Last modified: 2011-05-13 by andrew weeks
Keywords: frombork | copernicus |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors
The former residence of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, the town and its 700-year-old cathedral were badly damaged in World War II. After the war, Frombork was meticulously reconstructed and is again a popular tourist destination.
The town was founded as a defensive stronghold on an Old Prusian site. In 1224 at Catania, Emperor Frederick II declared Prussia directly subordinate to the church and Holy Roman Empire. Later in the same year the pope assigned Bishop William of Modena as the papal legate to Prussia. With the imperial Golden Bull of Rimini, the Teutonic Knights were granted control of the region, which they subsequently conquered. According to local legend, the Old Prusian inhabitants were baptised by Anselm of Meissen, a priest of the Teutonic Knights and the first Bishop of the Bishopric of Warmia which was created in 1242 by William of Modena.
Supposedly when the stronghold's lord died, his widow Gertruda offered the settlement to the bishop, and in her honor it was named Frauenburg ("Our Lady's fortress" in German). This name is not unique in German, but it usually originates in the construction of a fortified chapel, church, or monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary or inhabited by nuns. Several places were thus named Marienburg, like the nearby Marienburg castle and city (now Malbork).
The village was first mentioned in a 1278 document signed by Bishop Heinrich I Fleming. On 8 July 1310, Bishop Eberhard von Neiße granted the town Lübeck city rights, as used by many member cities of the Hanseatic League. It was described, still rather unspecifically, as Civitas Warmiensis (Warmian city).
In 1329-1388, the magnificent Gothic cathedral was built, and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, or "Our Lady" (in Latin, Domina Nostra; in German, Unsere Frau). Hence, the town was called Frauenburg. Over the centuries, the cathedral has been expanded and rebuilt repeatedly. There are also several other historic churches, dedicated to St. Nicholas, St. George, and St. Anne, all built in the 13th century.
In 1414 the city was plundered and burned during a war between Poland and the Teutonic Knights. In 1454, during the Thirteen Yearś War, the hill and its cathedral were occupied by Jan Skalski. By the Second Peace of Thorn (1466), it became an important city of the Prince-Bishopric of Warmia and part of the Polish province of Royal Prussia
In the Middle Ages, the inhabitants were mainly merchants, farmers and
fishermen. The most famous resident was the astronomer and mathematician
Nicolaus Copernicus, who lived and worked here as a canon (1512-16 and
1522-43). Copernicus is said to have jokingly called it "Weiberstadt" ("Wiveś
Town") or "Gynepolis" (in Medieval Greek). It was at Frauenburg that the
astronomer wrote his epochal work, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.
Shortly after its 1543
publication, Copernicus died there and was buried in the town's cathedral, where his grave was thought to have been found by archaeologists in 2005. This was subsequently confirmed in November 2008 by the publication of the results of DNA tests on fragments of bone and hair found on the skeleton here that matched two strands of hair which belonged to Copernicus and are currently located in Uppsala University.
In the northwest corner of the cathedral grounds is Copernicuś tower, and in the southwest corner an octagonal building with a square bell tower and a small planetarium and a Foucault's pendulum. From atop the tower one can survey the town, the tiny harbor, the great panorama of the Baltic Sea, and much of Warmia's countryside.
After the first partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1772), the town was taken over by the Kingdom of Prussia. Subsequently, in 1871 Frauenburg became part of the German Empire. The Preußische Ostbahn railway line was opened in 1899 connecting Elbing (Elbląg) and Braunsberg (Braniewo) via Frauenburg, leading further to the Russian border at Eydtkuhnen (Chernyshevskoye). Passenger services on the railway line through Frombork ceased in early 2006.
Towards and after the end of World War II, the German inhabitants were either evacuated or expelled like most of the German population of East Prussia. At the end of World War II, after 173 years the city along with the rest of southern East Prussia, again became part of Poland once more under territorial changes promulgated by the Potsdam Conference. The town, renamed Frombork in 1946, was resettled by Poles, many of whom were expellees from Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union.
In 1959 Frombork regained its city rights. Having been heavily (70%) damaged in World War II, it was rebuilt by Polish Boy Scouts in 1966-1973, in time for the 500th anniversary of Copernicuś birth.
Today, Frombork is regaining its importance as a tourist destination, abetted by its key location just south of the frontier with the Russian district of Kaliningrad. Although the railway through Frombork closed in 2006, the port has seasonal ferry connections with Elblag, Krynica Morska and Kaliningrad.
* 1278 first mentioned
* 1310 Lübeck law rights granted for Civitas Warmiensis
* 1388 cathedral completed and dedicated to the Virgin Mary
* 1466 Second Peace of Thorn (1466): now part of the Prince-Bishopric of Warmia and Royal Prussia in Poland
* 1772 First partition of Poland: now part of the Kingdom of Prussia
* 1871 German Empire founded: now automatically a part of it
* 1945 The Potsdam Conference places Frombork under administration of Poland pending a final peace conference, but since one never takes place, the decision effectively passes Frombork to Poland. The new borders are recognized by East Germany in 1950, accepted by West Germany in 1970, and confirmed by newly reunified Germany in 1990. (website & wiki)
Arms and flag adopted on September 27, 2007 (resolution # XI/73/07).
"Arms: on the red gothic shield a crenelated town gate between two heraldic
Wall is yellow, gate - brown, windows - black.
Above the gate an image of Madonna with child.
Flag: in colors red, yellow and blue.
There are civic and ceremonial versions of it.
Ratio of the flag is 2:3."
Chrystian Kretowicz, 23 Dec 2008