Polish Lands against a European Background until the Mid-16th Century
Part III. Water for towns
III.1 Rainwater cisterns
Although in the treatises quoted above rainwater was called “the best” for drinking and cooking, it was recommended that containers for rainwater (Latin: cisternae) should be built in places where no water was to be found: cum aqua deest, as Pietro de Crescenzi put it, referring to Palladius, and as Andrzej Trzycieski translated it into Polish in 1549: “gdzie woda nie może być” [where water cannot be].526 Recommendations to use rainwater only as a last resort perhaps resulted from the fact that it was difficult to store (as “the lightest”) so as to preserve its high quality, namely that of water suitable for drinking. Let us recollect that the earliest this very piece of advice was given was by Aristotle: [the town] “must possess if possible a plentiful natural supply of pools and springs, but failing this, a mode has been invented of supplying water by means of constructing an abundance of large reservoirs for rainwater, so that a supply may never fail the citizens when they are debarred from their territory by war.”527 Indeed, rainwater cisterns played an important role only in places suffering from a scarcity of water – either temporarily or permanently – or even from the lack of other sources of drinking water.
Two types of cisterns were built: tank cisterns and filter cisterns (fig. 17). At the beginning of the 14th century the latter – more complicated in terms of construction – were described by Pietro de...
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