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Gdansk - Town of Memory and Freedom

Date of Submission: 04/11/2005
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture
State, Province or Region:
Pomorskie Voivodeship, Gdańsk Urban County
Coordinates: N54 21 37.54 E18 38 56
Ref.: 530

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Area covered by the property:

    • Brama Wyżynna [Upland Gate] (area: 216 m2);
    • Zespół Przedbramia ulicy Długiej [Outer Gate Complex at Długa Street] (area: 524 m2);
    • Dwór Bractwa św. Jerzego [St.George Guild Mansion] (area: 450 m2);
    • Złota Brama [Golden Gate] (area: 127 m2);
    • Uphagen House [Uphagen House] (area: 437 m2);
    • Ratusz Głównego Miasta [Main Town Hall] (area: 918 m2);
    • Dwór Artusa [Artus Hall] (area: 774 m2);
    • Neptune Fountain (area: 25 m`);
    • Zielona Brama [Green Gate] (area: 505 m2);
    • Zespół Kościoła Mariackiego [Our Lady Church Complex]
    • Kościół Mariacki [Our Lady Church] (area: 5100 m2);
    • Kaplica Królewska [Royal Chapel] (area: 318 m2);
    • Żuraw Portowy [Wharf Crane] (area: 279 m2).
Total area: 0,9675 ha



All the objects and sites of this property are situated in the area of the historical centre of Gdańsk and by the estuary of the Wisła Gdańska (Deadwater Vistula) river flowing into to the Baltic Sea.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The love of freedom is the main axis of the historical tradition and modern experience of Gdańsk, it was also at the foundation of the impressive architectural works erected there. THE COMPLEX OF HISTORICAL BUILDINGS IN THE MAIN TOWN features the highest level of architectonic art, which is diversified in terms of style. Each of the buildings represents a different range of urban rights and liberties, while at the same time they present an exemplary comprehensive conceptual programme for an urban republic of modern times.

It was at the origins of many historical events, including the heroic defence of WESTERPLATTE in the initial days of World War II. It was at the roots of the events associated with the emergence of Solidarity, the first popular opposition movement in any communist country. GDANSK SHIPYARD became the birthplace of Solidarity, where Lech Wałęsa assumed its leadership and later became a laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize. Solidarity, after almost 10-year struggle with the communist regime, brought about the peaceful assumption of power by the civic society in Poland (1989). The bloodless revolution of Solidarity, based on compromise, showed to the public and to the governments of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, how a communist regime can be "dismantled" in a peaceful way. The overthrow of the communist dictatorship and Poland's exit from the Soviet sphere of influence initiated the fall of communist regimes in the countries of Eastern Europe at the close of the 20th century. It brought an end to the division of Europe into the East, controlled by the Soviet Union, and the West, living in fear of possible Soviet attack. It meant the end of the Cold War, threatening the world with a nuclear disaster and was an important stage in the construction of a united Europe.

Criterion (ii) : Gdańsk, the set of historical buildings in the Main Town, shows the important exchange of human values within Europe, in the period of the 2nd half of the 16th century and in the 17th century in the following areas:

  • Architecture - through the creation of a set of urban buildings with a complete functional programme and unique universal values, characterised by the highest artistic and conceptual values, constructed by the most distinguished European architects operating under the patronage of the enlightened patricians of the town;
  • Technology - by showing the capabilities resulting from using brick for erecting monumental structures of churches and the creative transformation of the principles of the art of developing fortifications according to the Italian and the Dutch school adapting them to the local conditions and innovatively utilising the hydro-technical solutions for the construction of engineering structures;
  • Urban planning - through the adaptation of a medieval town plan, without damaging its historical structure, to a model urban complex based in its concept on the example of the Italian urban republic, with a fully fledged usage and functional programme, which is the result of the aspirations and ambitions of the burghers, confirmed in the urban space by the apotheosis of civil freedom and liberty rights.

Criterion (iv): Gdańsk, the complex of historical buildings in the Main Town, is an exceptional example of:

