Artus Court Museum
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Artus Court Museum information
Lonely Planet review
Rising in all its embellished grandeur behind the Neptune Fountain, the Artus Court is perhaps the single best-known house in Gdańsk. The court has been an essential stop for passing luminaries ever since its earliest days, and a photo display in the entrance shows an enviable selection of famous visitors, from King Henry IV of England to a host of contemporary presidents.
Built in the middle of the 14th century, the court was given its monumental facade by Abraham van den Block in the 1610s. Inside there’s a huge hall, topped by a Gothic vault supported on four slim granite columns, decorated with hunting murals and dominated by a vast painting depicting the Battle of Grunwald. There are also large models of masted sailing ships suspended from its ceiling! Wealthy local merchants used the building as a communal guildhall, holding meetings, banquets and general revelries in the lavishly decorated interior.
Like most of the centre, the court was comprehensively destroyed in WWII, but has been painstakingly restored from old photographs and historical records, recapturing at least a glimpse of its remarkable past. The hall is still the undisputed centrepiece, but the adjoining chambers hold historical artefacts and some exquisite pieces of classic Danzig furniture in the darkwood style synonymous with the city’s golden age.
The plainly renovated upper floors hold a selection of historical exhibits, including a photographic ‘simulacrum’ of how the great hall would have looked at its peak – even in two dimensions it’s a breathtaking space, filled from top to bottom with paintings, models and stuffed animals.
One unique feature of the interior is its giant Renaissance tiled stove , standing in the corner of the hall and almost touching the ceiling. It’s reputedly the highest stove of its kind in Europe. Looking like a five-tier tower, 10.65m high, the stove is also lavishly ornamented, with a wealth of decoration portraying, among other things, rulers, allegorical figures and coats of arms. Built in 1546 by George Stelzener, the stove survived virtually unchanged until 1943, when local conservators dismantled the upper part and hid it outside the city. The fragments were collected after the war, and after a long and complex restoration, the whole thing was eventually put together and revealed to the public in 1995. It contains 520 tiles, 437 of which are originals.