Reconstruction of the Pomeranian Dukes' Castle after World War II

Reconstruction of the Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle after World War II

After the end of World War II, the western part of Pomerania and Szczecin became part of Poland (today’s Western Pomerania). The ducal castle was considered the most valuable historical monument of the city and the region. It was recognised as a symbol (“a monument in memory of the history of Western Pomerania”) and decided to be restored. However, the former seat of the Griffin princes was an utter ruin. The extent of the damage was assessed at 60% of the substance of the building. The first tidy-up work on the castle grounds was undertaken in 1946. During this process, a burial crypt was found with a number of ducal sarcophagi containing remains of ceremonial costumes as well as Renaissance jewellery of great value. In the years 1947-1952 an archaeological dig was carried out. At the same time, in 1954, project work under Professor Stanisław Latour was undertaken. In the concept of reconstructing the castle it was assumed that the form of the building from the period of its greatest splendour in the era of the Renaissance should be restored. The visual basis for the reconstruction was an engraving in a Matthäus Merian’s work from 1652 which is a perspective view of the castle and, at the same time, its most accurate picture. The reconstruction of the castle was carried out in two stages. In the first stage, in the years 1958-1964, the northern wing was rebuilt (full reconstruction of the Renaissance architecture with reconstruction of the historical interior layout) and so was the eastern wing (reconstruction limited only to the shape and façade, contemporary interiors). Therefore, their Renaissance character was exposed. Both wings were adapted for the needs of the Provincial Cultural Centre. In the northern wing, with the most representative interior, a concert hall (formerly the castle church, and currently Bogislaw X’s Hall), exhibition rooms and a café were established. In the eastern wing administrative and rest and refreshment rooms were created. In the second stage, begun in 1970 and completed in 1985, the remaining three wings were reconstructed: western, southern and the so called mint wing. Work on the western wing (1970-1973), preserved after the war in the best technical condition, consisted in conducting preservation and reconstruction of the outer appearance of the wing with reconstruction of the galleries, staircase tower and attic, and modern interior design was applied. However, the mint wing was completely reconstructed in the years 1972-1976 to form the shape from the first quarter of the 17th century with a contemporary design of interiors designated for the headquarters of the company Pracownie Konserwacji Zabytków (now The Polish Studios for Conservation of Cultural Property).

The biggest difficulty was to reconstruct the southern wing, the former “Big House”, which in the 19th century was redeveloped considerably and during World War II was damaged the most. The project took into account a comprehensive reconstruction of the uniquely shaped wing from the turn of the 16th century. The original concept, however, changed significantly in 1972, when it was decided to use the wing for the needs of Teatr Muzyczny (today’s Castle Opera). Finally, the outer shape of the southern wing with late Gothic tracery gables, cellars and some ground floor rooms (today’s Gothic Hall, rooms of the Civil Registry Office) underwent reconstruction.

The reconstruction of the Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle was completed in 1985, i.e. twenty three years after it was commenced. The main contractor was Pracownie Konserwacji Zabytków (now The Polish Studios for Conservation of Cultural Property) in Szczecin. In 2008 in the vestibule of the northern wing a commemorative plaque dedicated to the main designer of the reconstruction of the castle, Professor Stanisław Latour (1927–2007), was put up. Since the first rooms in the northern wing were open to the public in 1959, the Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle has been a place of countless artistic events, many of which made history in Szczecin’s culture (Contemporary Polish Painting Festival, installation of Władysław Hasior’s “Flaming Birds” on the castle escarpment, Shakespeare’s plays in Duke Bogislaw X’s Hall by Państwowe Teatry Dramatyczne directed by Józef Gruda, Great Tenors Tournament).