Olsztyn castle is the oldest building in the town. It was built in the 14th century and originally consisted of two wings. The archaeological research proves that the fortress was built from scratch, on a raw piece of land, where no traces of any earlier settlement have ever been found.
The castle belonged to the chapter of the Warmia diocese, which along with the bishop of Warmia was subjected to the military protection of the Order of Teutonic Knights until 1454. For that reason the castle played quite an important role during the wars between the Order and Poland. In 1410, after the battle of Tanneberg, the castle surrounded to the Polish king, and in 1414 after a short besiege it was seized by Polish troops. During the Thirteen Years' War (1454-1466) the castle changed hands several times. In 1521 the Teutonic Knights threatened the castle and the town. Owing to the defense measures taken by the castle administrator, Nicolas Copernicus, they gave in after one, unsuccessful attack. Nicolas Copernicus stayed at the castle as the administrator of the chapter property in 1516-1519 and 1520-1521. He lived in the north-east wing, in a large chamber with a view from two windows of the Łyna river and the castle mill. The third window overlooked the castle court. One door led to the castle wall walk and another to the chancery. In the early 16th century both rooms received beautiful crystal vaulting, which was rather low, but four hundred years later the rooms were made higher by lowering the floor.
Within the castle walls, as part of the south-west wing, there is St Anna's Chapel, built in the first half of the 16th century and consecrated by Bishop Martin Kromer in 1580. The external wall of the south wing is topped with very well preserved machicolations - protruding wooden walks with murder holes, through which castle defenders hurdled stones or poured boiling hot water or tar on heads of attackers. In the 18th century Olsztyn castle began to lose stature as the seat of the chapter administration had been moved to Frombork. Also its defensive function began to vanish. When some of the castle walls had been demolished, in 1758 a new palace wing was built, facing the town. In the years to follow the castle served different purposes, including a prison. When the regency of Olsztyn (a large administrative district in Prussia) was created in 1905, the castle was adapted to house an apartment for the president of the regency.
In 1945 the castle became the seat of the Masurian Museum, later renamed into the Museum of Warmia and Mazury. Visitors can see the fine first floor of the north wing, including such rooms as the castle administrator's living chamber, the chancery, the refectory and the old chapel. Upstairs they can see the storage and defensive top floor of the castle. Another building opened to the public is the corner watchtower, from which everyone can admire the views of the town. Today the castle is a popular venue for concerts, art exhibitions, lectures, scientific sessions, film shows (examples include cyclic summer meetings called Thursdays with Copernicus, concerts of the Olsztyn-based chamber music ensemble Pro Musica Antiqua, a series of meetings named Biographies). The Museum in Olsztyn is known for its unorthodox forms of sightseeing. On certain days or nights visitors can look into rooms which are usually closed to the public; they can try on medieval armory or costume. The youngest visitors are invited to take part in special workshops.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.