  • Building types - representing the full use programme of urban public facilities with Gothic or renaissance origins, connected in an integral manner with the universal principles of the functioning of the town, reflecting the aspirations of its inhabitants by assuring civilisation development, the freedom of association and the freedom of religious confession, the protection of the highest spiritual and intellectual values, and also the safeguarding of the most important economic and security needs of the citizens;
  • Architecture - with outstanding artistic features resulting from the accumulation of layers of styles ranging from the Gothic one, through renaissance to baroque, with full respect for the cultural significance of each of these periods, with works possessing the highest aesthetic values, the source of which stems from the application of precursor architectonic ideas, masterly implemented by the most distinguished European engineers, architects and sculptors. with due respect for the multicultural local tradition, excellently integrated with the historical equipment and furnishing of the interiors, with unchanged modes of usage and adequate culture applied to the development of the surrounding space;
  • Technology - associated with outstanding engineering skills in the application of brick for the erection of unique monumental construction systems of ecclesiastical buildings, with a spatial scale exceeding any projects realised during their contemporary times, placing the building masters of Gdańsk amongst the ranks of the most excellent masters of Gothic art in Europe;
  • Landscape - with outstanding cultural and spatial values, stemming from many centuries of unchanged mode of usage traditions, dominated by the characteristic towers of the Main Town Hall and the Church of Our Lady, confirming by their exceptional aesthetic values the durability and unchanging nature of the historical urban space, the panorama of the town visible in wide scale from the tops of the surrounding hills, and also the wall coping of the former fortifications, as well as in smaller scale - the streets and the old harbour on the Motława, which features when conceived as one whole, with due respect for the rank of each of the presented components, provide the illustration of an important stage in the history of humanity.

Criterion (vi): Gdańsk, with its set of historical buildings in the Main Town, is directly associated with the most important historical events in this part of Europe, in the walls of its buildings the genius loci of the town is encoded, conceiving liberty as the highest value, memory of the past being understood as an obligation towards the future, since centuries until the present day it constitutes the place of development and cultivation of living traditions, beliefs and ideals of outstanding universal significance.

Moreover, the Remembrance Site at Westerplatte -- the place where the World War II broke out, has exceptional significance, stemming from the fact that not only it reminds us of the beginning of the second world war, but also, through the reference to the heroic defence, it has become one of the most important symbols of defending the ideals of freedom, which have universal significance par excellence.

Moreover, the part of the Gdańsk Shipyard associated with the emergence of Solidarity movement, together with the Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers, is a symbol of the defence of the ideals of liberty, symbolised, regardless of time, by the idea of solidarity, which united millions of inhabitants of the former Eastern Block in the struggle against the communist regime.

The idea of solidarity among people oppressed by the dictatorship inspired the creation of the Independent Self-governing Trade Union "Solidarity" with Lech Wałęsa as its leader. The fact that Polish workers managed to gain, in a peaceful way, the right to form independent organisations, became the first and the most important event, which later lead to the collapse of communism in Poland, contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the symbol of enslavement of Europe after the second world war, and thus brought the Cold War to an end. It opened the way to the unification of Europe and laid foundations for a safer world, reducing the threat of a nuclear conflict. It also showed non-violent methods of fighting for freedom to other peoples oppressed by dictatorial regimes. The events related to the Gdańsk Shipyard, pivotal to the future of Europe and the world, constituting a symbol of defending the ideas of freedom and fraternity, make it a site of outstanding universal significance.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The nominated site fulfils the conditions of integrity and authenticity, by being a remembrance place and a group of buildings, which have maintained their outstanding character and components, remains under appropriate legal protection, including the executive regulations issued by the government and by local self-government authorities, assuring the appropriate forms of management, maintenance of their integrity and controlled access for the general public.

Comparison with other similar properties

Main Town Complex of historical buildings


Such a well preserved group of gates with their fortifications, where one can observe the gradually introduced changes in medieval and modern time arts of fortification constructions, are encountered extremely rarely. The development of the medieval fortifications by the addition of a second encirclement with moats, forced the erection of a system of gradually added defensive town gates, connected by bridges and covered by the "neck" walls. Successive technological changes, connected with the hail range of firearms, caused the necessity to surround the old fortifications by ramparts with a new entry gate: the Upland Gate. The succession of entry gates formed in this manner, the middle two of which are still connected by the "neck" walls, constitutes a unique complex. Comparisons for some of the elements of this complex may be looked for, among others, in the defensive structures of Lubeck. An analogy to the Upland Gate may also be indicated in the by now not existing gate of Antwerp - St. Jorispoort. However, all the elements of such an extensively developed town entry complex have not been pre served in any other place.


St. George Guild Mansion was the seat of an elitist burgher fraternity, which cultivated the forms of the culture of knighthood in order to actively participate situations threatening the town's sovereignty. The spatial positioning of the mansion, occupying a fragment of space formerly situating between the lines of town walls in the vicinity of the Golden Gate, has no equivalent in 15th building heritage of the state of the Teutonic Order. The architectonic form of the building, with crenellations crowning the facades and gun turrets in the corners, presents strong Flemish influence. The elements of military architecture present in the solutions of the outside aspects of the mansion were frequently encountered in buildings of patrician foundations in Flemish and Rheinland towns, such as: seats of merchant guilds and fraternities, cantors, goods depots and meeting halls. Analogies for its form bay be provided by: the buildings in Bruges - town hall, English cantor or Seven-Tower House, as well as "Steinerneshaus" in Frankfurt or "Gurzenich" in Cologne. Steinerneshaus" and „Gurzenich" were destroyed during the war. In the reconstructed "Gurzenich" the interiors have been adopted for the purposes of a conference centre.


