Gdansk until 1309

St. Catherine's, one of Danzig's parish churches, was established around 1150. In 1178 OLIVA monastery was founded; a market settlement existed at Gdansk. Around 1190, St. Nicolai was established. Around 1224 Gdansk (Danzig) was given the MAGDEBURG CITY LAW. The Dominicans established themselves in Danzig in 1227; St. Mary's was founded around 1240.
Gdansk ist located in POMMERELLEN, and formed part of the territory of the Dukes of Pommerellen (Sambor, Swantopolk, Mestwin). The Dukes omned a castle in Danzig.
Historiography much focusses on the question of nationality of Danzig's inhabitants and administration. Pommerellen was a Slavic land, the KASCHUBIANS may claim to descend from those who inhabited the region in the 11th century. The equally Slavic Dukes, in the course of the 12th and early 13th century, seem to have invited German monks (Oliva) and burghers (Danzig) who brought in knowhow the Slavic inhabitants lacked. The few sources we have on the gistory of Danzig in the 13th century indicate that burghers of German identity (the expression 'nationality is unfit for this period) dominated city life.
The castle at Danzig, on the other hand, was held by Slavic knights, for the Slavic duke. German historiography emphasizes the German character of medieval Danzig to a point that any Slavic element in its population is ignored. Yet, it is rather probable that the city of Danzig, formally founded around 1224 (by granting city right) included the earlier existing market settlement with the two parishes St. Catherine's and St. Nicolai's, the population of which, at least to a considerable extent, may be assumed to have been Slavic. Yet it was the German merchant families (patricians) who managed to establish an exclusive hold on the seats in the city council, and the guilds of craftsmen who excluded non-German speakers, thus giving the economic life in Danzig a German character.

In the 13th century, national identity was not a major issue; the Dukes of Pommerellen had invited the monks and burghers into the country to help develop it, and to increase his revenue (the city paid taxes). Dynastic troubles lead to the Duchy of Pommerellen being contested between Duke Wladyslaw, whose men held the castle of Gdansk, and the Duke of Brandenburg. Both sides asked the Teutonic Order to mediate; in 1308 the garrison of Gdansk left, the castle (and the Duchy of Pommerellen) were entrusted (temporarily) to the Teutonic Order. The Order held on to castle, city and duchy.

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DOCUMENTS Coat of Arms, from International Civic Heraldry
Regesten zum Preussischen Urkundenbuch (Regests to the Prussian Diplomatarium), posted by Stuart Jenks
REFERENCE Erich Keyser, Danzigs Geschichte, (Danzig 1928) Reprint Hamburg : Danziger Verlagsgesellschaft Paul Rosenberg, undated (History of Danzig), 300 pp.

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on August 9th 2002, last revied on November 11th 2004

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