Composers / Fryderyk Chopin / Places catalog
During the Middle Ages, Gdańsk lay right on the border with pagan Prussia. That made it a place where different ethnic and religious groups came into constant contact. In 1294, the city was incorporated into the Kingdom of Poland, and its location at the mouth of the Vistula was highly favourable to economic development. From 1308 to 1454, Pomerania was under the rule of the Teutonic Knights. After they were vanquished, Gdańsk, along with the rest of Pomerania, was incorporated into Poland by Casimir IV Jagiellon. Gdańsk’s growth over the following century was favoured by the many privileges it was granted. However, the city’s urban and economic development came to a standstill when Pomerania came under Prussian rule following the Partitions of Poland (1772–1795). Among other things, the city fortifications were extended and the movement of goods was impeded.
Chopin’s journey to Pomerania is still a source of debate. In a letter dated 6 July 1827, the composer, reporting from Kowalewo, wrote to his family in Warsaw: ‘And so, today in Płock, tomorrow in Rościszewo, the day after tomorrow in Kikół, a few days in Turzno, a few days in Kozłowo, a moment in Gdańsk, and then back again!’ There are no extant references unequivocally stating that Chopin made it to the Pomeranian capital. As he lived in the Russian Partition, this would have been a ‘foreign’ journey for him, as Turzno, Kozłowo and Gdańsk all lay within the Prussian Partition. The trip might have been connected with the business interests of Ksawery Zboiński, in whose care the young Chopin was travelling. The Gdańsk periodical Intelligenzblatt für den Bezirk der Königlichen Regierung zu Danzig [News sheet for the royal government district in Gdańsk] mentions people entering and leaving the city. There is information about Ksawery Zboiński, Antoni Sierakowski and Ignacy Dembowski, but not about Chopin, who might have been left off the list by virtue of his minority.
The count and his associates are said to have stayed at the ‘Zu den Drei Mohren’ (Three Moors) hotel at Holzgasse 31 (now ul. Kładki) in Gdańsk on 9–10 August. It is worth noting that Krzysztof Celestyn Mrongowiusz lived in a townhouse next to the hotel. Mrongowiusz was a renowned lexicographer and Polish teacher. He was also the first to seriously study the Kashubian language and culture. As such, prominent Polish people who came to Gdańsk were keen to visit him. The Three Moors was a popular place to stay overnight for travellers arriving by coach, as its prices were affordable and horses could be unhitched nearby. It is hard to say how the hotel came by its name. The establishment had a good reputation and was recommended to travellers by Ambrosius Lehamann’s 1713 guidebook and an anonymous nineteenth-century one. It was also known for its sumptuous balls, to which important visitors to Gdańsk were invited (including Jérôme Bonaparte, brother of Napoléon, who stayed there en route from St Petersburg to Paris in 1800). Unfortunately, that building no longer exists, as it was demolished in the early twentieth century to make way for an extension to the neighbouring Victoriaschule girls’ school.
As Chopin had neither friends nor family in Gdańsk, seeing the city and paying a visit to Johann Wilhelm Linde, brother of Samuel Bogumił Linde (headmaster of the Warsaw Lyceum), might have been one of the reasons for this ‘foreign’ trip. Linde had served as pastor at the Holy Spirit church in Gdańsk since 1792. If the meeting took place, then Chopin might have stayed with Linde, who lived at Tobasgasse 1859 (before 1945, that building, which is no longer there, was No. 29). Linde was only too happy to put up visitors from Poland. Countess Waleria Tarnowska described her stay with him in 1817 in her journal. She remembered the pastor as a straightforward person. He had four daughters, who were musically trained and sang Polish songs for the countess. Chopin might have been persuaded to treat the Linde family to his pianistic prowess.
The travellers left Gdańsk on 14 or 15 August, probably to visit Sierakowski’s estate in Waplewo, at his invitation. Sierakowski and Dembowski were registered at the hotel again on 18–20 August. This might indicate that they had returned to Gdańsk without Zboiński and Chopin, who were most likely on their way back to Kowalewo. This Pomeranian journey of Chopin’s has to be treated as a probable hypothesis, as no direct sources relating to it have survived.
Baltic Philharmonic. Phot. Piotr Marynowski.
Długi Targ Street. Phot. Krystyna Sieg.
Neptun Fontana. Phot. Krystyna Sieg.
Panorama of Gdańsk. Phot. Barbara Maliszewska.
Żuraw Gate in Gdańsk, F. E. Meyerheim, 1850.