Golden Gate is a modern time gate situated within the line of the medieval town walls of Gdańsk. It was the last link in the chain of entry gates. Its passage opened the panorama of the main representative street of Gdańsk with the edifice of the Main Town Hall and Neptune Fountain closing the perspective. The significance of the building was stressed not only by the form of the gate adopted by its builders, referring to the classical form of the Roman triumphal arch, but also the abundant ideological programme contained in the decorative finishing of both facades. The inscriptions place on the frieze strip featured biblical wishes of prosperity for the town and its citizens, as well as the indication of the ways to achieve that, whereas the statues mounted on its top symbolised the values one ought to strive to and the ways, which could be helpful in achieving them. In the architecture of Northern Europe the Golden Gate is an exceptional edifice, providing an example of strong Italian influence in Dutch architecture.


Uphagen House, situated at the main street of Gdańsk, represents the type of the urban patrician residence from the second half of the 18th century, one of many of its kind, which were created not only in Gdańsk, but also in many other towns of Northern Europe. Both its outer and interior finishing reflects the aspirations of its owner, expressed by the effort to give the new residence a form consistent with the currently prevailing trends. In the rich interior furnishing one may find not only the motives characteristic of the current of the Enlightenment: antique ruins, romantic gardens, scenes from mythology or depictions of life in the Far East, but also images of insects, flowers and birds, reflecting the extensive fields of interest of the proprietor of the house. The architectonic shape of the facade refers to the models represented by the town houses of Wroclaw and its situation in space corresponds with the layout characteristic of the burgher houses in Hanseatic cities. Equivalents of this burgher house include, La.: Behnhaus and Dragherhaus in Lubeck as well as Couvenhaus in Aachen. These well preserved burgher houses function today as museums as does the Uphagen House. Their exhibitions include a display of burgher house interiors of the 18th and 19th centuries.


The location of the Town Hall in the dense built up frontage of the street is an urban planning solution very rarely found. Its mass dominating in the perspective of Długa Street bears evident traits of Flemish architecture. The overhung turrets flanking the facades, which reflect the attempt to appear similar to the edifice of a seat of knighthood, are an element frequently encountered on buildings erected by the patricians of towns in Flanders, as a symbol of the quest to full autonomy on the part of the municipal self-government. Elements of such architecture may be found in buildings in the territory of Flanders: the so called Oosterling House and Black House in Bruges, in the Beffroi of Bergen and Gent. The ideological programme of the interior furnishing of the Town Hall constitutes the expression of the aspirations of the burghers of Gdańsk, showing the main principles and virtues, which the municipal council and its citizens ought to follow, in their pursuit of assuring power to their city. The exuberance in the fine art finishing of the interiors intended to bring out ideological substance is not equalled at any comparable town hall preserved in Northern Europe.


Artus Hall, the seat of elitist burgher guilds, is the only such hall preserved together with its furnishing, of which a number were founded in the towns of Northern Europe (Braniewo, Chełmno, Elbląg, Królewiec, Riga, Stralsund, Toruń). The spacious hall, the vaulting of which is supported by four stone pillars, has a facade closed by and attic featuring the forms of Dutch Renaissance. Both in the exterior finishing of the facade and in the selection of the ideological programme of interior furnishing, the dominant theme consists of the virtues, which ought to be adhered to by the burghers, as well patriotism with the attached readiness for sacrifice. The preserved body of the building and the original 16th and 17th century interior furnishing makes this edifice unique, with no equivalent in Europe.


Neptune Fountain is a dominant artistic accent of the main town square of Gdańsk, known as the "Long Market" (Długi Targ). The manneristically shaped, dynamic figure of Neptune, overlooking from its height the space of the square, reflects an antique tradition, still alive thanks to its universal character, which had a distinctive influence on the burgher culture of the 17th century Gdańsk. The figure of Neptune symbolised the role of the sea in the successful development of the economy and trade, and in consequence, on the prosperity of that port town. The author of the statue of Neptune with a very special, expressive composition, may have been inspired by a bronze figure of Neptune with a sea horse at his feet, now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, or by the Giambologni fountain in Bologna or the figure of Neptune from Frederiksborg, by Adrian de Vries, which have survived in good condition until today.


