And so I walked through my Town in the evening, admiring it again and again.…
I had beautiful moon over the Manor of St. George Brotherhood and the Long Street Gate (called the Golden Gate) in front of me, with the view on the City Hall in the distance. All this pushed into my camera lens and to my ears to, as the Town Hall carillon “chimed” at the same time…
And for the thousandth time or so the Long Street Gate attracted my eyes again.
It was once an ordinary medieval brick gate, just a gate, one of few leading to the town. And then in the 17th century, there came the time of changes, great changes in Gdansk. All the construction activity in the town must have been unnerving and irritating to the citizens, as it is for us today. The Gate is associated with a certain surname of a master builder and artist at the same time – Abraham van den Block.
The figures on the gable were made by Peter Ringering in 1648. But in the 19th century were taken away. So when after the Second World War destructions of the city – the decision to bring them back was made – there were no originals. There were only the copies from 1878… Speaking of the WW II destructions – I mean – we all mean – the destruction caused in March 1945 by the victorious Red Army. The town was then systematically destroyed by them while chasing the Germans out from it. House by house, street by street it was burned down. There was such a heat, that many of the bricks melted, and altogether after the fire ceased, the Town was filled with 3 million cubic meters of rubble.
So when looking at the splendidly rebuild and in places fully reconstructed town, it is worth to remember that tragic time to. The Polish restorers indeed have done their job perfectly. No wonder that they are known in the World, and often called to work abroad.
But going back to the Golden Gate (I don’t like this name as the historical name of the Gate is: Long Street Gate, but most of the guide books use this popular one)…Looking at it now – we see the effect of the last renovation – which was not a perfect one. But nevertheless we admire it and concentrate on the load of meaning it has, not noticing the shortcomings.
So I stood there, gazing at the nicely illuminated Gate in admiration. I was trying to fit the figures in my camera lens and reflected on the depth of content of the ideological meaning of the decoration. Whole town is full of ideology, and the Gate is like a short description of how to understand it.
So here we have – (looking from the west) – figures depicting Peace with palm twig and a stick entwined with olive twigs. This means triumph and victory. Next is the allegory of Freedom – holding a hat (pileus) and a statute book. Pileus was a sign of freedom, as it was placed upon a shaved head of the newly freed slave in ancient Roman times. Next we have an allegory of Abundance – and it does not need any explanation – the Horn of Plenty is all too visible. And the fourth figure on the western gable of the Gate is Fame (Pheme). Here it holds the horn of Fame and the sun (symbol of eternal eminence) and tramples down Envy (Invidia).
From the east – the figures depict: Prudence with a telescope and a clock. This means – far-sightedness and the abstemious regular rhythm of life. So it might be rather Temperance. Next to it looping to the sky – is Religiousness holding the Holy Bible. Next is Justice with scales and a measuring rod in one hand and an olive branch and a sword in other hand. This measuring rod appears also on the plafond in the Summer Hall (Red Room) of the Town Hall. And it means (from the Gospel of St. Luke 6:38) “For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”. Closest to the Manor of St. George Brotherhood is Concord (Harmony). She holds a bundle of tightly linked arrows and in the other hand – she has one broken arrow. It is a depiction of the story of Skiluros, the Scythian king of Crimea. When on his death bed – he called his 80 sins, and told each of them to break a bunch of spears. None of them could. Then he gave each of them one spear, and then they easily broke each one. This means “strength in unity”. Or rather – according to the inscription on the Gate, the maxim which says that “the small states grow in consent, the big ones collapse in disagreement (discord).”
And yet it is not the end of “reading” the Golden Gate (Long Street Gate). It is best to stand in front of it, either from the west, or from the side of the Długa (Long) Street and listen to what it tries to say about the ambitions of citizens. And about the then position of the City.