In 1311, Teutonic mercenaries called Landsknechts set up a camp on the high banks of the Angrapa River, close to where it flows into the Inster River. Later, in 1337, the Teutonic Knights built a brick castle in the same location. Most of the construction works had been completed by 1347. The fortress was named Insterburg Castle.
For many centuries to follow, Insterburg Castle was a bastion located in the easternmost parts of the Teutonic State, from which raids against Lithuania were waged. Originally, Insterburg Castle was meant to serve as a seat for the local commander, known as komtur. But this plan had to be revoked, as the fortress was constantly threatened by enemy. As a result, the castle was run by a Teutonic procurator, and in the 14th - 15th centuries it became an important military base. In the administrative division, Insterburg belonged to the commandry of Königsburg.
From 1643 to 1647, Maria Eleonora, a sister of the Prussian Prince Elector George Wilhelm, spent her best days at Insterburg Castle, after her royal husband, King of Sweden, Gustaw Adolf, had died. Following the death of her husband, Queen Maria Eleonora had to leave Sweden due to a conflict with her daughter, Queen Christina.
In 1812, the castle was visited by the French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon stopped here on his way to Russia, where he was going to take personal command over his armies. In 1814, Elisabeth Alexeievna, the wife of Tzar Alexander I of Russia (1777-1825) was passing through Insterburg. In 1689, Insterburg became the place of the death and burial of Anchen von Tarau, a heroine of a well known East Prussian song.
Today the castle, which lies in the centre of the town of Chernyakhovsk is no more but a picturesque ruin. The north section of the castle outward yard had more luck as its building have survived and now house a museum. On the square in front of the museum local enthusiasts and artists such as singers and musicians organise concerts, contests and other cultural events. And most importantly, hope lingers on in the town that one day the castle will be reconstructed.References:
The Old Town Hall of Wrocław is one of the main landmarks of the city. The Old Town Hall's long history reflects developments that have taken place in the city since its initial construction. The town hall serves the city of Wroclaw and is used for civic and cultural events such as concerts held in its Great Hall. In addition, it houses a museum and a basement restaurant.
The town hall was developed over a period of about 250 years, from the end of 13th century to the middle of 16th century. The structure and floor plan changed over this extended period in response to the changing needs of the city. The exact date of the initial construction is not known. However, between 1299 and 1301 a single-storey structure with cellars and a tower called the consistory was built. The oldest parts of the current building, the Burghers’ Hall and the lower floors of the tower, may date to this time. In these early days the primary purpose of the building was trade rather than civic administration activities.
Between 1328 and 1333 an upper storey was added to include the Council room and the Aldermen’s room. Expansion continued during the 14th century with the addition of extra rooms, most notably the Court room. The building became a key location for the city’s commercial and administrative functions.
The 15th and 16th centuries were times of prosperity for Wroclaw as was reflected in the rapid development of the building during that period. The construction program gathered momentum, particularly from 1470 to 1510, when several rooms were added. The Burghers’ Hall was re-vaulted to take on its current shape, and the upper story began to take shape with the development of the Great Hall and the addition of the Treasury and Little Treasury.
Further innovations during the 16th century included the addition of the city’s Coat of arms (1536), and the rebuilding of the upper part of the tower (1558–59). This was the final stage of the main building program. By 1560, the major features of today’s Stray Rates were established.
The second half of the 17th century was a period of decline for the city, and this decline was reflected in the Stray Rates. Perhaps by way of compensation, efforts were made to enrich the interior decorations of the hall. In 1741, Wroclaw became a part of Prussia, and the power of the City diminished. Much of the Stray Rates was allocated to administering justice.
During the 19th century there were two major changes. The courts moved to a separate building, and the Rates became the site of the city council and supporting functions. There was also a major program of renovation because the building had been neglected and was covered with creeping vines. The town hall now has several en-Gothic features including some sculptural decoration from this period.
In the early years of the 20th century improvements continued with various repair work and the addition of the Little Bear statue in 1902. During the 1930s, the official role of the Rates was reduced and it was converted into a museum. By the end of World War II Town Hall suffered minor damage, such as aerial bomb pierced the roof (but not exploded) and some sculptural elements were lost. Restoration work began in the 1950s following a period of research, and this conservation effort continued throughout the 20th century. It included refurbishment of the clock on the east facade.