The Green Gate, closing the eastern frontage of the Long Market, belongs to the most beautiful buildings erected in the current of the Dutch Renaissance. The elaborate architectonic form of the gate, combining elements of representative architecture with the utility function of a town gate, fulfilled the expectations of the burghers, who were experiencing at that time a period of flourishing of the city. The gate building with three passageways, with a spacious hall with huge windows on the first floor, crowned by three gables decorated with scrollwork, is not comparable with any other building of this type. In terms of the applied solutions of the façade it relates to the today not existing "Burgerweeshuis" in Amsterdam, or to the somewhat earlier north- western gable of "Breda Kasteel".


It is a late Gothic monumental hall-type church, absolutely exceptional in the context of other churches in the towns of Northern Europe. At the same time, it is the largest brick church in Europe (105 m long, 41 ni wide, 27 m high). By its scale and form it completely differs from other church buildings of its time. Both due to the smooth surfaces of the walls of its main body and presbytery by bringing the buttresses inside the church, as well as the coarsely expressive form of the tower, when viewed against the background of the burgher houses it overwhelms with its sheer grandiosity. The unusual solution of the roofs, consisting of covering each nave with a separate roof, results in the coping of each of its gable walls by gable tops finished at the corners with turrets. They form a crown, which towers over the panorama of the town, making the observer realise the enormous significance of spiritual life in medieval Europe. At the same time, they are a symbol of the power and the aspirations of the burgher class of that time in Gdańsk. The furnishing of the interiors reflects the major financial and intellectual resources of the burghers. Founded by the guild fraternities and by private persons, the altars and the epitaphs enable to penetrate the spiritual and material world of their founders. Although there is no analogy for the structural form of the church, it is possible to indicate equivalents to the tower alone, in the towers of Flemish churches, such as: Damme and Lisseweghe near Bruges or Beffroi at Dunkerk.


It is one of the most extraordinary buildings of 17th century Gdańsk, designed and built with great sumptuousness by endowment of the King of Poland, Jan III Sobieski, with the purpose to serve the Roman Catholics of Gdańsk. The originality of the solution applied in the design consists of the skilful utilisation of the small plot of land available for the building of the chapel situated on the first floor, the façade structure of which combines the elements of burgher architecture with the ecclesiastical one. The architectonic solution of the chapel relates to the type of Italian churches from the second half of the 16th and the early 17th centuries, which aptly combine the central and the transversal spatial layout (e.g. perfectly preserved San Carlo ai Catinari Church in Rome).


It is situated on the Motława waterfront fulfilled two functions: of a defensive town gate on the water and of a port crane. It was the largest port crane in medieval Europe. The double mechanisms of the crane enabled it to raise the weight of 2 tonnes to the height of 27 metres and of 4 tonnes to the height of 11 metres. It was also employed for the erection of masts on open sea faring ships and on the vessels sailing on the Vistula river. Both in terms of its form and in terms of the applied technical solutions it has no equivalent in any other European port buildings of its type, hence, since centuries, it constitutes the traditional symbol of Gdańsk.


Two remembrance places in Gdańsk symbolize the outbreak of World War II and the ending of the Cold War that followed it.


As it was the case with the inscription of the Independence Hall in Philadelphia (USA) and the Luther Memorials in Eisleben and Wittenberg (Germany) on the World Heritage List UNESCO, the nomination of both remembrance sites in Gdańsk is not a result of their architectural value but of the importance of the events of outstanding universal value that have taken place there (criterion vi).

Luther Memorials in Eisleben (the place of birth of Luther in 1483 and his death in 1546) and in Wittenberg (pronouncement of the famous 95 theses, on 31 October 1517) are places associated with the life and activity of Martin Luther, great reformer of Christianity in the 16th century, who started the Reformation, but also had a great influence on the reform of the Catholic Church. His ideas are still alive in many Christian churches.

The Independence Hall can be regarded as a place of birth of the United States of America (that is where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, the Articles of Confederation of 13 states were ratified in 1781 and the first constitution in the world was adopted in 1787). It may also be treated as the beginning of a modern state of law, respecting the basic human values and rights.

The importance of the events in Gdańsk Shipyard in 1980 is similar: signing of the agreements on 31 August 1980 gave rise to the abolition of the "iron curtain" dividing the world into two hostile blocks possessing nuclear arms, which was a threat to the very existence of the civilisation. Showing a peaceful way out of such an oppressive system as communism enabled the public and the governments in the hole Soviet block to cross the line which had so far seemed impossible to cross, the line between the communist enslavement and a free civic society.

Westerplatte, the place where World War II began, is a symbol of heroic resistance against totalitarian violence, resistance, which in spite of great sacrifice, in the longer term turned out to be a germ of the future victory over the most sinister regime in the history of civilisation.

In case of both remembrance sites in Gdańsk there is no doubt that the political events associated with them symbolise defending of human rights and strife for strengthening relations among people with are peaceful and full of tolerance.