Tourist routes in Gdańsk: Symbols and memorials

Gdansk had a moving history and therefore offers many different memorials, monuments and statues.

The Crane

Undoubtedly the symbol of Gdańsk which has the most deserved honour. It is the largest medieval port crane in Europe, perched between the pylons on the Brama Szeroka (Wide Gate) on the Motława. This is one of the so-called city water gates, which has existed since 1363. Three years later there was a Latin reference to the crane, or caranum. It was used for the handling of cargo (mostly beer) and ballast, and to put up masts on ships. The present form of the crane came into existence in the years 1442-1444. In its interior there is a restored and active drive mechanism - two drums with a diameter of about six metres, which were once raised with the force of human legs. The device was able to lift a weight of four tonnes, to a height of eleven metres. In 1945, the crane was set fire to by the Red Army who invaded the city, but the walls surrounding the wooden structure survived, and after World War II the wooden part was reconstructed. Today, the crane is one of the branches of the Central Naval Museum.

Gdańsk - fontanna Neptuna Gdańsk - fontanna Neptuna Gdańsk - fontanna Neptuna, Neptune Fountain/Fot. Shutterstock

Neptune Fountain

Neptune Fountain. One of the most important symbols of Gdańsk. It has been standing since 1633 in the Long Market, in front of Artus Court and has 'posed' for millions of photos. The initiator of the fountain was the mayor of Gdańsk, Bartłomiej Schachmann. The figure of Neptune relates to the union of the city with the sea, and is presented in a way that you can see it from all sides. The appearance of the sculpture indicates that the artist knew ancient patterns, suggesting that the seventeenth-century Neptune fountain is one of few examples of ancient sculpture remaining in the Gdańsk area. It was modelled by Peter Husen and Johann Rogge, according to the project by Gerdta Benningka, and was cast in 1615 in Augsburg. The bowl and stem on which the statue stands are the work of the sculptor Abraham van den Blocke. The whole fountain is surrounded by a magnificent grille, dating from 1634 Between 1757-1761 Johann Karl Stender transformed the spirit of the Rococo bowl and pedestal fountains, adding a whole array of sea creatures. According to one Gdańsk legend, it was Neptune who contributed to making the famous Gdańsk Goldwasser liqueur. Outraged that coins were being thrown into the fountain, the trident struck the water and smashed it into tiny flakes of gold, which now adorn the magnificent splendour of his herbal liqueur. Delicious!

The Golden Gate

The Golden Gate was built in the years 1612-1614, on the site of the fourteenth-century Gothic Długouliczna Gate, and was designed by Abraham van den Blocke. Its sophisticated Renaissance style stone sculptures express the 1648 parapets, made by Piotr Ringering. There is a set of eight sculptures, four on each side, which is an allegorical representation of civic virtues and symbolizes the aspirations of the townspeople: Pax ('Peace'), Libertas ('Freedom'), Fortuna ('Happiness'), Fama ('Fame'), Concordia ('Consent'), Iustitia ('Justice'), Pietas ('Piety') and Prudentia ('Consideration'). On the front wall a German quotation from Psalm 122 has been placed, stating: Let peace take those you love. May peace be within thy walls, and the security of your palaces! The Latin inscription on the ul. Długa side says, the consent of a small republic grows - disagreement leads to a great fall. Adjacent to the Golden Gate is the Fraternity Brotherhood of St George's Manor, built between 1487-1494 in a late Gothic style.

The Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers

The Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers commemorates the recent, tragic story of the victims of the 1970 workers' strikes. This massive monument consists of three crosses, with a height of 42m (and weighing almost 140 tons), and placed on their tops are anchors (2 tons each), which constitute a symbol of hope. Reliefs have been placed at the bottom depicting scenes from the shipbuilders' lives, as well as a quote from Psalm 29 and a fragment of Milosz Czeslaw's poem entitled You Who Wronged. The monument was unveiled on the 10th anniversary of the events, on 16 December 1980. The spot the monument lies on is symbolic as it is near the second gate of the Gdańsk Shipyard, and right next to it is where the first shots were fired, killing the workers. The construction of the monument had been attempted since 1971, but it was not possible until the August Agreements (one of the main demands of which was to commemorate the dead). During the persistent strikes in August 1980, the participants and residents of the Tri-City collected funds for the monument's construction, and there were also benefactors from the whole of Poland. Henryk Lenarciak was the head of the committee overseeing the construction of the monument.

