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Poznań, Saint Martin. Relics of the Berlin Gate, the main entrance to the city, were discovered

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During the renovation of the courtyard of the Imperial Castle in Poznań, relics of the Berlin Gate from the 19th century were uncovered. During archaeological works, among others, were found here: old coins and clock knob. It is significant that a lot of time was wasted here – this is where the first traffic jams in the city occurred.

The reconstruction of the courtyard in front of the Imperial Castle at Święta Marcin Street in Poznań is underway. During the works, relics of the Berlin Gate from the 19th century were discovered. This is another trace of the former entrance to the city. At the beginning of 2022, during the reconstruction of Święta Marcin Street, fragments of the southern shooting gallery or the slope wall demolished at the beginning of the 20th century were discovered next to the Polish Post Office building.

Gate relics discovered in 2022 Poznań City Investments

– We already know that the discovered fragment is a blockhouse, we have already located it exactly on the map. It is located at the south-eastern corner of the castle tower – explains archaeologist Ewa Pawlak.

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The discovery of gate fragments in this place is not surprising. Although everything indicated that there were no traces of this entrance to the city anymore. – They were performed polls, which showed that the old structure was completely carved up before the construction of the castle. But as it turns out – not entirely. At least the southern part of the blockhouse has been preserved, says Pawlak.

Archaeologists found fragments of the Berlin GateEwa Pawlak

The entire structure was several meters long. Archaeologists managed to discover it at a length of 4 meters. – We are planning another large excavation that will run through the center of the courtyard. There is a good chance that we will encounter a blockhouse again, he adds.

Then, archaeologists may also find a shelter that, according to legends, was supposed to be located under the Imperial Castle.

Although the excavation is deep, archaeologists are still working in the layer of soil from the period of construction of the fortifications of the Poznań Fortress and the castle.Aleksander Przybylski

The layers of earth in which builders and archaeologists move today are a secondary deposit or an embankment layer – the original ground level, 18th century or older, is either deeper or – just as likely – was chosen for the construction of a fortress.

Sigismund the Old’s half-torakAleksander Przybylski

This does not mean, however, that they do not find valuable things in the ground. Among other things, a Jagiellonian denarius, a silver coin and a half of Sigismund III Vasa, a thimble imported from Nuremberg and a clock knob. However, it is impossible to say whether someone lost them along the former route running from the settlement of St. Martin or were they dragged here with gravel during the construction of the Berlin Gate.

Crushed thimble imported from Nuremberg from the early 17th century.Aleksander Przybylski

An interesting find is a door stud – similar to today, it decorates the door of the Credit Land building located opposite the Imperial Castle.

Door stud Aleksander Przybylski

Lead frames from stained glass windows and various melts and slags were also found. This means that, just like today, the construction site was also a place where carpentry, joinery and locksmith workshops operated during the construction of the castle.

Archaeologists also managed to find traces of barracks for workers building the castle.

Castle construction. Workers’ barracks visiblefrom the collection of Aleksander Przybylski

– It was obvious that it was a temporary, poor construction, which was probably demolished immediately after the castle was completed. This is exactly where the café pavilion will be located in the renovated courtyard, says Ewa Pawlak.

Traces of barracks for workers building the castleAleksander Przybylski

Impossible to pass at night

The Berlin Gate was built in 1843-1849. It was officially opened on August 26, 1850. It was the most important gate in 19th-century Poznań, which the Prussians turned into a fortress city and one of the five gates on the left bank of the Warta. It was from there that the road towards Berlin led, and from 1848, the road to the railway station.

Berlin Gate (around 1899)CYRIL

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The gate had three culverts. One wide one intended for vehicles and horse-drawn carriages, the other two for pedestrians (their traffic was on the right). Entry to the city was possible from 4 a.m. from April to the end of September, in March and October from 5 a.m., and from November to the end of February from 5:30 a.m. The gate was closed at 11 p.m. The entrance was prevented by guards from lifting the drawbridge. At night, only people with special passes issued by the Royal Commandant’s Office in Poznań were allowed through.

Gazette of the Grand Duchy of Poznań from June 16, 1864Polona

“Such passes were issued to people with an ‘impeccable reputation’ whose profession, official position or other justified reasons forced them to pass through the gate frequently or immediately. To prevent abuse, the Commander sent each application for a pass to the local Police Directorate, asking for an opinion.” The fee for issuing the card was 50 pfennigs. Latecomers who did not manage to enter the city before the gates closed could spend the night in one of the suburban inns or try to cross the fortress ramparts, which, however, was quite risky, as such an escapade could end with a fall into the deep water. moats or being arrested by soldiers patrolling the embankments,” wrote Waldemar Karolczak in the Chronicle of the City of Poznań.

The smugglers’ path

From the very beginning of its existence, there was huge traffic at the Berlin Gate. It was further slowed down by the collection of excise tax on meat and, in the other direction, on cattle, sheep and pigs imported into the city.

Gazette of the Grand Duchy of Poznań from September 8, 1852Polona

Of course, there were many people who cleverly wanted to avoid additional fees. In 1886, several women pushing baby strollers were detained. It turned out that instead of children, there were hams, veal and other meat products intended for Easter.

