The Architecture of the Stone Tower at Stolpie near Chelm - An Outline of Research Issues
A stone tower at Stolpie, located in the immediate proximity of the main route from Lublin to Chelm, a mere few metres south of the edge of the road, is incorporated into the north-eastern edge of a mound-like bank. This paper gives a brief presentation on the state of the research work aimed at reconstructing the original form, dating, and interpreting the architecture of the Stolpie tower. The tower was built of stone dressed into irregular ashlars, only the interior of the top storey being faced with fingerprint-marked brick. All the elevations of the tower are pierced with numerous openings on various levels. The tower is entered through an opening in the west wall, reached from the present level of the mound. The earliest source information about Stolpie can be found in the Halicz-Volhynian chronicle and refers to the first quarter of the 13th century. The next reference, in the 1359 document, concerns Chotko of Stolpie. In 1440 an Orthodox priest, Vavila, from the Church of Our Saviour (Spas) is mentioned in the first source reference to an Orthodox church with this dedication, located near the donjon (stolp). In turn, Jakub Susza (1864), the Uniate bishop of Chelm, gives several versions of the local oral tradition regarding the towers at Stolpie and near Chelm.The earliest studies of the Stolpie tower appeared in the first half of the 19th century. The majority of researchers consider the layout to have been homogeneous and to have functioned in one period, although considerable difficulties arise on account of the brick-faced interior on the top storey of the tower. Rappoport dates the Stolpie tower to the second half of the 13th and first half of the 14th centuries, whereas Kutylowska indicates the time bracket between the 10th and late 12th centuries, in her final conclusion dating it at the turn of the 10th and 11th centuries but abstaining from an unequivocal suggestion as to the founder of the structure. The Ukrainian scholars I.R. Mogitic and R.I. Mogitic date the tower to the end of the 12th century and point to Roman Mstislavovich as its founder. Their and other scholars' views are considered in detail. Depending on how the origins and function of the Stolpie tower are viewed, its dating ranges from the 10th to 14th centuries.Two main concepts of its formal-stylistic origins may be distinguished. Accordingly, at one pole of the present state of research is a view about a fortified tower connected with a system of defences and at the other the prevailing interpretation which emphasizes the definitely religious role of the tower and its immediate surroundings. Attempts to indicate its formal-stylistic origins are based above all on analysis of the upper storey and are limited to placing the Stołpie tower in the group of the so-called 'Volhynian-type' towers or within the general classification of centrally-planned structures with a religious function since the Early Christian period. Problems with the clear-cut definition of the type of the top-storey interior and with the reconstruction of its original form lead either to a firm conviction that it is of Eastern (Ruthenian-Byzantine or Byzantine) origin or to emphasis on its Early-Piast roots linked with Western civilization. These divergent findings underlay the ongoing research project..
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