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Gniew Castle History

History of Castle in Gniew

The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem made many efforts to finally cover the Gniew area with their rule in 1283, their first land on the left bank of the Vistula River. The town based on Chełmno law was established in 1297 A.D. near the conventual Castle, the edifice that; together with St. Nicholas Church, has been dominating the skyline over the southern part of Gniew. The Castle, as the seat of the convent and the commander in the times of the Order, was the main political and economic centre of the Teutonic Commander. Despite a far-reaching local town government autonomy, the Order authorities effectively monitored its municipal subjects.

The strategic location, permitting control over the waterway and the land route, determined the exceptional military characteristics of the convent house and the fortification system of the City and the Castle. The economic function of this area was reflected in granaries, stables, farms, and breweries located within the Town, port, castle boroughs and suburbs. However, the same advantages often became the reasons for war defeats and damages; especially severe during the Swedish Wars or the Northern War. Further development of military art caused the loss of military features of fortifications of the Town and the Castle itself. That forced people to find new functions of the edifice and determined its subsequent reconstructions starting from the end of the 18th century. After the first partition, the Prussian government began a demolition on a large scale or, at best, a thorough reconstruction of most former Teutonic castles. This also happened to Gniew Castle. It was first used as barracks but as it turned out it was completely maladjusted to this function; in the beginning of the 19th century, it was used as a granary. During its reconstruction, the Gothic vaults were demolished, the original interior layout was altered to a great extent, the primary window openings were walled up, the latrine tower - gdanisko, was demolished, moats around the castle were backfilled and an additional gate hole was cut in the western wing. Another reconstruction of the castle took place in the 50s of the 19th century. With 133 397 thalers 23 and 1 grosz, the Castle was partially reconstructed and adapted for a heavy Prussian prison for recidivists. During those works, conducted in the age of Romantic interests in history; among others, the chapel's vault was reconstructed, the primary ogival shape of several window holes of the southern facade was restored, in this way, improving the Castle image from the southern side. Two corner towers were also reconstructed.

Window rows, the so-called dormers, were made in the attic. A new five-storey division in the other three wings made it possible to organize spacious prison cells, lighted by large rectangular roof windows partially preserved until the present day.

In 1920, Gniew was incorporated into the Second Polish Republic. Polish administration resided in the former prison, and then the edifice was taken over by the army.

In July 1921, a fire broke out in the castle in unexplained circumstances. It destroyed three wings completely, and; partially, the southern wing. The Castle received status of a permanent ruin, protected by law. During War World II, the German occupiers organize a temporary prison for the Polish population from Pomerania in the preserved rooms of the castle southern wing. After World War II, until half of the 50s, a battalion of sappers was stationed within the Castle Hill using the so-called Palace Marysienka and the Castle, and; in result, protecting the ruin from further devastation.

In 1967, the first spark of hope for the biggest Gniew historic monument - the Teutonic Castle - appeared. Local Plants of Marine Mechanisms" FAMA", on the initiative of the then engineer manager, Kazimierz Rybicki, and the President of Gniew City and Municipality, Roman Jodłowski, began the works on documentation and implementation of the project of conversion of the southern and eastern wings for cultural and social purposes. The primary investor was huge Zrzeszenie Przemysłu Okrętowego (Shipbuilding Industry Association). Initially, the investment progressed rapidly. The head of the walls was fixed, steel and reinforced concrete roofing was developed together with lying ceramic roofing tiles, as well as, some ceilings were laid over the southern wing and the basement in the western wing. That developing investment was terminated in the half of the 70s with regard to the deepening economic crisis.

In 1986, a new investor appeared in Castle Hill: Zakłady Hotelowe S.A. (Hotel Company) from Warsaw, and Gniew commune provided an in-kind contribution in a form of property, namely, the Castle and the so-called Palace Marysienka, getting company's shares in return.

In November 1992, by City and Commune in Gniew resolution, the Castle in Gniew, together with adjacent lots, was transferred for administration to Municipal Centre of Culture. This decision coincided with the rapid increase in unemployment rate, which was structural in the commune and was over 33%. In order to cope with that totally new problem, in November 1992, the self-government started using public works to the great extent. So the main object of public works, as communal property, turned out to be the Castle regained by the commune. A new situation promoted intensified actions of main partners; that is, Municipal Centre of Culture in Gniew (MGOK) and Archaeological Museum in Gdańsk (MAG). The same year, both institutions signed the agreement providing cooperation principles and the concept of adaptation of reconstructible castle wings for museum, hotel, restaurant and conference purposes. What is more, a schedule for archaeological research connected with the planned clearing the castle of rubble and future infrastructure investments was determined.

From November 1992 to March 1993, debris from the cellars and the ground floor of the eastern, northern and western wings were being removed; the floors collapsed after the fire and the construction works between 1968 and 1975. The reconstruction works were performed mainly manually by numerous women employed in public works. 4000 tons of brick debris that was useless for further usage was used to toughen 4 km of municipal roads.

In the following years, ceilings in the western and eastern wings were built, the interior was adapted to use. The eastern wing was adapted for Dormitorium, being a kind of a youth hostel. The western wing rooms exhibition halls of the branch of Archeological Museum in Gdańsk and a conference hall. In 1997 the chapel located in the southern wing regained its sacral character.

Performances and historical stagings, as well as tournaments, held here from 1992 have made the Castle in Gniew one of the main centres of history promotion in Poland.

In 2010 the Castle became a property of Polmlek group and since then is has become continually more attractive.