Berlin Gate around 1900CYRIL

Fighting traffic jams

In 1861 – to improve traffic towards the station – it was decided that priority when passing through the gate would be given to cabs and carts traveling in that direction in the hours before train departures.

And in 1865 there was a real revolution and relief for latecomers – the gate was open 24 hours a day.

Two years later, due to the increasing traffic, the gate was rebuilt and a fourth culvert was added. The entire modernization of the gate took two years.

Dziennik Poznański of June 14, 1893.Polona

From 1880, however, traffic increased again. All thanks to the first tram line in Poznań, the route of which ran through the Berlin Gate (the horse-drawn carriages were replaced by an electric tram in 1897).

The Berlin Gate with the ramparts of the fortress from the city side, on the right a fragment of the military office buildingCYRIL

A year later, in 1891, a ban was introduced for freight cars to pass through the gate. These were to use the newly opened Knight’s Gate (it was located at the height of today’s Królowej Jadwigi Street). Of course, the ban was introduced with a whole list of exceptions: it did not cover meat and game carts on which excise duty was collected, military, postal and fire brigade carts, and forwarding companies arriving from Berlin or Wrocław roads.

The electric tram is heading towards the city towards the Berlin GateCYRIL

There must be order and harmony

It was already known that this type of fortresses were outdated. Therefore, 18 forts were built around Poznań, the so-called outer ring, 4-5 kilometers away from the center, the construction of which began in 1876 and was completed in 1896.

Dziennik Poznański of August 8, 1885Polona

Then the polygonal fortress, which consisted of fortifications around the center, became unnecessary. The gates began to be dismantled in 1894. However, consent from the Ministry of War was required for each demolition.

It was similar with taking photos of the fortress structures. Poznań merchants and booksellers, who in 1898 sold correspondence cards with a view of the Berlin Gate, learned this the hard way. For violating military secrecy, the administrative court sentenced 34 of them to a three-mark fine or a day’s imprisonment. Only one of them appealed against the verdict. He won the appeal.

Postcard with the Berlin GateCYRIL

The Berlin Gate ultimately survived until 1901. The demolition works were carried out so as to cause as little disruption to traffic as possible. First, on the southern side, a ditch was made through the main embankment and a new road and tram tracks were built there, and only then did they start demolishing the gate.

Dziennik Poznański of July 6, 1901Polona

In place of the demolished gate and in its immediate vicinity, the Imperial District, designed by the Prussian authorities, was built. These buildings had a typically Germanic character and were intended to emphasize the German character of the city, which Poznań was supposed to have always had.

A postcard of the Berlin Gate being demolishedCYRIL

The castle as a symbol of Prussian domination

Its most impressive building is the Imperial Castle. It was built in 1905-1910 according to the design of Franz Schwechten as the residence of the German Emperor Wilhelm II. It was the last imperial residence in Europe built for a reigning ruler. The building was built on the model of medieval castles, and its official opening took place in August 1910.

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The giggle of the story was that Germany they enjoyed it for just nine years. After the Greater Poland Uprising, Poznań was incorporated into Poland, and the castle became one of the seats of the President of the Second Polish Republic.

Aerial photo of the Imperial CastleCYRIL

During World War II, the castle was rebuilt according to the whims of Adolf Hitler. It was supposed to be the fuehrer’s easternmost residence. Hitler’s personal architect, Albert Speer, was responsible for the renovation, during which the walls and ceilings were stripped to bare stone. There was a castle the most important element of the plan to make Poznań a showcase, a model capital of the Third Reich district. The reconstruction was originally supposed to last until the end of 1941. By then, the entire city was to acquire a German character.

Hitler’s plans. Poznań was supposed to be a model Nazi cityP. Ciesielski | TVN 24 Poznań

The entire reconstruction of the castle took much longer and was never completed. The Germans managed to carry out work only in the western part. They were interrupted at the end of 1944, when German troops suffered defeats on the Eastern Front. It cost more than five times more than initially planned – over 25 million marks. Adolf Hitler never reached the castle.

After World War II, there were proposals to demolish or rebuild the facility. It was then that it was decided to lower the clock tower, symbolically depriving the building of its dominant character in Poznań’s architecture. During the first post-war years, the castle was a university facility, later it became the seat of the city authorities. It has been serving culture since 1962.

It is to become an oasis

The reconstruction of the courtyard of the Imperial Castle in Poznań started in July 2023 and is scheduled to be completed in early 2025. The courtyard, which was previously used as a parking lot, is to be transformed into a space full of greenery and become an “oasis on the urban heat island”. There will be 28 trees (there were 9 so far – all of them will be preserved), as well as shrubs, perennials, grasses and flowers. The vines are also to cover part of the Castle’s facade.

Courtyard designPoznań City Hall

The Aleksander Wadas Studio project also assumes the construction of a pond, drinking troughs and sprinklers. The water circulation in the courtyard will be partially closed: the water tank used for watering the greenery will be equipped with a rainwater control unit.

Sprinklers are to be installed in the courtyardPoznań City Hall

There will also be a glass café pavilion, which will host animation and educational events, as well as smaller concerts and performances. The roof of the pavilion will be planted.

A school pavilion is to be built in front of the castlePoznań City Hall

Author:Filip Czekała

Main photo source: MKZ / CYRIL



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