The Lady in the Window

The Lady in the Window. For most of us it is the face of Poli Raksy, who starred in the film version of this story, which has been showing on our screens since 1964. The lady's character, created by Jadwiga Łuszczewska (1834-1908), who had the pen name Deotyma, was inspired by a trip along the Vistula from Warsaw to Gdańsk in 1858. The 24-year-old writer was fascinated with Gdańsk and its history, but in effect this adventure waited 35 years. After all, in this 'ancient romance' she aptly described the unusual colour of Gdańsk, and against this background the character Hedwig, a young Gdańsk resident, looking out the window of the magnificent building called the Amber House (Bursztynowy Dom). The novel Panienka ('Miss') appeared in Warsaw in 1893 and had a lot of success, and a second edition appeared five years later, known today under the title of Panienka z okienka ('The Lady at the window'). Theatre became interested in the novel in 1959 and in 1964 the motion picture was commissioned. To commemorate this moving love story a mini-show was created, set in the Nowy Dom Ławy ? a tenement building adjacent to Artus Court. Since 1 June 2001, daily at 13.03 (and in the summer season from 1 June to 15 September also at 15.03 and 17.03),, the figure of a young seventeenth-century Gdańsk lady looks out to passers-by from the highest window, always accompanied by the sound of the il Tedesco Martini Plaisir d'amour melody. The figure of the lady was created by Ewa Topolan, a sculptor at the Gdańsk Academy of Fine Arts, and the mechanism is the work of Tadeusz Nowosielski.

Gdańsk - Zielona Brama Gdańsk - Zielona Brama The Green Gate, Gdańsk - Zielona Brama /Fot. Shutterstock

The Green Gate

The Green Gate. The gate which we admire today, was built between 1568-1571. It was constructed in the place of the Kogi Gate which had been demolished a few years earlier, and had been the oldest of Gdańsk's water gates, dating from 1357. The creators of the present gate were: Regnier of Amsterdam and Hans Kramer. Its Mannerist style is still impressive. The gate, as well as the broad tenement house, simply a palace, was built to host the Polish kings visiting the city. Here the so-called Royal Route began, running down ul. Długa and the Long Market to the Golden (Złota) and Wyżynna Gates. Interestingly, the Green Gate was not ever visited by any of the Polish monarchs. The only royal visitor was in 1646 by the future wife of Władysław IV, and later Jan Kazimierz, Maria Ludwika Gonzaga. For a short time the Society of Natural History was based at the gate. Today the National Museum organizes exhibitions, various meetings, conferences and shows here. In one of the Green Gate's rooms is the office of the former President, Lech Walesa.

The Highland Gate

The Highland Gate was once also called Brama Wysoka (the High Gate), and was founded in the second half of the sixteenth century as a modern fortification, erected along the western border of the city. This Renaissance city gate was the main gateway to the city, opening the Royal Route, leading down ul. Długa and Długi Targ to the Brama Zielona (Green Gate). As for the creator of the Wyżynna gate, the references do not match. Some argue that it was the Saxon, Hans Kramer, who built it in the years 1571-1576, whilst others mention that Willem van den Blocke - who was Flemmish, had completed the work in 1588. The gate remained unchanged for 290 years. In 1861, the façade was subjected to renovation work. In 1878, in order to increase the throughput capacity, the inner gate was demolished, and the shafts were broken allowing for additional journeys. The drawbridge over the moat was replaced by a permanent dike. Interestingly, after the demilitarization of Gdańsk in 1920, the travel agency Norddeutscher Lloyd took some of the space. In turn, after the war, it was used by the Polish Travel Agency called 'Orbis'. In 2002 the gate was taken over by the Gdańsk Historical Museum.

