The abandoned fortress in Poland which also has the longest building in Europe

Bojan Ivanov
Left: Some of the buildings are overgrown with vegetation Photo credit: Lollencja, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl Right: Barracks within the Modlin fortress Photo credit: Klemens, CC BY-SA 2.5

Modlin fortress is situated in Poland, at the point of where two rivers join – the Vistula and the Narew. Which are both in the town of Novy Dvor Mazowiecky approximately 20 miles northwest of Warsaw. The stronghold is formed of a citadel located on the right side of the Narew, with two strengthen bridges and two rings of forts.

Modlin fortress is a unique remainder of the region’s turbulent and complicated past and a monument of the defensive architecture of several empires. It has worldwide significance and it is one of the largest and best preserved fortresses in Poland and in Europe.

One of the bridgeheads on the other side of the river Narew Photo credit: Wojsyl, CC BY-SA 3.0
One of the bridgeheads on the other side of the river Narew Photo credit: WojsylCC BY-SA 3.0

The territory of Modlin with dense forests and sandy river islands has always been well known as important strategic location in central Europe by different armies. The first permanent fortified spot here was a star-shaped army camp built by Swedish soldiers in 1656. The camp was used as a logistic center during the battle of Warsaw in 1656.

After the defeat of Sweden, the fort was destroyed and the place was left deserted and unfortified for more than 150 years. The proper construction of the fortress began in the era of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1806 he ordered the building of a bastion fortress as a supply center for the French forces operating in Poland and Russia.

At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the fortress was taken over by the Russians. The fast progress in the warfare technology forced the further development of the fortress. The Russians modernized the bastion fortress and it was developed into a modern dispersed stronghold, mainly because of the increase of the range of artillery.

Outer ring of forts about 5 miles from the center of the fortress were built. Because of the further rapid development of the war technology, it was inevitable another round of modernization of the fortress was to happen.

This time another ring of forts was constructed about 7 miles from the center of the complex. The work started in 1912 and even the beginning of the World War I didn’t stop the construction, until 1915, when the fortress was captured by German troops. After World War I the fortress was in the hands of the Polish Army, when it was created into the main Polish logistic and training base.

In the World War II, after the surrender of Poland under the Third Reich troops, the complex became part of the military infrastructure of the Wehrmacht and was used as a training center. After the war it became again the main logistic and training center of the Polish Army.

Barracks within the Modlin fortress Photo credit: Klemens, CC BY-SA 2.5
Barracks within the Modlin fortress Photo credit: Klemens, CC BY-SA 2.5

 

Defensive work in Fort XV, one of the forts constructed in 1912–1915 and a site of heavy fighting during World War I Photo credit: Zbigniew Strucki, CC BY 2.5
Defensive work in Fort XV, one of the forts constructed in 1912–1915 and a site of heavy fighting during World War I Photo credit: Zbigniew Strucki, CC BY 2.5

Nowadays, because of the new geopolitical situation in the region and the reduction of armed forces, many fortifications are left abandoned. This is also the case with the Modlin fortress. Several military buildings of historic importance in the Modlin fortress are slowly decaying, but there are programs for renovating and preserving the buildings. The whole complex is a real monument of the war history of Europe and there are guided tours.

The buildings are slowly decaying Photo credit: Misza8721, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl
The buildings are slowly decaying Photo credit: Misza8721, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl

 

One of the preserved buildings in the Modlin fortress Photo credit: Lollencja, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl
One of the preserved buildings in the Modlin fortress Photo credit: Lollencja, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl

 

Some of the buildings are overgrown with vegetation Photo credit: Lollencja, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl
Some of the buildings are overgrown with vegetation Photo credit: Lollencja, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl

 

The underground bunkers Photo credit: Misza8721, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl
The underground bunkers Photo credit: Misza8721, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl

You can also see  the longest building in Europe. It was built between 1832 and 1841 by Russian soldiers, prisoners and Polish local peasants. It had 800 rooms for more than 20000 soldiers. There are underground bunkers and a former jail for 700 prisoners too. Other significant buildings are the neo-Gothic Water Tower, the White Tower, the North Gate (one of the oldest structures in the fortress) and the Napoleon’ Redoubt, which is probably designed by Napoleon himself. Some buildings were used as a movie set in famous Polish movies.