Kłodzko - www.klodzko.pl

city wells

Medieval and early modern Kłodzko benefited from the dozen or so public and private wells located within the town walls and on Castle Hill (where five were in use, the oldest Church Well dating back to 1393 and the deepest Baker’s Well reaching around 60 m down). The greatest demand for the water from these wells came from the food industry (particularly brewery). The poor townsfolk usually drew water for consumption purposes.

Given the geological structure of Kłodzko, constructing a well (or more appropriately cutting it out) was a difficult and time-consuming undertaking, particularly in the higher parts of the town.

A local legend refers to the construction of Church Well on Castle Hill, which is attributed to a certain shoemaker named Czesław. The persistent craftsman was able to cut out a 2-metre wide well reaching the depth of around 30 metres over the course of nine years. His daily diggings would fit in his leather shoemaker’s apron. The water was drawn from this well with a paternoster, a device named after the prayer, which took as long to say as the process.

The significance of the town’s traditional wells declined with the development of the water pipeline system in 1540. This system would feed water to the wells, which now served as intake points.

well poisoning

As the only reliable sources of life-giving water, the wells were guarded and protected, particularly at times of war. Private wells were surrounded with fencing in order to restrict outsider access.

Nevertheless, according to legend, Baker’s Well, which was located in the fortress developments on Castle Hill, was poisoned in 1806 by one Charlotta Ursini, a resident of Kłodzko and supporter of the Napoleonic army then laying siege to the city. By inflicting a stomach disorder and general malaise upon the garrison, she allegedly prompted the surrender of the Prussian soldiers to the invading French forces.

Another legend concerns the poisoning of numerous wells in the year 1622, when Kłodzko was besieged by the Imperial Austrian Army. The only sources of clean water were underground private wells, which included those owned by the wealthy merchant Honza and the rapacious baker Ernest. The baker sensed a business opportunity and began selling the water from his well. Honza, moved by the misery of the townsfolk, gave his away for free. The greedy Ernest was not impressed by the merchant’s generosity and demanded that everyone buying his bread should also purchase his water. Needless to say, this story did not end well for the baker...

* source: Romana and Leszek Majewski, Legends and Stories of the Kłodzko Land part 1, Kłodzko 2008, p. 40 and 56.

Public Executions in Kłodzko

Public executions were performed in Kłodzko from the Middle Ages through to the 19th century. The fixed gallows in the town signified the privilege of punishing with death those who acted against the law and moral principles. The last execution occurred in 1850. The executioner beheaded, with an axe, an individual by the name of Treutler, for the murder of a peasant from Drogosław.

Punishments were carried out at the gallows outside the town, on the road to Złoty Stok, and at the pillory, or whipping post, in front of the Town Hall. The pillory appeared in the local sources in the years 1551-52 and was supposed to have been topped by the figure of a peasant with a sack of grain. Raised beside the pillory was a wooden scaffold upon which the condemned were killed by beheading with a sword.

The records of the town of Kłodzko speak of a number of punishments, of hanging, beheading and breaking with the wheel, being dragged to the execution site and impaled, of tearing with pincers and burning, being laid on the wheel, burial alive, quartering, and beheading combined with the driving of a stake through the heart.

In the 17th century, 60 local settlements were punishable by the facilities of Kłodzko.

Kłodzko beer

From the Middle Ages through to the modern era, beer was a staple beverage in the towns of Lower Silesia. Water, often polluted, could cause illnesses of the digestive system and carried microbes. Beer, far weaker than it is today, was considerably safer. Everyone drank it – adults and children alike – and it was served even to patients in hospital buildings. Beer drinking was also permitted in periods of fasting. It is estimated that average daily consumption of the alcoholic beverage was at this time around two litres per person.

The barley and wheat beer of Kłodzko was well known in Silesia for its outstanding quality, and its production in the town, by malters and brewers, was an important and common occupation. The privilege of brewing beer was regulated by local law. In the Middle Ages, this privilege was held by c. 200 houses in Kłodzko. In the 15th century, a special council appointed by the municipal councillors was involved in checking the scale on which beer was being produced beneath the buildings of Kłodzko, and whether this accorded with the amount in the privileges. This information is a source which confirms that the underground chambers were used not only as spaces for storing beer, but also as malt houses.

The Executioners of Kłodzko

The appearance of the office of executioner should be associated with the development of the judiciary and the first codes of German law. The earliest mentions of the professional executioner appear in the sources in the 13th century, but the professionalization of the role and the regulations associated with it underwent a slow evolution. The duties of the executioner, consisting initially in the infliction of corporal punishment, were extended over time to include the performance of cruel tortures, along with many other functions seen as ‘dirty’ in nature. The executioner was to maintain the torture chamber, its lighting and the instruments, as well as the technical condition of the penal fittings in the town, watch over the execution sites and the condition of the bodies displayed publicly following execution, see to cleanliness in the municipal prison, clean waste from the streets and supervise the brothel. This final function, seemingly administrative, was in fact sanctioned pimping and procuring.

The Profession of Executioner

The executioner received regular pay from municipal funds and benefits in kind. Not every town could afford to maintain its own executioner, however, in which case attempts had to be made to borrow one from a more affluent centre.

How efficiently a sentence was carried out depended in large measure on the will power, ability and favour of the municipal executioner. Obtaining the qualifications of master executioner required an apprentice to study under an independent and experienced individual. The period of study lasted many years, beginning in the case of the son of an executioner at an early age. The chief demands made of those pursuing the profession were an excellence in the act of killing, flogging, branding and severing limbs, as well as in torture, but also in the later treatment of injuries. The executioner paid for sloppy work with his career, and sometimes in health or with his own life.

The Executioner & Other Residents of the Town

The burghers held themselves aloof from the executioner, the ‘dirty’ nature of the profession bringing with it a social alienation. The presence of the executioner among the ‘decent citizens’ was undesirable, and this applied to both church and tavern. Executioners also grew rich relatively quickly, which only compounded the dislike. The house of the executioner was found on the outskirts of the town, often close by the residences of the dog catcher and gravedigger, and the brothels. This social ostracism and restriction of social functions affected the entire family, making the profession of executioner in a certain sense a hereditary one. Even marriage occurred among executioner families, leading to the appearance of whole executioner clans.

The Executioners of Kłodzko

In the 16th century Kłodzko was the sole town in the region to employ its own executioner. The first of these known by name and surname, Lorenz Volkmann, appears in the local sources c. 1569.

Of the executioners of Kłodzko, one of the most famous was Christopher Kühn, who in the mid-17th century, beyond the place of torture in Kłodzko, held also a Meisterei in Wambierzyce and Radków, and possibly in Otmuchów, the home of his wife, Anna Catharina Hildebrandt, who was the daughter of the executioner there. According to the sources, Kühn himself chose the path of the criminal, and failed to abide by the orders of the municipal authorities of Kłodzko.

Local sources claim that the executioners of Kłodzko were also involved in the provision of medical services, bringing protests from the local barber-surgeons, who accused the executioners of botched work. As a result, the municipal authorities dismissed both Christopher Kühn and fellow executioner Hans Gottschalk.

stopka UE

Projekt "Budowa innowacyjnych e-usług w Gminie Miejskiej Kłodzko" współfinansowany przez Unię Europejską ze środków Europejskiego Funduszu Rozwoju Regionalnego w ramach Regionalnego Programu Operacyjnego Województwa Dolnośląskiego na lata 2014-2020 oraz budżetu Gminy Miejskiej Kłodzko

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