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Searching for the Gdansk of old – Biskupia Górka

Attractions of Gdansk city, Poland

Time stands still in Gdansk’s Biskupia Górka, and its nooks and crannies hide many secrets. Here is the perfect place for those who like to steer off the beaten track.

Searching for the Gdansk of old – Biskupia GórkaGdansk, Poland

Flickr, Stephanie Holland

Biskupia Górka is close to Gdansk city centre, but once you enter it, you feel as if transported back in time. What used to be a village, now is an estate of the same name with a scenic setting (60 m above sea level), which picturesquely descends towards Kanał Raduni.

There are only several streets, including the two main ones: Na Stoku Street and Biskupia Street, winding and meandering uphill. Menonitów Street is a reminder of the ties of this part of town with the people who lived here from the end of the17th century. It leads to the old House of Prayer of the Mennonites (who came here from Freesia and the Netherlands), which today is a Pentecostal church. The name of another street, Salwator, and the tower of the old Holiest Saviour church (Salvatorkirche) remind us that there used to be another temple here – the only Gdansk church not reconstructed after World War II. When walking on Biskupia Górka, it is hard not to notice traces of history; the beautiful burgher houses are covered in interesting reliefs, old inscriptions, and you can even encounter ancient perrons (ground floor terraces, in front of street entrances buildings).

On the very peak of Biskupia Górka there is the old youth hostel with its beautiful clock tower, which has been constructed before World War II by the Germans. Unfortunately, you cannot go to the top, but the view of Gdansk from under the clock will also take your breath away. Standing there you can picture the “clock” ships: ‘Peter von Danzig’ and ‘St. Thomas’.

As Professor Andrzej Januszajtis, an expert on the history of Gdansk, tells us, the ships have been appearing since 1940 on the balcony to commemorate their famous battle on the North Sea. ‘Peter von Danzig’ was a 15th century ship sailing under the Gdansk flag. It was commanded by the notorious Paweł Beneke and it defeated the English vessel called ‘St. Thomas’ on the coast of Flanders. Thanks to that victory, Gdansk received 60 thousand pounds worth of loot and, more importantly, The Last Judgment by Memling, a painting which is displayed at the National Museum to this day.

The work was being transported by the English to Florence by commission of the famous Medici family, and it became war booty of Gdansk. The spectacle on the tower was allegedly accompanied by the tolling of 22 bells, 17 out of which survived the turbulences of war. The tower is not far from the old army barracks, which today house one of Gdansk’s universities. For those who love walks, there are the quaint alleys climbing Biskupia Górka, while history enthusiasts can visit Na Stoku Street, to look for traces of an old cemetery. The alleys lined with trees are the only remainder, as the graves did not survive.

Biskupia Górka has an interesting history. Its setting won over the bishops, who made it their residing place (hence the name, translated as ‘Bishops’ Hill’), then a fortress was constructed here. It was visited by Henry IV before he became the king of England. In 15th century Łamikark (‘The Neckbreaker’), an executioner from Gdansk was burned on Biskupia Górka together with seven of his companions, with whom he wanted to burn down the camp of the Czech Hussites (partisans of reform in the Catholic Church). The Hussites, who supported Władysław Jagiello at that time, were besieging Gdansk in 1433. They caught the executioner and burned him on the stake. Thankfully, they gave up the siege. Biskupia Górka was inhabited by the Mennonites form the 18th century, they developed the estate together with Poles and Germans. The inhabitants of Freesia and the Netherlands (the Mennonites) came to these regions to tame rivers which were wreaking havoc: Vistula and Nogat. They were hard-working and extremely religious. They all left Poland in 1945, apart from one Mennonite, who fell in love with a Pole, decided to stay and went to live in Elblag.

Biskupia Górka has also been chosen as the place of work by a known 18th century astronomer – Nathanael Matthaeus von Wolf. It also became his final resting place. It is said that he chose the spot where he was to be buried right next to the observatory. Unfortunately, it has not survived to our times As you can see, Biskupia Górka has many secrets, not all of them connected with history.

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