The Crane, Gdańsk
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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The Crane in Gdańsk is a spectacular example of a medieval port crane, unique on an European scale; it is also the only surviving twin-tower gate in Gdańsk. The immediately identifiable silhouette of the Crane has become world-famous symbol of both the city of Gdańsk and of its seaport.

History

The very first mention of a wooden crane tower and gate located at the end of what is now known as the Szeroka street dates back to 1367. After the original structure was gutted by fire, a new building was erected in 1442-1444, with the brick western facade completed much later, in 1483. The Crane was the largest of all water gates in Gdańsk. Its ground floor contained spaces designed to accommodate cannon emplacements; in addition, smaller firearms could be fired through embrasures located on the upper storeys. The main crane mechanism consisted of a set of treadwheels on a common shaft onto which a rope would be turned. Initially the crane used a single pair of treadwheels; subsequently, somewhere during the 16th or 17th century, a second pair of wheels was added. Each treadwheel was powered by four crane workers who walked inside the treadwheel. The device was capable of lifting objects with a weight of up to two tonnes (the lower set of treadwheels had the capacity to hoist the cargo to a height of 11 metres, while the upper wheel increased that capacity to approximately 25 metres). Apart from cargo handling operations, the crane was also used for the purposes of raising and lowering masts on various vessels. Since the crane remained the property of the municipal authorities, the task of its administration was entrusted to an official known as the crane master. From the early 17th century, the structure began to lose its military significance (there are mentions of residential use of the crane tower in documentation dating back to 1605); at the end of the 17th century, its importance as a port crane was also beginning to dwindle, even though it continued to be used until 1944, albeit in a limited capacity. In 1945, the wooden central section of the crane burned down, as did the crane mechanism contained within; the damage done to the peripheral walls was at the level of about 60%. The crane was rebuilt in years 1957-1969, with the crane mechanism being reconstructed between 1962 and 1965; during the same period, the crane tower was adapted to serve as a museum.

Description

The gatehouse is located at the eastern exit of the Szeroka street and is slightly angled towards the street axis, with the crane device facing towards the Motława river. The crane tower was built in the Gothic style on an irregular rectangular floor plan, with two fortified towers at its corners; the towers are partially rectangular in shape, with round fronts on the eastern side. The three-storey brick towers flank a three-walled raised section built to accommodate the mechanism of the crane, its eastern overhanging section supported by two brackets. The building is made of brick and features a basement underneath the entire structure; its central tower has five storeys in total. The crane structure features a wooden frame covered with weatherboards. The main body of the building is covered with a gable roof which terminates in a structure consisting of three triangular roof sections above the fortified towers. The central, elevated section of the crane features a transverse hip roof with a clipped gable at one end; the roof is covered with ceramic roof tiles, with a sheet metal weathervane mounted atop the ridge. The eastern facade consists of three sections, with a wooden crane tower structure in the centre, flanked by semi-cylindrical fortified towers with windows replacing the former embrasures. The west facade features nine axes, with a pointed archway of the gate on the central axis; the facade is partitioned by pointed-arch blind windows. The crane mechanism consists of two pairs of wooden treadwheels mounted on a long shaft.

Limited access to the building. The building may be visited during the hours of operation of the National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk (detailed information available at http://www.nmm.pl/zuraw).

Compiled by Krystyna Babnis, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Gdańsk, 29.08.2014.

Bibliography

  • Sulikowski G., Żuraw, [in:] Śliwiński B. (scientific ed.), Encyklopedia Gdańska, Gdańsk 2012, pp. 1153-1154.
  • Stankiewicz J. [supplemented by other authors], Żuraw, [in:] Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce. Miasto Gdańsk, part 1: Główne Miasto, Warsaw 2006, pp. 25-26.

General information

  • Type: defensive wall
  • Chronology: 1 poł. XV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Szeroka 67/68, Gdańsk
  • Location: Voivodeship pomorskie, district Gdańsk, commune Gdańsk
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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