Emperor's Castle and the (former) castle quarter


The Poznań residence of the German Kaiser William II was designed by Franz Schwechten and erected in the years 1905-1910. It was the last imperial edifice built in Europe, modelled on mediaeval castles and meant to be the symbol of German domination of Wielkopolska. There is an interesting legend linked to the construction of the castle. Commenced in 1905, it attracted crowds of onlookers. The German president of the city took notice of a farmer from Górczyn who visited the building site every day and urged the workers to work hard. Amazed by seeing a Pole  endorsing the building of a German castle, he asked him to state his reasons. The farmer answered: "the prediction says that when the imperial castle is erected, Poland will be resurrected". Indeed, soon World War I broke out and Poland regained its independence.

The castle was intended to be the focal point of the castle quarter which replaced the old polygonal fortifications. Professor Joseph Stübben, an eminent German architect, marked out a broad street that ran around the centre of the city (now Niepodległości Avenue and Królowej Jadwigi Street). Following the examples of Vienna and Kraków, the street with  adjoining parks and lawns was to function as a promenade. The former Tietzen Stronghold located between the Royal Gate and the Berlin Gate was demolished and changed into a large public park (now Mickiewicz Park) surrounded by stately edifices. Apart from the imperial castle, the so-called imperial forum consisted of the Neo-Renaissance Royal Academy (now Collegium Minus, part of the University) and the Neoclassical Municipal Theatre (now the Wielki Theatre).

Emperor William II visited Poznań three times only. When Poland regained independence after WWI, the castle was given to the Poznań University and it was used by presidents of the Second Republic during their visits to Poznań. Albert Speer rebuilt the castle during WWII for Hitler's residence and there are still some traces left of Speer's design: one room being a copy of the Fuehrer's Berlin office, the balcony on the tower and the gala entrance from Św. Marcin Street. Damaged in 1945,  there was a plan to pull the castle down. During the reconstruction several elements of the decoration were not restored and the tower was lowered. Today, the castle is being extensively renovated. The beautifully restored garden in the back features a monument to the victims of the Katyń massacre. Adjoining it is the Rose Courtyard with the fountain of lions modelled on the famous fountain in Grenada in Spain. The castle courtyards are used for cultural events during the summer.

Today the castle houses the "Zamek" Culture Centre, the Animation Theatre and the Museum of the Poznań June 1956.

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