“Ceglana” is part of a powerful fortress.
At first sight, it is simply a retaining wall supporting a slope. In reality, however, it is one of the few remaining relics of the times when Szczecin was a powerful fortress. Ceglana is located in the former Northern Battery, a structure which still has not revealed all its secrets.
History of this part of the city is inseparably linked with the history of the 18th and 19th century Szczecin fortifications – structures and places which still have not been fully investigated, explored, or explained. The few remaining 19th century photos, sketches, or maps do not provide sufficient information about those sites. It is even harder to imagine the actual size of the fortifications which occupied an area larger than the city itself, squeezed into a space only slightly bigger than 50 hectares.
How did the fortifications come into being?
Let us go back to the beginning of the 18th century. Szczecin was then a powerful fortress. Its construction was started by the Swedes who captured the city in 1630. They pulled down the medieval fortifications, and replaced them with new ones. Their work was continued by the Prussians who took over Szczecin in 1713. Over the next 150 years, the fortification system grew to gigantic proportions. The outer fortification line ran from the Odra River, along present-day Kapitańska Street, then through the centre of Żeromskiego Park to the Royal Gate, Grunwaldzki Square, and next through the Harbour Gate, along Potulickiego Street, to the Odra River in the vicinity of the railway station.
Between 1725-1727, the Prussians built a series of fortifications from bricks and massive earthen embankments, intended to defend the city from the south. An important element of the fortification system was a canal connected with the Odra River, which entered the land near the place of the present-day railway viaduct over the Odra River. The canal ran along today’s Nowa Street, as far as the Anchor Fountain which is more commonly known as the base of the legendary Sedina sand statue. It served the function of both the harbour and the moat of the fortress. In the south, the harbour and the city were defended by the so-called Snail Bastion whose name contained reference to the winding path leading to its top.
In the mid-19th century, further large-scale construction work was undertaken in this area. The reason was the construction of the first railway line and station (inaugurated in 1842). Its creators managed to persuade the military authorities to extend the tracks a little further, and build a railway station in the immediate vicinity of the fortifications. The aim was to enable the trains to get as close to the city as possible. The fortifications were rebuilt at the expense of the railway company. Another phase of construction work began in 1845 and was aimed at expanding Szczecin to include a new district, the so-called New Town, i.e. an area around present-day Potulicka, Narutowicza and 3 Maja Streets. In order to provide a safe connection between the Szczecin fortress, the railway station, and the new district, the Odrzańska Gate (German: Oder Tor) was built in 1848-1849 in the vicinity of today’s bus station.
When was the Northern Battery constructed?
Northern Battery was part of those new, extensive investment projects. It formed part of the new fortifications that ran along the back of the steam engine depot, to present-day Potulicka Street. The structure was located on a steep slope. Its construction was completed in October 1848.
When in 1873 a decision was made to demolish the fortifications and use the land for building development, the fate of the majority of fort structures had been sealed. Only few relics of the fortifications have survived till modern day, and, except for the Royal Gate and Harbour Gate, they are almost totally unknown. Why? The truth is that hardly anyone would want to venture onto the steep slopes stretching behind the steam engine depot, or climb the steep, often littered slopes at the foot of Potulicka Street? No tourist trails lead there, there is no mention of those places in guide books.
The Northern Battery has partly survived as it was found to be an indispensable component of the structure supporting the slope above the railway station. Its silhouette was deformed by the townhouses which were built on both its sides in the late 19thcentury. The only element of the Battery that remained visible was the wall facing the tracks, which blended into the scenery of the railway station as yet another component of the brick walls supporting the slope.
What hides under the floor?
The structure still conceals a secret from the past. Adaptation of the building into ”Ceglana” revealed the first level (counting from the ceiling). During the conversion work, loose rubble was discovered in one of the places under the floor. A rod inserted among the crumbled bricks plunged easily. Does this mean there are more levels under the restaurant? This is certainly so, one just needs to look at the height of the wall facing the railway tracks. Further levels (one, or two of them) extend at least as far as the pavement between the Battery’s wall, and the edge of the retaining wall by the tracks. Why are they not accessible today? Who covered them over with earth?
No documentation has as yet been found that would allow recreating the structure of the Battery and its subsequent history. We can only draw hypotheses based on our knowledge of the remains of other fortifications from that time, e.g.: today’s Chrobry Embankment. The fortifications and terrain features were adapted to suit new purposes. Empty, useless spaces were filled with rubble, thereby reinforcing the entire structure which remained under the ground.
Unexplained fragments of the history of such places constitute one of the attractions. One can explore them, and maybe uncover some important details, or search the archives, and become a discoverer who fills in the blank spaces in the city’s history.
Andrzej Kraśnicki Jr.
A beautiful view by the gallows, the operetta theatre, and the old forts. Secrets of Potulicka Street
The barracks, the court, young ladies, and Mr. Otto’s store. A stroll through the New Town.
The tunnel, the steam engine and the crash. A dozen of curiosities from the vicinities of the Main Railway Station.