A day trip from Gdańsk
Gniew (pronounced: Gnyef) is situated on the left bank of the Vistula River, about one hour's drive south of Gdańsk. The name Gniew first appeared in written sources in the middle of 13th century. However, archaeological excavations confirm the presence of a number of strongholds and settlements along the Amber Road, which ancient merchants took on their way from Rome to the Baltic Sea.
In 1282, this area was invaded by the Teutonic knights. Gniew was their first possession on the left bank of the Vistula River and an important stronghold in their quest eastwards. The castle was built at the turn of the 14th century as a seat for a convent and command post. The strategic location, which enabled the knights to oversee both water and land routes, determined the exceptional military character of the convent's house and the fortifications of the town and castle. The economic function of that location was reflected by numerous storehouses, stables, manors and breweries situated within the town, the port, near the castle and in the town's suburbs.
In the years when Gniew belonged to the Kingdom of Poland (1466-1772), the castle was the seat of a local governor, known as starosta. Following the first partition of Poland in 1772, Gniew was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia. The Prussian government commenced a broad-scale demolition or, at best, reconstruction, of most of the former Teutonic castles. Such was also the fate of Gniew Castle. First it was intended for military barracks, then it was converted into a granary, and in the 1850s it became a high-security prison.
Gniew returned to Poland in 1920. Unfortunately, the castle was partially destroyed in a fire the next year. The reconstruction of the castle ran in two stages. The first stage lasted from 1968 to 1974, and the second one began in 1992 and continues until today. A part of the castle has been converted into a modern hotel.
Today Gniew is recognized as one of the major centers for promoting and maintaining the medieval tradition and heritage in Poland. Throughout the year are organized events, conferences, conventions, scientific symposia, banquets, and historical feasts. Historical spectacles and events, as well as shows of knights in combat, have been organized at Gniew Castle since 1992.