Evening Gdansk – a short walk

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.

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The Lowlands – the Vistula River Delta (The Werder)

I remember saying once that there is nothing to see in the Lowlands. That they are low, dull, flat and uninteresting…

And then by accident I first found an ancestor among the Lowlanders, and then I became a guide. 😀

Now I can say, I found the key to the Homeland for Strangers (this is how Peter Klassen calls this piece of the World).

Words can not describe the beauty of this huge piece of land which comprises about 2,5 thousand hectares (c.a. 6 177,63 acres).

And it all started around 1540-ties when two huge floods destroyed the area near rich Gdansk (Danzig). The city council decided to invite the experts to help with the flooded land. And who could have done it better than the people from the Low Countries? So, the council of Danzig sent their representatives to meet probably Menno Simmons and to urge him to send some of his followers to the far country on the Baltic, to settle down in the Delta of the Vistula River.

And this is how the history of the Mennonite settlement on the Vistula started.

I found in the Internet a very interesting book by Peter J. Klassen: Mennonites in early modern Poland & Prussia. Definitely worth reading!!!!

I am among the great admirers of the Mennonites’ work and echoes of the grandeur in the Delta…

Not to speak of the magnificent landscapes – here are only few pictures of this amazing piece ofPoland!

St. Mary’s – spoken supplement

Earlier today I went to St. Mary’s in Gdansk. Haven’t been there for some time. So when T. asked me to take some pics of the Baptismal Font for  him I took the opportunity to visit this amazing church. After I did what I came for, I went to wonder around. As usually I took pictures of details and splendid vaulted ceilings. It definitely is my favorite church in Gdansk. But I have already written about it here.

This time I decided to record a short video. I have never done it before, until in Frombork this January 🙂

The quality is poor, but it is the content of the video that counts 😉

Here it is:

St. Mary’s – as seen on the 12th of February 2011

Maybe the next ones will be better… But definitely they will give more information about places worth seeing in Poland 🙂

Joachim Oelhaf

1580 was a crucial year for medicine in Gdansk.

It was when lectures on anatomy were introduced in Gdansk Academic Gymnasium, and the cathedral of anatomy and medicine was opened there. It was headed by the first official professor of anatomy in the Kingdom of Poland – Johann Mathesius (born in Joachimsthal,  Bohemia1544- died 1607).

His successor was Joachim Oelhaf.

This Gdansk citizen was one of the most eminent doctors in the 17th century Kingdom of Poland. He studied at Wittenberg. Then he spent some time at the Polish royal court, where he had the opportunity to benefit from the experience of the court physician of Sigismund III Vasa – Giovanni Battista Gemma.

Scholarship awarded by the City Council of Gdansk allowed Oelhaf to continue his studies in Padua and Montpellier, where he obtained a doctorate in medicine. At that time, Padua was a major center of the anatomical research.

Oelhaf returned to Gdansk in 1602, taking a function of the City’s physician. The year 1602 is a year of plague in Gdansk. It is considered that at least 15,000 lost their lives then – with an estimated population of about 50,000 – counting the suburbs. During this terrible time Dr. Oelhaf demonstrated great dedication, and gave evidence that he became a doctor from vocation. His generosity gained him a great esteem in Gdansk. When the epidemic ended life in the city slowly returned to normal – and also the Gymnasium re-opened. Joachim was appointed professor of  anatomy and medicine there. Now, in addition to medical practice, he lectured, participated in the debates of scholars, which was in good tone, and wrote scientific papers. As he was interested in botany as an auxiliary science for medicine, he founded a garden for medicinal herbs on the city’s ramparts. Medicine was his passion, and cognition – the route to it.

It is known that he conducted three autopsies. The first one was of a child with pathology of liver, the next – was necropsy of professor Keckermann. On February 27th of the year 1613 he conducted the first in this part of Europe public autopsy. In the times of the Franciscans it was the small refectory,  then in the times of Gdansk Academic Gymnasium it became the anatomy hall. Today there is an exhibition of  gold smithery in the room. And the building today houses Gdansk National Museum. This autopsy of 1613 was of a child with multiple defects. The child was born in nearby Pruszcz Gdanski (Praust). The results of the autopsy were published – hence it became known internationally throughout the then medical world.

During his stays in Gdansk, the King gladly visited Oelhaf. Those royal visits undoubtedly raised the prestige of the city physician.

Oelhaf’s life was very intense, because in addition to medical practice, lectures at the Gymnasium, disputes, has conducted experiments, and investigations of the medicinal properties of plants, he participated in surgeries, and he wrote treatises on physiology and anatomy. Unfortunately, this success story and the activity were interrupted by the plague in 1630. Joachim was one of its victims.

Joachim had a son: Nicholas who continued research on the herbs after his famous father. He has published work in the field of herbal medicine. And in this he was a forerunner. He described about  350 plants used in medicine. Nicholas was also the town doctor (physician), and the court physician of King Wladyslaw IV. Considering the kidney illness, from which the King had suffered since his early youth – Nicholas was a very busy court physician.

