Archive for July 20th, 2010


Guilds Responsible for Manning Medieval Krakow’s Defensive Towers

Boy, that's a lot of towers.

In Krakow I visited the Barbican, which is one of the surviving structures of the defensive wall that was built to surround the Old City from the 13th to 17th centuries. From what I remember of the exhibit there, towers were placed in this wall about 40 meters apart, this distance having been determined by effective bowshot range so that the towers could support one another with arrow fire. Wikipedia says that the defensive wall stretched for 1.9 mile (3 km) and had 46 towers and seven main entrances leading through them, with which we could check that math.

As of 1626, one of these towers contained:

  • 3 harquebuses
  • 1 falconet
  • 6 muskets
  • 1 matchlock
  • 2 half-harquebuses
  • 5 armors
  • 1 sword
  • 13 halberds

There were not enough city guardsmen to man all the towers, so each of the city’s guilds were given responsibility for seeing to the defense of one tower.  I found the list of guilds to be an interesting and potentially D&D-useful glimpse of the life of a medieval city.

  • Masons of St. Michael’s Church
  • Harnessmakers
  • Painters
  • Salt-Works Managers
  • Barber-Surgeons
  • Leatherworkers
  • Tinsmiths
  • Knife-Grinders
  • Locksmiths (gate)
  • Armorers (gate)
  • Tawers (gate)
  • Cobblers (gate + also attributed to 3 defensive towers)
  • Red Tanners
  • Potters
  • Bookbinders & Wheelwrights
  • Cartwrights & Pasturers
  • Bathkeepers & Herringers
  • Executioners
  • City Guards
  • Soapmakers
  • Carpenters
  • Joiners
  • Furriers (gate)
  • Haberdashers
  • Inn-Keepers (two towers)
  • Comb-makers & Playing-card Makers
  • Sellers of Small Wares
  • Weavers
  • Hatters
  • Butchers (gate)
  • Cordovaners
  • Merchants
  • Bakers (gate)
  • Smiths
  • Saddlers
  • Ringmakers
  • Coopers
  • Goldsmiths (gate)

Guilds responsible for gate towers may have been more influential or powerful, although this wasn’t stated directly.

    The Barbican outside the wall

    I got the above from an exhibit in the barbican. You could also walk along a surviving section of the defensive wall and visit the two remaining towers. The exhibit there had a description of each of the towers, which often listed a different guild as responsible. In some cases this was likely  due to variance in translation, while in others it may have indicated a change over time. Here are the different guilds I noted in that exhibit:

    Sack-makers (instead of Leather-workers); Cutlers (instead of Knifegrinders); Belt-Makers (instead of Pasturers); Torturers (or City Hall Servants & Hangman’s Assistants); Hangman’s Tower; Sword Makers & Soap-Makers; Costermongers (instead of Sellers of Small Wares); Fustian Makers (instead of Weavers); Rope-Makers (instead of Joiners)

    In thinking about what this implies for D&D games, it’s instructive to consider the size of the city that contained all of these guilds. In the map below, the area surrounded by the green “planty” was the original walled city (a park now occupies the space of the former moat just past the defensive wall). As the woodcut above shows, there were also buildings outside the walls that contributed to the economic activity of the guilds.  Wawel Castle, and its brothel-cave,  is to the south, on a hill overlooking the city.

    Size of the medieval walled city of Krakow

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