The earliest mention of Labiau dates back to 1258. At that time Labiau was most probably an old Baltic Prussian village or a small fortified settlement. The first timber fortress was built by the Teutonic Knights during the second Prussian surge, around the year 1274 (other sources suggest that the first stronghold was established in 1258). It stood at the mouth of the Laba River and protected this waterway. During the Prussian uprisings, the fortress changed hands, being alternately demolished and then reconstructed. Finally, in the late 1380s the Teutonic Knights returned to Labiau, this time to stay. The earth and timber construction was subsequently replaced by then modern fortifications.
In 1347 and in 1352, Labiau attacked by Lithuanians. While the lands around the castle were ravaged by troops of horse-mounted warriors led by the Dukes Algirdas and Kęstutis, the local people escaped to Labiau and hid behind the fortified walls of the fortress, but the Lithuanians made no decision to besiege the town. In 1352 the Teutonic Knights waged an unsuccessful attack on Lithuania. Upon their return to Labiau, they decided to reinforce the fortress. New entrenchments were made and the old walls were repaired. A few years later, in 1360, construction of a new stone and brick fortress began.
The new castle was raised on a small isle surrounded by a crescent-shaped moat, deep enough to let ships enter, which is why a new harbour was built near the castle. The earth from the moats and old entrenchments was used to strengthen the castle hill. The new castle in Labiau was nicknamed 'a castle on water'. The building was laid on an irregular quadrilateral plan with all the castle wings being the same height. The foundations and walls up to 4-5 meters height were built from boulders; above - they were brick walls.
The ground floor had household functions, containing a kitchen and a bakery, for instance. The west wing was residential. It also had a huge furnace and a heating system fitted in. In the north wing there was a gatehouse. In the east wing there was a sanitary tower, known as 'dansker'. The walls were between 2 and 3 meters thick. There were most probably two watchtowers - in the eastern and western corners. Inside the castle, around the inner ward there was an arcaded walk, which took to the first floor. And there, on the first floor, we can still see some halls with cross and rib vaults. In the middle of the inner court, the building master Hannus Bolle of Gdansk made a deep well.
Around the castle there was an outer ward, encircled with a ring of fortified walls. One of the towers which belonged to these fortifications has survived to the present day, albeit extensively redesigned. There was also a church in the castle compound, called St George's Church. It was first mentioned in written records in 1408, but in 1541 it was converted into a brewery and finally demolished in 1880.
In the 16th century the castle was completely reconstructed to serve as a residence for the Duchess of Prussia. Some of the halls were decorated with frescoes executed by the Italian artist Gianbattista, also called Johann von Braun. A century later the castle began to lose its status. Some of the fortifications, then useless, were demolished and the buildings often stood empty. In 1818, when Labiau became the capital town of the district, the old castle was redesigned again. The old vaults were destroyed and new windows were made in the old walls.
The building was now housed the local authorities, a court of law and a prison. Although World War Two left 'the castle on water' in very bad state of repair, the prison was not closed down until 1964, when the castle was completely abandoned. Soon it was extensively devastated. For a few years it was occupied by a factory. In 1990 the ruined castle was ceded to the local government of Polessk, which intended to use it for cultural purposes.
Today those few castle chambers that have preserved the original vaults house a modest museum. Some other rooms contain an amateur theatre and several commercial companies. Most of the castle stands empty and desolate.References:
The Cloth Hall in Kraków dates to the Renaissance and is one of the city's most recognizable icons. It is the central feature of the main market square in the Kraków Old Town (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978).
The hall was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, the hall was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the east – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Kraków was Poland's capital city and was among the largest cities in Europe already from before the time of the Renaissance. However, its decline started with the move of the capital to Warsaw in the very end of the 16th century. The city's decline was hastened by wars and politics leading to the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century. By the time of the architectural restoration proposed for the cloth hall in 1870 under Austrian rule, much of the historic city center was decrepit. A change in political and economic fortunes for the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria ushered in a revival due to newly established Legislative Assembly or Sejm of the Land. The successful renovation of the Cloth Hall, based on design by Tomasz Pryliński and supervised by Mayor Mikołaj Zyblikiewicz, Sejm Marshal, was one of the most notable achievements of this period.
The hall has hosted many distinguished guests over the centuries and is still used to entertain monarchs and dignitaries, such as Charles, Prince of Wales and Emperor Akihito of Japan, who was welcomed here in 2002. In the past, balls were held here, most notably after Prince Józef Poniatowski had briefly liberated the city from the Austrians in 1809. Aside from its history and cultural value, the hall still is still used as a center of commerce.
On the upper floor of the hall is the Sukiennice Museum division of the National Museum, Kraków. It holds the largest permanent exhibit of the 19th-century Polish painting and sculpture, in four grand exhibition halls arranged by historical period and the theme extending into an entire artistic epoch. The museum was upgraded in 2010 with new technical equipment, storerooms, service spaces as well as improved thematic layout for the display.
The Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art was a major cultural venue from the moment it opened on October 7, 1879. It features late Baroque, Rococo, and Classicist 18th-century portraits and battle scenes by Polish and foreign pre-Romantics.