Small Armoury, Gdańsk
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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The Small Armoury is one of the few surviving buildings of this type which can still be found in Poland - a valuable example of a 17th-century military structure featuring an austere, monumental form which perfectly reflects its original function. With its links to the early modern defence structures built around the City of Gdańsk, it remains inextricably bound with one of the stages of development of the city fortifications.

History

The Small Armoury, its name intended to distinguish it from the earlier and much more grand building that was the Great Armoury, was erected in years 1643-1645, based on the design by Jerzy Strakowski. The building - erected shortly after the construction of the early modern bastion fortifications around Gdańsk - was built due to the need to maintain a larger crew and a second (auxiliary) arsenal which could provide supplies to the south-western fortifications around the city. The Small Armoury was erected alongside the western line of bastion fortifications. From the west, the armoury adjoined the rampart of the curtain wall between the St Gertrude Bastion and the Wijbe Bastion.

The building featured a monumental design and austere architectural detailing, corresponding with its predominantly military function. The voussoirs above the gates incorporated panoply motifs, while the gables were adorned with reliefs depicting exploding cannonballs. The ground floor interior featured an open-space design with a wooden ceiling resting on a crossbeam and six pillars. It was mostly used for storing heavy weaponry - cannons on mounts and cannonballs, with lighter weapons being hung off the walls and the crossbeam. The attic rooms were used for storing light arms as well as other items; for example, it was here that elements of the decorative assemblies used during the welcome ceremonies for Polish kings arriving in Gdańsk were stored.

In 1833, the building was partially modified, with gate openings in the facade overlooking the rampart (eastern facade) extended upwards. In addition, shed roofs were attached above the gates. The south-eastern part of the building was adapted for residential purposes. In 1886, a fortress laboratory was erected west of the building; the new facility had functional links to the armoury itself.

During World War II, in 1945 the armoury sustained extensive damage, with all roofs and gables being destroyed. All that remained of the building were its peripheral walls to the level of the crowning cornice along with stone detailing which, fortunately, has also survived. In 1956, the reconstruction of the structure began, with the original form of the eastern facade being restored (which involved, inter alia, the reduction of the height of the gateway openings). The gables were rebuilt as well, albeit without their original decorations. The interiors of the building were also built completely anew, with the ceilings and roofs based around ferro-concrete structures. The building was taken over by the Gdańsk-Gdynia Voivodeship Transportation Company and adapted to serve as a garage. From 1993 onwards, it is used by the Department of Sculpture of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk.

Description

The Small Armoury is located in the south-western section of the Old Suburb district, in the western frontage of Plac Wałowy (Square by the Ramparts) . In the west, the building abuts the remnants of the rampart - the former curtain wall between the St Gertrude Bastion and the now-defunct Wijbe Bastion. The building is positioned longitudinally, with gables facing north and south.

It is a brick building, the lower sections of its walls incorporating Gothic bricks taken from the demolished medieval defensive walls. The building was designed on a rectangular floor plan (60 x 25 metres). It is a monumental, single-storey structure covered with four steep gable roofs, two of them positioned in parallel, alongside the longer axis of the building; the two other, shorter roofs are positioned transversely. The roof layout gives the building eight gables in total, two on each side. A two-storey garret is located underneath the roofs.

Both gable walls as well as the eastern facade running in parallel to the roof ridge feature two gateways each, facilitating access to the inside of the building. The gable ends of the building (i.e. the northern and the southern facades) feature a nearly identical design, with each of them incorporating two gables. The ground floor level features two gates topped with semicircular arches as well as two rectangular window openings. Each gable incorporates two rectangular window openings on the lower garret level and one rectangular window plus one oculus above it on the upper garret level. The gables are crowned with rectangular top sections. The side facades (the eastern and the western facade) also feature two gables each. The eastern facade also incorporates two gateways, topped with semicircular arches and positioned on the axes of the gables. Furthermore, there are dual rectangular windows on the ground floor level. Each of the gables features one large window with a semicircular arch on the lower garret level and a rectangular window and an oculus on the upper garret level. The western facade incorporates two doorways on the ground floor level, while the northern gable also features a gate on the lower garret level, with a ramp leading towards the gate from the rampart.

All the facades of the building feature a restrained architectural décor, the stone detailing having only been preserved on the ground floor level. The surviving detailing includes quoining on the corners, stone window surrounds and voussoirs in the semi-circular arches of the gates (including keystones with panoply motifs). A feature which deserves particular attention is the stone plaque in the centre of the eastern facade dating back to 1645, incorporating the coat of arms of the city of Gdańsk. The coat of arms is framed by a lavishly designed Baroque cartouche edged with auricular style ornaments. Traces of original paint can still be seen on the plaque.

Limited access to the historic building. The building may be visited during opening hours of the Academy of Fine Arts.

Compiled by Beata Dygulska, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Gdańsk, 08.08.2014.

Bibliography

  • Friedrich J., Gdańskie zabytki architektury do końca XVIII w., Gdańsk 1997, s. 70-72.
  • Gdańsk. Mała Zbrojownia, pl. Wałowy 15. Dokumentacja historyczna, oprac. Strzelecka I., Szymoniak Z., Wołosewicz A., Gdańsk 1958.
  • Karta ewidencyjna zabytku architektury, Mała Zbrojownia, oprac. M. Janik, Warszawa 1984, Archiwum NID.

General information

  • Type: defensive architecture
  • Chronology: 1 poł. XVII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: pl. Wałowy 16, Gdańsk
  • Location: Voivodeship pomorskie, district Gdańsk, commune Gdańsk
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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