldavia. These events obviously affected the condition of the town – even courts were moved to Buchach for some time. In order to raise Terebovlya from decline, successive kings of Poland issued a number of privileges for the town, which were to compensate its inhabitants for the inconveniences of living in the borderland, and in 1534, Andrzej Tęczyński, Castellan of Kraków and Starost of Terebovlya, completely rebuilt the (still wooden) castle at his own expense. In 1552, the famous cavalry captain Bernhard von Prittwitz, not accidentally called terror Tartarorum and murus Podoliae, became the starost of Terebovlya. But it was some sort of exile for the borderland raid commander as he had been the Starost of Bar in Podolia, however, he had to take office as the Starost of Terebovlya, located further away from the border, in order to improve the relations with the sultan, which had been undermined by Prittwitz’s expeditions. In 1575, during a great Tatar invasion of Podolia and Red Ruthenia, also Terebovlya was burned down and ravaged. As a result, plans were made to surround the unfortified town with a rampart, but apparently they were not carried out, as already in 1594, Terebovlya was pillaged by rebellious Cossacks under Severyn Nalyvaiko’s command. Also at the beginning of the 17th century, the surroundings of Terebovlya were regularly plundered by the Horde.

The next Tatar invasions and the war with the Ottoman Empire (1620-1621) showed even more clearly that Terebovlya’s defences needed improvements. Therefore, another experienced soldier serving as the Starost of Terebovlya, Colonel Aleksander Bałaban, decided to build a modern masonry bastile castle. The work was finished in 1631 – a castle on an elongated deltoid plan was erected. On the very promontory in the bifurcation of the Gnezna and Pechenya, a large bastile was located, with its cannons controlling the valley, where the town was situated. The north front (the fortress was accessible only from this side) was defended by two polygonal towers at the west and east corners as well as a corner of the masonry wall protruding towards a potential enemy, a type of bastion called anguł. There were embrasures for firearms in the masonry walls. The gate was in the east wall, next to a corner tower. Next to the gate, there was a “hajduks’ room.” A well was dug in the courtyard, and storage cellars were built. Moreover, the area surrounding the castle was cleared so that the garrison could observe and fire at an approaching enemy. Also remains of buildings from earlier times were removed. The castle fulfilled not only defensive but also administrative functions, which is why a two-storey residence of the starost was built in the courtyard, the castle and land court records were to be kept in the east tower, and the west tower housed a prison for noblemen. The outer ward of the castle was inhabited by burgesses who were obliged to participate in defending the walls.

The first test for the new fortress could come in 1648 during the Khmelnytsky Uprising but on receiving the news of the defeat at Pyliavtsi, the defenders left the castle, which fell prey to the Cossacks, Tatars and local people. One year later, Terebovlya was once again ravaged by the troops of İslâm III Giray and Bohdan Khmelnytsky, and only in 1651, the Terebovlya castle managed to repulse the invasion. The burgesses and local nobility garrisoned the castle the next year as well after the defeat of the Polish army at Batih, but the Cossack and Tatar troops did not launch an offensive in Red Ruthenia. However, the outcome of the Cossack rebellion was disastrous for the town – once again Terebovlya was completely devastated as a result of war activities. The fact that Crown troops were often stationed in this region in the 1660s was hardly conducive to the reconstruction of the town and its surroundings.

Terebovlya was under immediate threat again in 1672 due to the beginning of a war between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire. The local nobility and burgesses from Terebovlya gathered in the castle once more. Kazimierz Kawecki, Master of the Chase of Halych, became the commanding officer of the castle. On 4 September 1672, the Turks came to Terebovlya for the first time in history. The next day they set the town on fire, but did not capture the castle, which put up resistance until 9 September, when the defenders decided to surrender, bearing in mind the cruel fates of Buchach and Budaniv, which refused to do so. Therefore, the garrison of the castle went to the Sultan’s camp near Buchach and paid homage to Mehmed IV. The castle was garrisoned with the janissaries for a short time.

After the Turks took control of Kamyanets-Podilsky, the strategic significance of Terebovlya increased immeasurably, it was the most important fortress between the Ottoman Podolia and Lviv. Therefore, the convocation sejm in 1674 ordered the Starost of Terebovlya, Rafał Makowiecki, to carry out necessary repairs of the castle fortifications, and already in the summer of 1675, in the face of another Turkish expedition, King Jan III Sobieski brought an infantry company (about 80 soldiers) under the command of Capt. Jan Samuel Chrzanowski from the infantry regiment of Jan Cetner, Starost of Shchurivtsi, to the castle. On receiving the news that an Ottoman army of many thousands was approaching, the local people took shelter in the castle as usual. Thus, the defence was supported by about 30 noblemen and 200 peasants with handgonnes. Chrzanowski became the commanding officer of the fortress. The garrison had 11-12 cannons at their disposal. The Turkish troops under the command of Ibrahim Pasha called Shyshman (the Fat) captured Zbarazh and Pidhaitsi, among other towns. At that time, the Tatars attacked Lviv, where they were defeated by Jan III. On 21 September 1675, the Turkish army made camp near Terebovlya and began a siege (the town was burned down as usual).

