The almshouse for orphans and elders, Gdańsk
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The almshouse for orphans and elders

Gdańsk

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The building serves as an immensely valuable, unique example of a 17th-century municipal care facility which operated without interruption in years 1699-1906. The almshouse is the oldest surviving structure of its kind in Gdańsk (another relic of such a structure are the portal and stonework of an orphanage built in years 1548-1549 next to the church of St Elizabeth, which were subsequently incorporated into the walls of a new building erected on the site during the early 20th century).

History

The almshouse for orphans and the elderly was built on the site of an abandoned, ruined hospital in the Old Town owing to the efforts of the Department for Charity, which existed in Gdańsk from the 17th century onwards. The main building was designed and erected in years 1698-1699 by Barthel Ranisch, a renowned architect active in Gdańsk at the time. The almshouse incorporated an alms chamber, an infirmary, weaving workshops (mostly for women), a classroom for children, a dining hall, a bathroom, a kitchen and a chapel (in the western part of the building). In subsequent years, the almshouse, also known as the House of Charity, was modernised and extended on a number of occasions. During the first half of the 18th century, a two-storey annex and a free-standing bakery were erected south of the building, while in 1749 an outbuilding - which survives to this day - was erected to accommodate all the adult residents of the house. In 1753 modernisation works were performed in the chapel, while the tower next to the main building was constructed in 1778. During the 18th century, the almshouse became a closed complex surrounded by a tall fence, featuring a spacious yard and garden. In the 19th century a group of utility buildings and a morgue were erected near the inner courtyard, while in 1893 a green square was arranged in front of the main building.

The almshouse was a municipal facility which initially catered for the needs of all groups of people: orphans, the elderly, the sick and the poor. The funds for its upkeep came from the municipal Department of Charity as well as from the revenue generated by the facility itself (including the sale of crops from the fields near the bastions which were owned by the facility). The average number of residents in the 18th century was approximately 250 individuals. After 1788, the facility changed its profile and catered exclusively to the needs of impoverished young people - during that time, it employed a teacher as well as women who could teach the girls resident at the almshouse how to sew, knit or crochet.

In 1906 the almshouse was moved to a new building at the street which is known today as Stefana Batorego street, located in Wrzeszcz. Initially, the now-empty buildings were used by a number of entities, including a medical facility as well as the editorial office of „Danziger Volksstime”; from 1934 (or generally from the first quarter of the 20th century, although that remains uncertain), both of the surviving buildings performed a residential function.

Description

The House of Charity complex in Gdańsk - located in the Old Town, on the boundary between the historical areas of Osiek and Zamczysko - consists of two elongated buildings positioned at a sharp angle towards one another, positioned on the junction of Sieroca street and the former Heveliusplatz (currently known as Plac Obrońców Poczty Polskiej - the Polish Post Office Defenders’ Square).

Both buildings are made of brick, their walls covered with plaster. They were built on an elongated rectangular floor plan and feature two storeys and tall hip roofs. Their somewhat austere appearance features certain traits of the Baroque architecture.

The main building (the first of the parts of the complex to be built) forms the northern frontage of the Polish Post Office Defenders’ Square. The facade overlooking the square (i.e. the south-eastern facade) is symmetrical in design and is partitioned with shallow, vertical niches containing pairs of windows on both levels. A wall dormer crowned with a triangular tympanum incorporating a round window is positioned on the axis of the building. The north-western facade overlooking the yard features a similar wall dormer carrying the date “1699”; the western part of the facade features windows set into shallow recesses as well as three plaques incorporated into the wall, devoted to the donors whose funds made it possible for the almshouse to function. The ground floor level of the facade features three sets of doors (with traces of bricked-up openings also visible in the wall). Both gable-end facades are obscured by asymmetrical annexes (a single-storey one and a two-storey one), covered with shed roofs.

The side building, built at a later date and featuring a slightly more austere appearance, is positioned so that its roof ridge runs parallel to Sieroca street and features a clipped south-eastern corner. The facades are simple and devoid of ornamentation. The windows and doors are arranged in an irregular pattern, with three sets of doors in each of the longer facades of the structure. The northern part of the building features surviving groin vaults on the ground floor level.

An inner courtyard is located between the buildings, partially enclosed by the remains of the former wall. A wooden gate and a now-defunct smaller wicket gate have once led into the courtyard from the direction of the junction of Sieroca street and the square; the wall still exists, albeit without the opening which used to house the wicket gate. Today, the northern section of the inner courtyard contains garages and storage sheds.

Limited access to the historic building. Private property - the building can only be viewed from the outside.

Complied by: Teofila Lebiedź-Gruda, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Gdańsk, 10.07.2014.

Bibliography

  • Barton Piórkowska J., Dzielnice Gdańska. Stare Miasto, Gdańsk 2010, s. 132-133.
  • Kowalski J., Massalski R., Stankiewicz J., Rozwój urbanistyczny i architektoniczny Gdańska, [w:] Gdańsk. Jego dzieje i kultura, Warszawa 1969, s. 200, 203.
  • Kropidłowski Z., Formy opieki nad ubogimi w Gdańsku od XVI do XVIII wieku, Gdańsk 1992.
  • Stankiewicz J., Szermer B., Gdańsk. Rozwój urbanistyczny i architektoniczny oraz powstanie zespołu Gdańsk-Sopot-Gdynia, Warszawa 1959, s. 133, 137, 205, 259.
  • Szarszewski A., Bogotko-Szarszewska M., Imago mundi pauperum. Dom dobroczynności w Gdańsku według Johanna Jacoba Feyrabenta i Samuela Donneta, Toruń 2006.

General information

  • Type: public building
  • Chronology: koniec XVII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Sieroca 6, 8, Gdańsk
  • Location: Voivodeship pomorskie, district Gdańsk, commune Gdańsk
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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