Main City is probably the most beautiful part of Gdansk. It attracts all guided tours sightseeing the city. Złota Brama (Golden Gate), St. John’s church and the Fountain of Neptune – the symbol of Gdansk, all can be found in this district. But few visitors know that most of the buildings here were reconstructed after 1945!
History of the Main Town of Gdansk begins in 1343. That year the colony arranged at the Long Market was given the settlement privilege by the Teutonic Knights, who ruled this area. It remained separated from the rest of Gdansk till half of XVth century. Then the new ruler – Polish king Casimir IV, connected city areas in one political and economical body.
Main City fluorished with rest of Gdansk – the city became “gate” for grain, exported from Poland to western Europe through Baltic sea. Local merchants built their fortunes on selling luxurious, western goods to Polish noblemen. Gdansk was part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but retained wide autonomy. The citizens – mostly Lutherans of German or Flemish origin, wanted to conduct their own politics and rebelled against attempts on their political status.
This uneasy relationship with Polish kings is nicely comprised in the most famous Gdansk sculpture, the Neptune. Figure of ancient god of the sea, patron of sailors and merchants, was facing historic tenements, where Polish king was making overnight stays during his visits to Gdansk. Head of Neptune was deliberately lowered, as a symbol of respect and inferiority to the ruler.
The sculpture survived different twists and turns of history, but the architecture of Main Town became the hostage of politics. During XIXth century German empire, which controlled Gdansk since the partition of Poland in the end of XVIII century, tried to outline German origins of Main Town. Some of old tenements were demolished, on their place new ones, in distinctive, “German” Gothic revival style were raised.
The history of Main Town turned upside-down on 19 and 20th of march 1945. That day huge airstrike of Soviet bombers destroyed most of it’s historic buildings. Few days later Soviet and Polish troops conquered the town. When the war ended, Polish authorities decided to rebuild the prettiest part of Gdansk. This time “old-new” architecture was to look like from XVI-XVIII century.
The result is picturesque and much more comfortable for the inhabitants. The yards between the tenements are much bigger and sunny and houses have modern inferiors. Their look is, unfortunately, rather an impression of the architect, than 100% historically accurate appearance. Probably the only part of Main Town tenements that remained intact, are distinctive lintels. Focus Your attention on them during guided tours to Gdansk!
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