The Turks tried to blow up the most accessible north wall of the fortress, but their efforts were hampered by sallies of the garrison skilfully commanded by Chrzanowski, mines laid by the Turks did not cause serious damage to the fortifications (which reflects well on the structure of the castle itself and on conservation work carried out by Makowiecki), and their cannon fire was ineffective as well. Some noblemen wanted to surrender but they were apparently restrained by the commanding officer’s wife, Anna Dorota Chrzanowska née Fresen. This incident became a legend. Ibrahim Pasha stormed the castle four times, but did not succeed as the Polish fortifications were in a fairly good condition. The Turkish-Tatar army was finally forced to retreat by the news of the approaching relief commanded by King Jan III. Moreover, the war season was slowly coming to an end for the sultan’s troops. On the night of 4 October 1675, the Ottoman army retreated to Podolia. The two-week siege ended with a success of the Polish side and Chrzanowski himself was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and ennobled.

Also during peace between two wars with Turkey, Terebovlya played an important military role, as it was one of the starosties where the main Crown forces were stationed. In 1683, war activities against the Ottoman Empire resumed and in 1685, Lieutenant Colonel Chrzanowski came to the castle again, this time as the commander of the whole Cetnar’s regiment. His troops remained at Terebovlya till 1686, when they were replaced by the infantry regiment of Franciszek Lanckoroński, Starost of Stopnica, under the command of Maj. Jan Kurtz (Kurcz). Two years later, in May of 1688, the town experienced one of the greatest defeats in its history. The Horde came stealthily near the town and sent on ahead a troop of Lipka Tatars from Kamyanets-Podilsky, who passed themselves off as a Tatar squadron serving the king of Poland, deceived the town guards and took control of the gate. Thanks to this, the Tatars entered Terebovlya and began taking prisoners among the local people. Some of the inhabitants managed to shelter in the castle with a Polish garrison, while others defended themselves in a masonry Carmelite monastery. However, 120 inhabitants of Terebovlya were taken captive.[1] The town had been admittedly ravaged by enemies many times but now a large number of its inhabitants were taken captive.

After the war with Turkey ended, during a period when crown troops were permanently stationed in the castle and its surroundings, and after the recovery of Kamyanets-Podilsky, the fortress in Terebovlya fell into decline. Therefore, in the 1730s, when there was definitely no more threat of further conflicts with Turkey, artillery was removed from the castle and it was finally abandoned. At the end of the 19th century, it was in a state of ruin, and its glorious history was commemorated by an obelisk in honour of Anna Dorota Chrzanowska situated in the town garden. In 1900, a new monument to the brave wife of the commanding officer (destroyed in 1944 and rebuilt in 2012) was unveiled. In the 1930s, thorough conservation of the ruins of the castle was also carried out.

Based on:

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

The Library of the National Ossoliński Institute in Wrocław, manuscript No. 250.

W. Fedorowicz, A. Czołowski, Trembowla (Terebovlya), [in:] SGKP (Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland), Vol. XII, Warszawa 1892, p. 459–468.

M. Wagner, Wojna polsko–turecka w latach 1672–1676 (The Polish-Turkish War in the Years 1672-1676), Vol. II, Zabrze 2009.








R. de Hooghe, Trembloa [sic] strenue defense, regis auxiliis liberata, around 1676, etching, the National Museum in Kraków.



[1] The Grand Hetman of the Crown of the time, Stanisław Jabłonowski, described this event as follows: “they (Tatars) were brought to Terebovlya by the Lipka Tatars from Kamyanets-Podilsky well before daytime. There were town guards there, but the enemy sent a few Lipka Tatars first strategamate usus (using a stratagem), who said that they served in our squadrons and, having entered the town and made noise dum curis exercita corpora somnus (when sleep claimed care-worn bodies) to the greatest degree, this enemy crowd of almost a thousand attacked on the signal of the tumult and captured about 120 local people. However, others were saved by the nearby castle, from which praesidium (the garrison) fired cannons and hand-held firearms, and the Carmelite church, walled though not equipped with everything. They continued for no longer than an hour and a half and departed.” (The Library of the Polish Academy of Learning/Polish Academy of Sciences in Kraków, manuscript No. 1081, p. 63-64).

Autorzy zdjęć/grafik:Krystian Trela (19) - w sumie 19.