One of the Wawel Castle’s two artillery towers –nicknamed “fire towers” – it was built around 1460 during the reign of Casimir IV Jagiellon. The tower was raised to strengthen the defences of the royal residence against attack from the most vulnerable, southern, side as the adjacent suburb of Stradom did not possess fortifications of its own.
The tower was adapted to accommodate firearms and artillery. Certain architectural elements, such as an ornamental entrance portal, glazed windows, and a large chimney shaft that would have been connected to a tile stove found in the third floor chamber point to its former function as lodgings. The room may have served either as guards’ quarters or as a prison for persons of high social standing.
In peacetime, towers such as this one were often used as prisons. Indeed, confinement in the higher stories – that is “in the tower” – was regarded as “honourable punishment” and was reserved for the nobility. Common criminals were held in dungeons; one such dungeon survives in another of Wawel’s towers –the aptly named Thieves’ Tower.
Note on access: touring the tower requires climbing 137 steps. For your safety, please watch your step and do not lean over the banisters. Children under age 12 must be accompanied by an adult.