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Hladomorna “Hladomorna” or the “dungeon” is the name of the bastion on Český Šternberk’s southern end, part of an ingenious system of fortifications built at the turn of the 16th century. Petr Holický of Sternberg, then provincial supreme judge, started the project, which was completed by his son Jan.

The development of the new, serviceable firearms in the late 14th century, especially the artillery that medieval armies began to carry, posed an unexpected threat to the defensibility of castles like this one, whose early 13th-century architects had had no knowledge of long-range firearms. The siege and fall of the castle in 1467 forced its owners to turn their attention to the castle’s defenses during the reconstruction work that followed. The castle was most accessible and vulnerable to attack from the ridge that rose up from its southern face. So it was vitally important that this vulnerable spot be incorporated into a broadly conceived system of defense. Building a projecting bastion was the best way to do this. The site for the bastion was the strategically important peak of the gradually sloping, stony promontory, separated at the castle’s south end by a broad, artificially deepened escarpment.

A massive central tower was built here, with walls that come together on the south side ‘en bec’ – in a sharp beak designed to reduce the surface presented to enemy fire. The room in the upper story of the tower, accessible by a spiral staircase, has cleverly spaced embrasures for firing light artillery. The square opening in the floor provides access to the deep, dark space in the ground floor, which served as a powder magazine and storeroom for the tower garrison. It was not until the 19th century that the tower wall was pierced to create the current ground-floor entrance. A massive, horseshoe shaped rampart featuring additional embrasures protected the area around the main tower, but only a fragment of its front section has been preserved.

This bastion is one of the best-preserved remaining examples of Late Gothic fortifications; its significance for the development of 15th-century Central European defensive architecture extended well beyond the Czech lands.

©2005 SeM, www.hradceskysternberk.cz