In the popular imagination, a mediaeval town was a densely built up, walled, and busy settlement with skyscraping towers of churches and municipal buildings. In reality, in case of many smaller chartered towns of Central Europe there was little difference between them and villages, except legal status. The majority did not have masonry walls, some had no material boundaries at all. In this paper I will explore variety of border structures (e.g. palisades, earthworks, ditches), their social, legal, and cultural functions in marking urban space. The research is based on written records, archaeological evidence, and pictorial sources from smaller towns of the Kingdom of Poland.
In the year of 1288 the Island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea was ravaged by civil war. This was the culmination of a conflict caused by the newly built city wall of Visby. In a commonly used modern narrative about the Danish invasion of Gotland in 1361 this conflict continued, with a betrayal by the burghers; which supposedly closed the gates and watched the rural population be slaughtered outside the walls in a battle against the invaders. But did this betrayal happen? This paper addresses the relations between city and countryside. Sources and interpretations of these are discussed.
The medieval town square is an often neglected urban element in research. But by concentrating on this part of the city, it becomes quickly clear that this area can give important insights into the city’s development and structure as well as a reflection of the economic, social and political changes in the city. Bordered by surrounding buildings, the square is defined by its openness and shielded to the rest of the city. Nevertheless, this does not render the square an empty block but rather a lived space in the medieval city, giving space for markets, gatherings, proclamations etc.