wybierz język: English Polski Türk Україна

Common board – common heritage

New look on Polish and Turkish castles on Dniester


After the loss of Kamyanets-Podilsky in 1672, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was faced with a serious challenge of regaining this strategic fortress. The Polish-Lithuanian army composed largely of cavalry, with little artillery and siege resources and constantly having problems with supplies, was not adjusted to laying a prolonged regular siege. An alternative way of recapturing the fortress was establishing a tight blockade to starve the garrison into surrender. As early as in 1673, there were suggestions of blockading crossings on the Dniester River and cutting the garrison of Kamyanets off supplies from Moldavia. After the victory at the Battle of Khotyn, Hetman Jan Sobieski established a system of posts around Kamyanets, which involved garrisoning the castles of Khotyn and Zhvanets, but the turmoil related to the interregnum and elections of the king made it impossible to keep them – in June 1674, the Turks recaptured Khotyn. In 1675 and 1676, the Polish-Lithuanian army had to focus on repulsing Turkish-Tatar invasions rather than on blockading Kamyanets, and consequently the truce of Zhuravno (confirmed by the so-called Gniński’s peace [1] of 1678) left Kamyanets with almost the whole Podolia in the Ottoman Empire.

The outbreak of another war with the Porte in 1683, this time waged in completely different circumstances – in alliance with the emperor, and later also with Venice and Moscow, was a chance for the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to regain Podolia. The key to taking control of the province was obviously capturing the fortress of Kamyanets (especially as in 1686, the Ottoman Empire’s control over Podolia was limited to the capital of the eyalet). However, King Jan III Sobieski was reluctant to take direct action against the fortress itself. Instead of that, he tried in vain to carry out the plan of conquering Moldavia and Wallachia, convinced that taking control of these principalities would inevitably force the garrison of Kamyanets to surrender. After the fiasco of the Moldavian expedition of 1686, the following year, a decision was made (partly due to requests of the allies) to lay siege to the fortress, but the expedition of forces led nominally by Prince Jakub ended after only several days of bombarding the town and castles. In 1688, Polish-Lithuanian forces set off for Kamyanets again. During the campaign, a suggestion was made to build two new forts garrisoned with infantry and providing the nearby castles with cavalry units to establish a permanent blockade of Kamyanets. However, the plan was very soon limited to capturing the nearby castles and then abandoned completely due to financial and supply difficulties. In 1689, once again a decision was made to lay siege to Kamyanets (again to no avail), and in the years 1690–1691, King Jan III resumed his plans concerning Moldavia. During the whole war, the Crown troops tried to prevent the Turks from delivering supplies to Kamyanets but without significant results.

The question of taking action against Kamyanets was raised again in 1692 at a council of war held by the monarch and hetmans. It was decided then that the Polish-Lithuanian army would try to capture the fortress and if the attack did not succeed, it would build a fort near a convenient place to cross the Dniester River (the plan was above all to rebuild and thoroughly modernise the castle in Zhvanets) and provide it with a strong unit of troops blockading the Turkish garrison. Building a fortified post on the Dniester had also another purpose, namely to make it possible to use the river to deliver supplies to the Polish garrison in Soroca, which had been taken over the year before. When Hetman Stanisław Jabłonowski came with his troops to Kamyanets, the reality forced the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to review its plans once more. Jabłonowski had not enough infantrymen to besiege Kamyanets and conduct construction work at the same time. Due to the late time of the year (end of September), it was decided that the army would only build the fort. The location of the fortifications also changed. The castle of Zhvanets was not suitable for modernisation, moreover, the Polish-Lithuanian forces would have had to cross a river several times to get to Zhvanets. Therefore, a decision was made to build the fort on a rocky neck in a narrowing between the Zbruch and Dniester Rivers, near the place where the former flows into the latter. The design of the small fortress is attributed to an outstanding architect of Dutch descent, Tylman van Gameren (Gamerski). A contribution to the process of designing the fortress was probably also made by Marcin Kątski, Voivode of Kiev, General of Artillery of the Crown. The fort was provided with earth fortifications to the east and west (the north and south sides were protected by rocky cliffs and rivers). The eastern fort was composed of two demibastions, one bastion, a ravelin and a gate called the Kamyanets Gate, and the western (shorter) fort was made up of two demibastions, a ravelin and a gate called the Lviv Gate. Moreover, within the area of the fortress, there was a watchtower and a garrison church (the latter built in 1693). There were also plans of garrisoning Khotyn and Babyntsi (to the west of the Ramparts of the Holy Trinity) with Polish troops, but these plans were not carried out.

