Artus Court (Curtea lui Arthur)

Artus Court, also known as Dwór Artusa, is the construction located in the center part of Gdansk, in Poland. In the past, this was the place where merchants used to gather, but it was also the epicenter of the social life of that specific region.

While the scope of the edifice had changed, in the sense that it is no longer the center of Gdansk’s commerce, it is still heavily populated as visitors from around Poland and even from beyond the territorial delimitations of the country come and visit it.

The tourist attraction under discussion in this article draws its name from the medieval legend of King Arthur. This specific folklore is the symbol of nobility and chivalry and it is of no surprise that the buildings designated as the meeting place for the bourgeoisie incorporated this term in their name.  Such courts existed throughout Poland, but the one in Gdansk was by far the most important one due to the fame surrounding it.

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The court was already formed in the first decades of the 14th century and it was home to 6 societies. This type of organization was developed in accordance to the merchant’s trade relations and only the finest members of society could be affiliated – people pertaining to the aristocracy and to the bourgeoisie. The Court was intent in maintaining its elect membership and this meant that other categories of people were banned from the court – such as craftsmen or hired workers. This “community” had its own rules. For example, no talks about the deals one made were allowed inside Dwór Artusa, such matters were to be dealt with in the courtyard situated at the entrance. The evenings were usually moments of relaxation and entertainment as different types of performances were organized here.

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But the strict rules which were initially imposed on the members began to shift in time. For instance, if at the beginning gambling and card games were forbidden inside the organization, this soon began to change. Also, the lavish feasts which were occasionally organized at the Court and which were a symbol of wealth began to take a different form – that of a tavern in which drunkenness was the main theme. As it is obvious from the changes which instilled themselves at the Court, things started to degenerate slowly but surely. Naturally, many complaints were brought before the Court due to the way in which things evolved.

The construction was also used for social and cultural events. In the 17th century, many writers and painters presented their works here.

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The first building of Arthur’s Court dates from the 14th century. There is still some unknown information in relation to this edifice. Another edifice was erected probably in the later decades of the 14th century, but this was burnt down at the end of the 15th century. Several archeological diggings were conducted to the location in the later decade of the 20th century and these revealed traces of this second edifice.

The devastated edifice was refurbished a couple of years after the fire occured and at the middle of the 16th century this building was given a new appearance. The façade was once more renovated in 1617 in the Dutch Mannerism stylistic design. Among the decorative elements which adorned the edifice, one could notice sculptures representing heroic figures from Antiquity, and different metaphorical representations of power and righteousness.

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At the interior, Artus Court resembles an immense hall constructed in the Gothic style. The walls are covered with frescoes in which both mythical and historical characters can be noticed. The hall abounds in lavishness due to the extensive range of paintings and the highly decorated pieces of furniture. Some of the pieces of art which have gain recognition are actually those created by unidentified artists and which date from the 15th century. Other items used in the decorative process of the hall were tapestries, armors, emblems of royal families and even a cage which contained species of exotic birds.

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Tourists who visit the Court are also impressed by the heavily decorated furnace which had been created between 1545 and 1546 by Georg Stezner. This furnace measures 11 meters, but the most striking thing about it is that its 520 tiles (in which it is coated) illustrate the great European leaders.

At present, visitors can admire the memorial board which had been placed on the front wall of the Court in 1965 in order to commemorate the moment when the Polish soldiers have placed their flag on the Artus Court – an event that occurred 20 years earlier.

Tourists are permitted to enter inside the Court and admire first-handedly the edifice. In fact, the court is actually one of the sections of the History Museum of Gdansk.