Court of Artus, Gdańsk
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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The Court of Artus in Gdańsk is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the world which are linked to the Arthurian Legend. Over the years, the building has grown to become the hallmark of the culture of the southern Baltic coast - a culture shaped by the bourgeoisie and chivalry. From the late 15th century it served as the seat of a number of merchant guilds of Gdańsk, subsequently being adapted for use as a courtroom, a commodities exchange and, finally, the principal “urban salon”, its interior receiving a decor corresponding with its purpose.

History

The earliest mentions of the existence of a Court of Artus in Gdańsk date back to 1350; the second building, designed to supersede the original one, was erected during the fourth quarter of the 14th century and was the property of the elite Fraternity of St George, which engaged in the promotion of Arthurian ideals and traditions. After the building was damaged by fire in the 1370s on two separate occasions, the existing plot of land was extended owing to the efforts of the municipal council; in years 1477-1481, the current Court of Artus was build, becoming the seat of numerous merchant guilds organised in so-called benches (the Fraternity of St George moved to a different location in 1494). From 1530 onwards, the building was also used to hold open court sessions. In 1552, due to the contemplated visit of the king Sigismund Augustus, the facade was redesigned in the Italian Renaissance style. In years 1616-1617, at the initiative of mayor Johann Speimann, the facade was redesigned once again, this time by the renowned architect Abraham van den Block. Most of the interior fittings of the Court of Artus originates from years 1531-1626, since few founders were prepared to donate their money to the Court after that period. In 1651, a winery was established in the cellar; in order to achieve this goal, the entrance to the building had to be modified. From 1742 to the last years of World War II, the Court of Artus served as a commodities stock exchange, even though it was also used for official ceremonies. During the 1880s, the entrance decoration was enriched through the addition of stone stoop railings originating from the Baroque period as well as stone sculptures of lions which originally graced the Gate of St Jacob, which has subsequently been demolished. In 1943, all the moveable interior fittings were removed from the Court of Artus to prevent their destruction; the only part of the interior decor which was left behind being the lower section of the massive tiled stove. In the spring of 1945 the roof caught fire, leading to the collapse of parts of the vaulting as well as the northern gable. The entire process of reconstruction and revalorisation started in years 1949-1952 with the reconstruction of the roof and ended only in 1997. Today, the Court of Artus - along with the neighbouring tenement houses - serves as a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Gdańsk, although it is also used for various official ceremonies.

Description

The Court of Artus - located in a row of tenement houses forming the northern frontage of the Long Market - is a Gothic building with Mannerist decorations on its southern facade. Build on an irregular quadrangle plan, it features a three-nave, three-bay hall layout. A pentagonal turret containing the staircase adjoins the eastern nave from the north, while a broad stoop precedes the facade in the south. The Court of Artus is a single-storey building with a tall garret and cellar. It is covered with a gable roof with a hip end, covered with roof tiles. The walls are made of brick, the front facade covered with plaster. The interior features four-armed stellar vaults resting on four granite columns. Groin vaults supported by arches are used for the cellar. The front facade follows a three-axis design, featuring pointed-arch windows framed by splayed reveals as well as a portal positioned on the axis of the facade. The surface of the walls is enlivened through the use of rustication. Four corbels surmounted by the statues of great ancient leaders: Scipio Africanus, Themistocles, Marcus Furius Camillus and Judas Maccabeus are affixed at the base of the window arches. The crowning section of the facade incorporates an attic mezzanine with rectangular windows and two aedicules housing the sculptural personifications of Strength and Justice. This section of the facade is flanked by volute-shaped fractables and topped with a spindled balustrade. The stone portal is topped with a basket-handle arch and flanked by a pair of niches; two medallions with images of kings Sigismund III and Władysław IV are positioned directly above the niches. The rear facade features exposed red brick walls, three windows of substantial size as well as a polygonal staircase turret. The gable follows a four-axis design and is adorned by lesenes and pinnacles. The interior is spacious and bright, its vault supported by four slender pillars. A Renaissance organ gallery with a classicist clock and a relief of St George and the dragon, executed by Hans Brandt (circa 1485) are positioned opposite to the entrance. A monumental, multi-level tiled stove built by master Georg Stelzner in years 1545-1546 stands in the north-eastern corner of the hall. The benches of individual fraternities are positioned alongside the walls according to their historical order; the backs of the benches take the form of lavishly decorated wainscoting. They are accompanied by numerous sculptures, including the 16th-century sculptures of St Reinold, St Christopher and king Casimir IV Jagiellon, as well as various paintings, some of which are the work of Anton Möller and Andreas Stech; other interior decorations include historic weaponry and models of ships hanging from the ceiling.

Limited access to the historic building. The building may be visited during the opening hours of the Historical Museum of the City of Gdańsk (detailed information available at www.mhmg.pl/oddzial/2/dwor-artusa).

Compiled by Krystyna Babnis, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Gdańsk, 18.09.2014.

Bibliography

  • Duchnowski T., Dwór Artusa, [w:] Śliwiński B. (red. nauk.), Encyklopedia Gdańska, Gdańsk 2012, s. 253-255.
  • Krzyżanowski L., Dwór Artusa, [w:] Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce. Miasto Gdańsk, cz. 1: Główne Miasto, Warszawa 2006, s. 48-60.

General information

  • Type: manor house
  • Chronology: 2 poł. XV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Gdańsk
  • Location: Voivodeship pomorskie, district Gdańsk, commune Gdańsk
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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