What to see in the Old Town of Gdansk

Church of St Bridget

St. Bridget’s Church was erected in 1396 in the Gothic style on the site of the former small chapel, which in 1374 housed a corpse of St. Bridget, who was being transported from Rome to Sweden. The church was burnt to the ground during World War II and reconstructed in 1973. In 1992 St. Bridget’s Church was granted title of Lesser Basilica by pope John Paul II.

The church is best known in Poland as a place of worship and sanctuary and shelter for the leaders of the Solidarity Movement under martial law. The brick shell of the Gothic church contrasts with the more recent belfry, built in 1653 by Peter Willer. The austere church interior is adorned with a unique work of art, a monumental amber altar, which is arranged in the form of a triptych with an icon of the Working Class Madonna in the centre. The most impressive of  these are the high altar and the monument to Father Jerzy Popieluszko, who was murdered in 1984 by Polish security service officials.

Church of St Catherine

The Church of St Catherine is the oldest and also the most important parish church of the Old Town, erected between 1227-1239. First founded by the princes of Gdansk Pomerania, it was substantially expanded in the 14th century. Until 1944 the church used to daze visitors with its internal decor brimming with Gothic, Mannerist, and Baroque treasures.

Unfortunately it was destroyed in 1945. This historic building is now fully restored. Once inside, take a look at the paintings by Anton Moller and Izaak van den Blocke. A tombstone of the famous astronomer, Jan Hevelius, dating back to 1659, can also be found here. The 76-metre high church tower supports a fine carillon. It is well worth climbing to the top of the tower. The effort is rewarded by wonderful views of the city. The presbytery on the east side of the church has a fine late Gothic gable. The tower of the Church hosts the Museum of Tower Clocks.

Old Town Hall

Old Town Hall was erected in the period from 1587 to 1595 by Anthony van Obbergen. It is an outstanding example of Dutch Mannerist architecture. The building displays the classic features of high quality Mannerist Flemish architecture. Old Town Hall is a compact, plain building with no distinctive ornamentation, and is equipped with a defence tower.

The stone doorway was probably made by Willem van der Meer. Beneath each bracket are two distorted masks personifying vice, and two smiling, chubby masks, personifying virtue. The interiors feature 17th century allegorical wall paintings by Adolf Boy, and allegoric ceiling paintings painted by the disciples of the Herman Han’s school. It was removed from a house at Ulica Dluga 39 and transferred to the Old Town Hall some time after 1900.

Great Mill

Great Mill was built around mid-14th century on the Radunia canal. It was the largest Teutonic investment in Gdansk and one of the largest industrial buildings in medieval Europe. It was constructed during the rule of the Teutonic Knights, being completed in around 1350.

It is built in brick and is crowned by a tall, steeply pitched roof. The structure combined three functions: that of a flour mill, a granary, and a bakery. It was equipped with 18 overshot water-wheels, each 5 m in diameter, which represented a great technical achievement for that time. The mill was destroyed by fire in 1945, but was restored after World War II. This remarkable old building now contains a modern shopping centre.

Monument to the Defenders of the Polish Post

On the first day of World War II a group of 50 employees of the post office under the command of Konrad Guderski fought for 14 hours and resisted fierce attacks from German forces.

Hitler’s soldiers were not able to take control of the building despite their great superiority in numbers and the support of howitzers and armoured vehicles. The heroic defenders gave up only when threatened that the building would be soaked in petrol and burnt to the ground. Their heroism is commemorated in the Post Office Museum and by a monument depicting an injured postal worker atop scattered mail, handing over his rifle to Nike, Greek goddess of victory. It was designed by Wincenty Kucma in 1979 and bears an epitaph written by Maria and Zygfryd Korpalski in 1979.

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