The fort, called the Blockade on the Mountain of the Holy Trinity or the Rampart on the Mountain of the Holy Trinity, commonly known by a later name of the Ramparts of the Holy Trinity, was probably garrisoned with around 1,000 harquebusiers, 1,500 infantrymen, 100 dragoons and 18 cannons. The commandant was Colonel Michał Brandt, Commander of the Regiment of the Harquebusier Guard (the following year promoted to Major General). However, the key part was played by cavalry under the command of Regiment Commander Jakub Kalinowski, Cup-bearer of Halych (composed of eighteen cavalry squadrons, including thirteen semi-heavy ones (so-called pancerni or chainmail-bearers) and five Wallachian ones, i.e. around 1,000 soldiers). The objective of the cavalry was to intercept supplies sent to Kamyanets as well as to make it impossible for the garrison of the fortress to cultivate land in the area. Although Hetman Jabłonowski strove to provide the garrison with as much supplies as possible, already in the winter of 1692/1693, there were supply difficulties and consequently the soldiers deserted. In 1693, to secure supply deliveries, a decision was made to build another fort on the Dniester – the Rampart of the Virgin Mary, situated in the area called Horodok, where the Seret River flows into the Dniester. Also the way of selecting cavalrymen to be stationed in the Ramparts was changed. Instead of selecting whole units, each national squadron had to send two comrades with retinues. These soldiers were then divided into small squadrons. As a result, the so-called Ramparts unit included two Hussar squadrons, four semi-heavy squadrons and two Wallachian squadrons (around 400 soldiers). The cavalrymen stationed in the Ramparts were to be given a higher hiberna (allowance on top of the pay) and Regiment Commander Konstanty Zahorowski, Stolnik of Novgorod, succeeded Kalinowski as the commander of the unit. Soldiers in the cavalry unit changed every year and there was also some rotation in the infantry and harquebusier units. This army distinguished itself in the following year at the Battle of Hodiv (where it fought off the attacks of several times larger Tatar forces for several hours; the commander of one of the Hussar squadrons, Mikołaj Guttyter-Dobrodziejski, Cup-bearer of Letychiv, died there) and at the Battles of Ustechko and Lviv (at the beginning of 1695). The work of the cavalry from the Ramparts of the Holy Trinity gave a hard time to the garrison of Kamyanets. In the winter of 1694/1695, food and firewood were scarce in the fortress of Kamyanets, the troops from the Mountain of the Holy Trinity took the Turks’ herds away several times and captured several Turkish dignitaries.

Desertion, financial and supply problems still plagued the garrison of the Ramparts – the fortress reached a crisis in 1696, at the beginning of the interregnum after King Jan III, when it was garrisoned by only 100 infantrymen and 70 harquebusiers. At that time, Colonel Jan Krzysztof von Hondorff succeeded Brandt as the commandant and then, the function was assumed by Colonel Jan Wilhelm Rotarius and Major General Jerzy Bartsch. When the interregnum ended, the king and hetmans probably decided to reinforce the fort – in 1698, the Ramparts were to be garrisoned with around 1,000 infantrymen. In September 1699, a local assembly of Podolian noblemen, who waited for the Turkish garrison to abandon Kamyanets according to the Treaty of Karlowitz, took place in the Ramparts.

When the war with the Ottoman Empire ended, a decision was made to keep the garrison of the Ramparts (in 1701, at least three squadrons of semi-heavy cavalry were stationed there). What is more, in 1700 King August II granted Marcin Kątski a privilege to found a town within the fortress, an arsenal was established there as well. At the beginning of the 18th century, intensive renovation work was carried out in the Ramparts (during which the earth ramparts were faced with stone masonry wall). The modernisation of the fortifications was supervised by a Scot, Lieutenant-Colonel Archibald Glover de Glaydeny, who became the commandant of the fortress later (in the years 1715–1721). In the reign of August III, the fortress gradually fell into decay, despite the fact that a small garrison of infantry and artillery was still stationed there and subsequent commandants tried to restore it to battle readiness. The foundation of the town turned into a complete fiasco and in the reign of Stanisław August Poniatowski, the town virtually did not exist.

In the summer of 1768, after the Bar Confederation was established, a small garrison of Crown army left the fortress, which was then taken in November by Bar confederates under the command of Kazimierz Pułaski, Starost of Zozulyntsi. Confederate troops remained there until the spring of 1769. On 8 March, soldiers under a Russian general, Sergey Izmailov, stormed the fortress. The confederates could not defend the neglected fortifications from an attack of a regular army. At last, Pułaski fled with a handful of soldiers by swimming across the Dniester. During the storm, a church in the Ramparts, where the Confederates’ hospital was located, burnt down.

In 1772, the Ramparts were occupied by Austria as a result of the First Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Austrian authorities neither renovated nor garrisoned the fortress. At the end of the 19th century, plans were made to renovate remains of the Polish fortress – the church and two gates. In 1903, the church was re-consecrated and several years later, the gates were reinforced. The Roman Catholic parish functioned in the Ramparts until they were occupied by Soviet troops in 1939. The church was opened again in 2014.


Based on:

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

T. Ciesielski, Armia koronna w czasach Augusta III (The Crown Army in August III’ Time), Warszawa 2009.

B. Dybaś, Fortece Rzeczypospolitej: Studium z dziejów budowy fortyfikacji stałych w państwie polsko-litewskim w XVII wieku (Fortresses of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth: A Study on the History of Building Permanent Fortifications in the Polish-Lithuanian State in the 17th Century), Toruń 1998.

L. Finkel, Okopy św. Trójcy: Dwa epizody z dziejów Polski (The Ramparts of the Holy Trinity: Two Episodes in the History of Poland), Lviv 1889.

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

R. Marcinek, Okopy świętej Trójcy (The Ramparts of the Holy Trinity), “Teka Komisji Urbanistyki i Architektury” (“File of Urban Studies and Architecture Committee”), Vol. XXVII (1995), p. 217–229.

K. Piwarski, Między Francją a Austrią: Z dziejów polityki Jana III w latach 1687–1690 (Between France and Austria: History of the Policy of Jan III in the Years 1687–1690), Kraków 1933.

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.

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.




[1]Named after the Polish-Lithuanian emissary to Istanbul, Jan Gniński, Voivode of Chełmno.

Autorzy zdjęć/grafik:Krystian Trela (19)Oskar Kubrak (9) - w sumie 28.