Photographer's Note

Frombork is a town in northern Poland, on the Vistula Lagoon, in Braniewo County, Warmia-Masuria Province; 2005 population, 2,528.

The former residence of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, the town and its 700-year-old cathedral were badly damaged in World War II. After the war, Frombork was meticulously reconstructed and is again a popular tourist destination.

Early history
The town was founded as a defensive stronghold on an Old Prussian site. In 1224 at Catania Emperor Frederick II declared Prussia as directly subordinate to the church and the empire only and later in 1224 the pope assigned bishop William of Modena as papal legate to Prussia. According to local legend, its inhabitants were baptised by Anselm of Meien, a priest of the Teutonic Order and the first Bishop of the Bishopric of Warmia which was created in 1242 by William of Modena after the area was conquered by Teutonic Knights, who had received possession of Prussia by the imperial Golden Bull of Rimini.

Supposedly when the stronghold's lord died, his widow Gertruda offered the settlement to the bishop, and in her honor it was named Frauenburg ("woman's or women's castle" in German). This name is not unique in German, but it usually originates in the construction of a fortified chapel, church, or monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary or inhabited by nuns. Several places were thus named Marienburg, like the nearby castle and city (now Malbork).

The village was first mentioned in a 1278 document signed by Bishop Heinrich I Fleming. On 8 July 1310, bishop Eberhard von Neie granted the town Lbeck city rights, as used by many member cities of the Hanseatic League. It was described, still rather unspecifically, as Civitas Warmiensis (Warmian city).

In 1329-1388, the magnificent Gothic cathedral was built, and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, or "Our Lady" (in Latin, Domina Nostra; in German, Unsere Frau, hence Frauenburg, Frawenburg, Fromborg, finally Frombork).

Over the centuries, the cathedral has been expanded and rebuilt repeatedly. There are also several other historic churches, dedicated to St. Nicolas, St. George, and St. Anne, all built in the 13th century.

Copernican era

In 1414 the city was plundered and burned during a war between Poland and the Teutonic Order. In 1454, during the Thirteen Years' War, the hill and its cathedral were occupied by Jan Skalski. From the Second Peace of Toruń (1466), Frombork was an important city of the Prince-Bishopric of Warmia and part of the province of Royal Prussia.

In the Middle Ages, Frauenburg's (Frombork's) inhabitants were mainly merchants, farmers and fishermen. The most famous resident was astronomer and mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus, who lived and worked here as canon, 1512-16 and 1522-43. Copernicus is said to have jokingly called Frauenburg "Weiberstadt" ("Wives' Town") and "Ginnepolis" ("Ginne" meaning "woman" in Old Prussian). It was at Frauenburg that the astronomer wrote his epochal work, De revolutionibus orbium clestium. Shortly after its 1543 publication, Copernicus died there and was buried in the cathedral, where his grave seems to have been found by archaeologists in 2006.

Since 1945, the town has been called by the Polish version of its name, "Frombork."

In the northwest corner of the cathedral grounds is Copernicus' tower, and in the southwest corner an octagonal building with a square bell tower and a small planetarium and a Foucault's pendulum. From atop the tower one can survey the town, the tiny harbor, the great panorama of the Baltic Sea, and much of Warmia's countryside.


Modern history
After the first partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1772), the was taken over by the Kingdom of Prussia, and thus in 1871 became part of the German Empire. The Preuische Ostbahn railway line was opened in 1899 connecting Elbing (Elbląg) and Braunsberg (Braniewo) via Frauenburg, leading further to the Russian border at Eydtkuhnen (Chernyshevskoye). Passengers services on the railway line through Frombork ceased in early 2006.

Towards and after the end of World War II, the German inhabitants were either evacuated or expelled like most of the German population of East Prussia. At the end of World War II, the town, along with the rest of southern East Prussia, became part of Poland under territorial changes promulgated by the Potsdam Conference. Frombork was resettled by Poles, many of them expellees from Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union.

In 1959 Frombork regained its city rights. Having been heavily (70%) damaged in World War II, it was rebuilt by Polish Boy Scouts in 1966-1973, in time for the 500th anniversary of Copernicus' birth.

Today, Frombork is regaining its importance as a tourist destination, abetted by its key location just south of the frontier with the Russian district of Kaliningrad. Although the railway through Frombork closed in 2006, the port has seasonal ferry connections with Elblag, Krynica Morska and Kaliningrad.

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