The first earth and timber fort was raised in Ostróda (Osterode) by the Teutonic knights in the mid-13th century. It stood in the fork between the Drwęca river branches, replacing an earlier Prussian stronghold. Construction of a brick castle built on a stone foundation was started by the Ostróda Commander (Hauskomtur) around 1349. The old earth and timber fortress together with the unfinished brick castle were hit by a fire during a Lithuanian raid commanded by duke Kiejstut in 1381. Soon afterwards a new brick castle was built.
The convent castle was constructed on a square plan, 44.7 x 45.2 m externally. Originally it had four wings with an archway in the west wing. Recently, the castle has been restored in the shape it had after the fire in 1788. Three wings (south, wet and north) have been preserved, although they lack the topmost storey, which was used for defense and storage. Some researchers claim that the castle had a tower in the south-east corner. To the north, there was a sanitary tower, most probably connected with the north wing of the castle by a wooden walk. During the archaeological excavations at the castle, the bases of pillars were unearthed, which may have supported the wooden gallery leading to the sanitary tower. The south wing contained a chapel, the commander's quarters and a refectory. The remaining wings most probably held the chapter room, infirmary and dormitories for brother knights and guests. The communication within the castle was through wooden walks parallel to the internal sides of the walls. Rooms on the ground floor in the north and south wings have preserved original cross and ribbed vaults on arches supported by granite pillars (partly reconstructed), while the cellars underneath are topped with cross vaults on diagonal arches. After the battle of Tannenberg, for two months Ostróda castle remained in the hands of Duke of Masovia, Janusz Mazowicki, who received the castle from the Polish King Władysław Jagiełło. In September 1410 the castle returned to the Teutonic Knights. In 1629 the Swedish King, Gustav Adolph resided at Ostróda castle. For six years, from 1633 to 1639, the castle was ruled by the Silesian Duke of Legnica and Brzeg, John Christian.
In the great fire of Ostróda in 1788, the flames reached the castle, where large quantities of gunpowder were stored in the east wing at that time. Soon a gigantic explosion damaged the east wing and the castle roofs. Although the castle was rebuilt, it did not regain its previous shape - the east wing was not reconstructed and the whole castle was one storey lower. In the 19th century the walls were plastered and many extensions were added to the castle building. From 21st February to 1st April 1807 the castle hosted the French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. He arrived here to rest after the exhausting battle at Prussian Eylau, which was victorious for the French party but caused much bloodshed. A rather unexpected outcome of that brief stay at Ostróda castle was a number of arts objects documenting the event. The Ostróda Museum exhibits a replica of the painting by the French artist Marie Nicolas Ponce-Camus 'Napoleon promises his grace to Ostróda burgers. March 1807'; the original canvas hangs in the historic gallery at Versailles. Another exhibit at Ostróda Castle which commemorates Napoleon I is a silver medal 'Napoleon a Osterode', made by the French graver Bertrand Andrieu. In the 19th century the castle was a seat for the local administration office and court of justice. There were also several apartments for officials. In 1945 the castle was burnt by the Soviet Army and remained in the state of preserved ruin for nearly thirty years. The reconstruction of the castle was commenced in 1974 and continued until the 1990s. At present, the castle houses the Museum of Ostróda, the Centre of Culture, a gallery and a library.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.