Jan III Sobieski Monument

Jan III Sobieski Monument. This monument is unique because it has not been associated with Gdańsk from the outset. This is because it comes from Lviv, where it stood on the Wały Hetman Square, the most representative place for walking, or so called 'Corso'. It was funded in 1898 by the city authorities there, and was designed by the sculptor Thaddeus Barącz from Lviv. The figure of a king on horseback, which resembles the statue of Sobieski in Warsaw's Lazienki Park, is made of bronze and stands on a base from Julian Markowski's sculpture studio, who was also from Lviv. Sobieski's relationship with this city are quite close. He was born in nearby Olesko, and often visited Lviv, and even had a house there. Unfortunately, after 1944 a Polish king in the Soviet Union was not too desirable. The monument had been planned to be converted into Bohdan Khmelnytsky, but was eventually handed over to Poland, specifically to Warsaw, where for around 16 years it decorated Wilanów park. Therefore it only came to Gdańsk in 1965, where it was set in one of the main squares of the Old Town - Targ Drzewny (the Timber Market). Until 1989 the plaque with the inscription: Królowi Janowi III miasto Lwów (King Jan III city of Lviv) was obscured, however today we can admire it. The original bronze plaque cartridge, or ornamental shield on the plinth could not be retrieved. There is a suspicion that they have been concreted inside the monument. Currently adorning the base, which is made of sandstone, are the works of the sculptor Czeslaw Gajda, originating from the 90s.

Post Office and the Polish Post Office Defenders Monument

Post Office and the Polish Post Office Defenders Monument. This place has gone down in history as an example of the heroic attitude of the Poles. One of the first armed clashes of World War II took place here. But step back for a moment to 1930. This place had become the main post office in Gdańsk, and was equipped with a telephone exchange, which allowed for direct connections within Poland. Tensions in the city meant that its employees were trained to fight, and most of them belonged to a secret rifle association. The post office workers were therefore prepared for the defence, which was confirmed on 1 September. Germany attacked at 4.45 with strong force - about 180 people. They had three armoured cars and had hoped for a quick victory. The defenders numbered 55 and only had three Browning 1928 light machine guns, pistols, rifles and a quantity of hand grenades. Despite the imbalance of force they repulsed the first attack. The result of the second attack, which occurred at approx. 11.00, with strengthened forces and the support of artillery, was similar. The Nazis were caught off guard. Rozsierdzeni brought in howitzer at 15.00, and detonated a 600-pound explosive charge close to the wall, then made another attempt to storm. The fighting moved to the basement, where the Germans pumped petrol in and set fire to it with flame-throwers. Only then, at 19.00, was it decided to surrender. The Nazis did not appreciate the heroic attitude of the defenders. Most of those who survived were sentenced to death in two trials and shot at the Gdańsk police training ground in Zaspa. It was not until 1995 that the District Court in Lubeck held an extraordinary appeal hearing and acquitted the post office workers, which allowed their families to be compensated. Having previously been named Hewelius Square (Heweliusz plac), the square which stands facing the post office has been called the Defenders of the Polish Post Office (Obrońców Poczty Polskiej) Square since the end of the war. The building houses the Gdańsk Post and Telecommunications Department Museum, which is part of the Gdańsk History Museum. On the 40th anniversary of the battle on 1 September 1979, a monument was unveiled at the Defenders of the Polish Post Office in Gdańsk square. Its creator was Wincent Kućma, and it presents a dying postal worker being given a Nike rifle along with an open mail bag with letters pouring out of it.

Monument to the Defenders of Westerplatte

Monument to the Defenders of Westerplatte) - is a majestic monument on the seafront and is one of the flagships of Gdańsk. The 25m tall monument commemorates the course of Polish soldiers, who in 1939 had heroically resisted the overwhelming Nazi troops. The designers were Adam Haupt, Franciszek Duszenko and Henryk Kitkowski. Their work, standing on a mighty mound, on the summit of which climbs a spiral walkway, was unveiled on October 9 1966. The monument is made of granite blocks with a total weight of 1150 tons. It is decorated with reliefs and inscriptions, reflecting the wartime drama of the time. The location of the monument on Westerplatte is not accidental. It has a deep symbolic dimension, because the defence of the foothold went down in history as the first in the war and was one of the most dramatic elements of the September campaign. Near the monument there is no shortage of monuments associated with the heroic defence of Westerplatte. The most important is the Wartownia nr 1 (Guardhouse No. 1), where the interior from September 1939 has been recreated, indicating the positions of combat crews, and also featuring various objects from Westerplatte's ancient history up to 1939 such as symbolic bronze plaques, banners with pictures and maps, and a model of the peninsula with an indication of the combat situation on 1 September 1939. Also on display is the original uniform jacket of Major Henryk Sucharski and Ensign Edward Shewchuk's suitcase, who was imprisoned after the surrender of Westerplatte. There is also a model of the Schleswig-Holstein battleship, on a scale of 1:100, as well as the graves of heroic soldiers and a T-34 Polish Armoured Brigade tank to commemorate the Westerplatte Heroes.

