Updated: Jul 3, 2021
So I am back to living in the heart of the Old Town of Gdansk, preparing for the avalanche of summertime tourists. To see the city flourish happily is a blessing - people gather to manifest that life can get back to normal after the weirdest of times.
Although we pass the Old Town each day, the City Hall was an unplanned place to visit. We simply glanced at the poster of art, as if looking for some 'no more ice cream, too early for a beer and we've just had a coffee'. And it clicked. Art. Something Else.
Let me tell you shortly about two things:
Number 1 is the painting of Isaak van den Block from 1608 The Apotheosis of Gdansk seen below. It is hanging under the ceiling of the famous Red Room and I stayed looking at it until felt the head heavy.
People would love to watch the collection from a sunbed - said the custodian - This apotheosis presents an idealistic vision of Gdansk as a perfect city, chosen by God, which guarantees its successful development and prosperity.
Apotheosis (Greek: ἀποθέωσις, from ἀποθεόω/ἀποθεῶ, ''to deify''; also called divinization and deification from Latin: deificatio, lit. ''making divine'') is the glorification of a subject to divine level and most commonly, the treatment of a human like a god. - (Source: Wikipedia)
Whatever God thought about the god-like city, it was ruined just before World War II ended.
This led to Number 2 - Reconstruction
In1947 the decision was taken - Old Town was to be rebuilt as before - with a care for details. But it could not be like before - in 1939 Gdansk was inhabited by 120,000 German and 40,000 Polish citizens, therefore now Poles from other parts were relocated here to remake the city.
You can visit the City Hall exposition and watch photographs of these people sitting on the stones, posing to the views of total collapse with a smile on their face. It is a beautiful piece of art, you can almost see as the wind of change is bringing them new opportunities.
For more details use this link (Polish) or the translation included below.
"THE APOTHEOSIS OF GDANSK (also known as the Apotheosis of the connection between Gdansk and Poland or the Apotheosis of Gdansk trade), an oval painting by Isaak van den Block from 1608, constituting the central part of the decorative plafond in the Great Council Hall Main Town Hall. One of the most famous works of art in modern Gdansk. It presents an idealistic vision of Gdansk as a perfect city, chosen by God, which guarantees its successful development and prosperity, through the City Council (symbolically presented in the form of a triumphal arch stretched between the earth, the sea and the sky). The panorama of Gdansk was faithfully reproduced at the top; God's hand emerges from the clouds and embraces the tower of the town hall in a gesture of protection. There is a Hebrew inscription for Yahweh above the picture. Below is a Latin sentence saying that the city is under the protection of God. The rainbow is understood here as a sign of the covenant between God and the earth, above it the inscription Coelesti iungimur arcu (united by the heavenly arc). In the light of the arcade, an avenue leading to the sea was shown, an image of paradise, composed of two rows of trees with symmetrical branches and convex roots; there is a fountain between the trees. The following symbolically depicts the Vistula, flowing in a bend from the mountains to the Baltic Sea, on the river there are numerous ships transporting goods from the interior of Poland to Gdansk, from where they were shipped to other European ports. The dominant feature of the lower zone is the image of the Artus Court, with the facade it received in 1552. Against the background of the Artus Court, scenes from everyday life in Gdansk at the beginning of the 17th century are shown. Among the inhabitants of the city in their native costumes and newcomers conducting trade negotiations, one can find the Roman god of trade, Mercury, who is the guarantor of successful transactions. A bit higher there is a meaningful scene: a Gdansk merchant giving a hand to a Polish nobleman as a sign of agreement. In the background, the artist showed townswomen in rich, ceremonial costumes, street traders presenting their goods, musicians and resting Vistula rafters. Contrary to the dominant, ideological upper part of the painting, the lower part shows the real urban space, becoming a valuable source of knowledge about the city life of Gdansk at that time."