Celtic vessels found under iconic Romanesque rotunda

Archaeologists discovered remains of Celtic pottery vessels during excavations underneath the 11th-century Romanesque rotunda of St Nicolas in Cieszyn, South Poland.

Excavation site (by Zofia Jagosz-Zarzycka)

The legend states that the rotunda was built on the site of a pagan temple of a deity called Marzanna – a Slavic goddess of death and winter. But archaeologist conducting first excavations below the building found no traces of any former structures, only pieces of Celtic pottery vessels – and no wonder, since the whole hill where the rotunda stands today was once covered in large portion by a Celtic settlement. Archaeologists hoped that the excavations will allow to establish when the building was actually constructed. In previous years archaeologist managed to uncover the face of the outer wall and reveal the remains of buttresses that weren’t previously known. the foundations were also studied, revealing that they reach 2 metres down and are well preserved. They consist of various-sized pebbles mixed with limestone mortar.

The rotunda of St Nicolas in Cieszyn (by Jerzy Ochoński)

The hill has a long history of settlements. First traces date back to first half of the 1st millennium BC when people of the Lusatian culture thrived there, and later Celts and Germanic people. After few centuries Slavs created their settlement. So far it was believed that it occurred during first half of 11th century AD, but the latest discoveries show that it might have happened later, when a castellany existed on top of the hill, around mid 12th century AD. The rotunda is considered one of the most valuable and best preserved Medieval monuments of historic heritage in Poland. It served as a chapel of a ringfort and later of the castle. It was built with use of limestone blocks on a circular plan. Its image is present on Polish 20 PLN bill.

Overview of the excavation site (by Zofia Jagosz-Zarzycka)

(after Nauka w Polsce, Jerzy Okoński, Zofia Jagosz-Zarzycka)

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