The Kindertransportów Monument

The Kindertransportów Monument. The drama of children during the turmoil of war has always been the scariest, because there is no shortage of attempts to rescue them from destruction. When World War II hang in the balance, the large scale transportation of Jewish children from Germany and other countries, where Hitler had 'put his paw' was organised. They found their way to England, where the authorities unreservedly agreed to accept an unlimited number of children. Up until September 1 1939, when the last arrived, more than 10 000 children had been transported, including about 100 who came from Gdańsk. The transport memorial is made of bronze and depicts five children, of all ages, standing on a platform just before their train departs. It is worth noting that there are a few monuments throughout Europe commemorating the 'kindertransportów' action. The first one was established in London in 2006, next to Liverpool Street Station, which was the kindertransportów destination point. The initiator of its construction was the Jewish Care organization, under the auspices of Prince Charles. The second such monument, which was unveiled in Berlin in 2008, is at Friedrichstrasse station. The sculptor of all three monuments, Frank Meisler, who was born in Gdańsk, stresses that 'his' children in Poland are the same characters who get off the train at Liverpool Street Station in London. He has every right to this interpretation, because Meisler himself travelled in such children's transport and the last time he saw his parents was at the station in Gdańsk.

The Monument to the Poles who died for Gdańsk's Polishness

Gdańsk is the symbolic Polish gateway to the sea and its Polish character seems undeniable and indisputable, in spite of all the centuries of its history being very stormy, and it not always being under Polish rule. Regarding its Polishness, Gdańsk often had to fight for it and those who gave up their lives to achieve this goal are commemorated by this  monument in the Old Town. It is a symbolic tribute to all those who died for the Polish character of the city, from the slaughter of Gdańsk in 1308 to the end of World War II. The monument itself, designed by Wawrzyniec Samp and Wieslaw Pietronia, is extremely eloquent. It consists of the shape of an axe thrust into the ground, which has stood on the square by ul. Podwale Staromiejskie since 1969. It gives the impression that this is probably a well-guarded city. Since that time, nobody has questioned Gdańsk's Polishness and it has not had to be fought for. The axe is stuck in the ground and long may it remain so.

Monument to Jan Hewelius

Monument to Jan Hewelius. One of the youngest monuments in Gdańsk, but is already well known and popular. Firstly it is simply impressive and secondly it presents a famous astronomer, who arouses the same warm feelings. The three-metre monument has stood in the Zieleniec Hewelius square, in front of the Old Town Hall, since January 2006. The work was created by Jan Szczypka. He has immortalized Jan Hewelius, sitting staring at the map that he created of the sky as he saw it in the seventeenth century. The map was painted by students and their lecturers from the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk on the wall of a nearby building at ul. Bednarska. The sgraffito technique has been applied to this atlas of the sky.

The Tank at Victory Avenue

The Tank at Victory Avenue. This is not a monument to the film Rudy 102, but is a very special vehicle for the Tri-City. It has been distinguished as the first anti-Hitler coalition tank, which entered Gdynia on March 27 1945. It was commanded by Lieutenant Julian Miazga, and shortly after entering the city was hit by an armour-piercing missile. The commander was severely wounded by a sniper. After the war, the empty shell of the Soviet T-34 (T-34/76 variety, tactical number 121), along with a 76 mm Tank gun, were placed on a pedestal at al. Zwycięstwa, near its intersection with ulica Maria Skłodowska-Curie. Opposite is the Medical University of Gdańsk. The tracks have been welded. The monument is maintained by the Gdańsk Roads and Greenery Authorities (Zarząd Dróg i Zieleni).

The Millennium Cross on Góry Gradowej

The Millennium Cross on Góry Gradowej. There is a point at the Millennium Cross, where you can admire a panoramic view of Gdańsk. It is located at the Gdańsk Fortress on a hill with a height of 50m above sea level. The cross stands on top of the Góry Gradowej, and was built and designed by the sculptor Jacek Luczak in 2000. It is 16.5m high and is one of the landmarks of central Gdańsk.

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