Unfortunately I know nothing more about his further life. Therefore it is all for the time being.

 

The Canon and his foundation

No one has “read” the altar from Skolity!

At these words I set my ears. Because how could it be possible that there was no attempt at all to read, understand and explain this ingenious piece of art work!

But first – a few words about the person of the founder.

Johann Hannovius (better known as HANNOW) was the nephew of Johann Dantiscus (so he was son of his sister – Anne de domo von Hoefen).

He was born in Gdansk (Danzig) –  as most of the canons of Warmia.

The education of the young bourgeois was financed by his mighty uncle. This was the same situation, as we know from the biography of Doctor Copernicus. And this was nothing new; after all, the family had kind of duty to care for children. Such records can be found in wills. Copernicus also held the care of his widowed cousin of Gdansk and her offspring.

After graduation in Chelmno, Johann was sent to Krakow for further studies. The books of the Cracow University show him in 1541. In the kingdom’s capital, he was cared for by Stanislaus Hosius. And he probably worked in the royal chancellery.

He took over his Frombork canonry in February 1546 and settled at the Cathedral Hill. There was a custom of permanent residence of the canons at the Warmia Chapter, so Johann settled in Frombork. As all canons – he also received stalls and the altar of his predecessor, and the right to purchase the mansion and grange (allodium), bringing a nice income.

He died in Frombork in 1575 and was buried there. Somehow it had never occurred to me to find his tombstone…

It was not the only Hannow in the Holy Warmia (Holy Ermland). Besides him, there was also his brother Casper. He had a Ph.D. in both laws, after graduation both University of Cracow and later in Rome. His education was also financed by his uncle. Since 1545 he was canon of Warmia, and dean of the collegiate chapter in Dobre Miasto. In 1547 he became canon in Wloclawek. He was a friend of Bishop Martin Kromer.

By the way, thanks to a little record written by Kromer – till today we call a certain Anonymous – Gallus Anonymous. And thanks to the discovery of the chronicle by the scholar Bishop (the so called Heilsberg Manuscript) we can read it till today…

And as for the name of Hannow – it is worth remembering Michael Christopher Hannow – living in Gdansk in the years 1695-1773. He held a professorship in Gdansk Academic Gymnasium. At the same time he was librarian and has begun work on the “Catalogus universalis alphabeticus Bibliothecae Gedanensis Senatus”. He was also among those who in 1743 created in Gdansk the Societas Physicae Experimentalis (since 1753 called Die Naturforschende Gesellschaf).

Moreover – Michael Hannow ran in Gdansk regular meteorological observations in the years 1739 – 1752 where he used a “thermometer which was a combination of Florentine and Fahrenheit thermometers”.

But let’s go back to the Hannows in Frombork… Besides the two already mentioned above, there also resided Simon and Valentine.

And what does it all have to do with the altar from Skolity?

A few words about the village itself – Skolity (German Schlitt) is a village in the municipality of Warmia-Mazury Voivodeship.

Next “dry piece of information” says that the village was located by Bishop Herman of Prague in 1348. And – at the local rectory Napoleon spent the night of 4/5 February 1807, (as if it was most important.)
Just a few words about the church… That it was built in 1709 and enlarged in 1907. The mention of the altar – that is preserved and can be seen in the north transept. For now, however, it is in the Museum in Frombork, and pleases the eyes of visitors!

And a little more about the church from the immortal Wikipedia:

“The village has a historic parish church dedicated to Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s a long building with one aisle. It has a pseudo-Gothic choir and transept (1907). The aisle was built after the fire of 1708 on the site of two earlier buildings. The new church was consecrated in 1709. The tower at the bottom was built in a “pole construction”, and is timbered. The ceiling inside the church has polychromes (1753-1763), probably painted by Ferdinand Guillerepsa of Dobre Miasto. The high altar was built in the baroque style (1684), with a painting of the Adoration of Madonna and Child by a group of saints. They were probably painted by George Piper from Lidzbark Warminski. In the church
there is also a historic Renaissance triptych from 1557, founded by John Hannow, a canon of Warmia. Near the village there is Lake Skolity. It is located in basin of the river Pasłęka. It covers an area about 40 ha; average depth of the lake is 3.6 m. The banks are overgrown with trees, mostly alder. “

And that’s all… And below: Skolity shown on the map:

Skolity on the map of Poland

According to tradition, in 1557 Johannes Hannovius founded the triptych for the church in Skolity.

At least, this is what the official information says. And what is the true story?
J.S. puts forward the thesis that the altar could actually have been funded for the temple of Frombork. This would point to the character of Virgin Mary and St. Andrew.

The Frombork Cathedral has two names: St. Andrew (this name was brought from the former church in Braniewo), and Virgin Mary – already tradition in Frombork.

Well, then comes the joy of reading the entire triptych…

A couple of comments arose in front of the altar. The answers to many questions are all too visible in the main image. Enough is to say that we spent two days in front of the altar, vividly debating. We – means me and my two colleagues (we always go to Frombork together). Simplifying (very much simplifying) – we have seven sacraments and the Church as Foundation** of the World (interesting is that it has such a strong chain) and there are ten Doctors of the Church…

(who are: St. Ambrose,  St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Gregory The Great, St.St. Gregory Nazianzus, St. John Chrysostom, St. Athanasius, the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, Basil the Great)

And well, here we have a flop…

During translation of this text from my Polish blog it occurred to me – that some of these Doctors were promoted only in the years 1567-1588. So how could this apply to the foundation of the altar? Who are those  ten figures with crosses, since the Four Doctors are listed on the Foundation of the World?

Now – I have received help from a theological expert:

She wrote that, those ten – are the popes… And they function rather as an idea than people.

** I interpreted this wrog – as Faith is foundation of the Church (world at that time).

Unfortunately my theological knowledge is – to put it delicately – more than mean. 😉

Well then, there is a lot of work ahead of me….

In the meantime let us enter into the more stable ground. The time of the foundation of the altar is interesting.

It was the time of the Council of Trent and times right after the Schmalkaldic wars. It was because of those wars – that the conciliar deliberations were postponed.

Also in the milieu of the canon there were still controversies concerning the cases of apostasy within the Chapter itself. A set of correspondence between the canon and his uncle-bishop is preserved. It concerns Alexander Scultetus (who finally became a Lutheran, quit canonry and married).

Besides – not so far was the court of Duke Albert of Prussia. And there – one of his most trusted courtiers was Georg von Kunheim. His son (Georg the Younger)  married Magaretha Luther (she was Martin Luther’s daughter). The famous Albertina University worked in Königsberg.

And in this context – the Holy Warmia seemed to be a small island of Catholicism on the great ocean of Protestantism.

There are many details in the altar’s main picture, ordering to set ears to the history and History, and even ordinary gossip (still we need to remember that the Big History consists of small histories…).

Above all – careful reading of the correspondence between Hannow and Dantiscus is demanded…

I’ll have quite a time 😉

In this whole entanglement in the four corners of the main painting – there is a full of expression image of Martin Luther thundering form the tower (!) of a collapsing Church. Although in my opinion those are: Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin i Philipp Melanchthon.

“… yet in the 1556 in Prussia it was not fully realized that the split in the Church is imminent. It was one year after the Treaty of Augsburg (1555). The discussion started over the declaration.  Stanislaw Hosius the Bishop of Warmia and president of the Prussian States argued that the said confession is wrong.

Two Lutherans answered: both governors – one of Malbork county:  Achacy Cema and the second from Pomerania county – Fabian Cema. Both argued that his wrong confession within the last 30 years did settle well in Royal Prussia, and can not be removed in three months as the Catholic bishops demanded. There was still a long way to obtain the religious privileges, but the Prussian states felt emboldened by events in both the Polish Crown and the German Reich, which were introduced in the year 1555. It was the year of the Augsburg religious peace between Protestants and Catholics recognizing the principle of “cuius region, eius religio”.

Now, the great Prussian cities (Gdańsk, Toruń, Elbląg) took double efforts to gain religious privileges. December 30, 1556, Chancellor Jan Ocieski responded to the envoys of those cities – in confidence – that the king can not take any “heretic” privilege, because of the pope, the emperor and other Catholic princes, but since the Reformation has become a fact – he is ready to “look at it and practices of its adherents through his fingers”.

The biggest obstacle for the followers of the Reformation teachings was the bishop of Warmia who was Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius. He fought unsuccessful battles for the conversion of Elbląg citizens (Elbląg lay in the Diocese of Warmia), sometimes calling them “Elbląg goats” and their spiritual leaders he called the “Ministri Satanae”. His position was unfortunate, because even in the Chapter – the canons of Warmia (in perhaps exaggerated opinion of Duke. Albert of Prussia) were to be followers of Luther. This letter of 1554 was found  in the  one of the collections by professor Janusz Małłek.

(this is a bierf translation I did of a fragment of an article on a Baptist site. It was written by prof. Małłek – and it concerned Protestantism in the Pomerania. Unfortunately the whole is only in Polish). It shows what turbulent times Hannovius lived in, and what were his worries.

The continuation of the story appears to be a puzzle, especially in the context of the naive expression of the founder’s eyes …

 

St. Mary’s church in Gdansk

This church in Gdansk is the biggest brick gothic church in the world…

Brick…

About 4 mln bricks were made to build this Merchant Cathedral, and about 137 thousand roof tiles were made to cover its roofs… And it took 159 years to complete the work. The local story says it was built for 25 thousand people. Some say it’s impossible as Gdansk did not have so many at that time.

Often a question is posed – why would they have built such a huge church. The answer is simple – why not …

Definitely we can say one: Gdansk’s art of showing off was brought to perfection several times. One of the times was when St. Mary’s was built.