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    The city of Gizycko (Ger. Lötzen) was founded as a village surrounding the Teutonic Order's castle, built around 1340, in place of a former Old Prussian settlement. Its inhabitants were mainly beekeepers. The town was granted city rights on May 15th, 1612 and its first mayor was Pawel (Paul) Rudzki.

    The castle was built during the reign of Grand Master Winrich von Kniprode, located in a strategic position - on the isthmus between Lakes Niegocin and Kisajno. It was a dwelling with a rectangular courtyard, surrounded by a wall, and functioned as a residence of the Teutonic Order's prosecutor. The castle was destroyed during the attacks of Lithuanians led by Prince Kiejstut, but was rebuilt by the Teutonic Knights soon after. The Thirteen Years' War caused much damage to both the castle and the settlement. After the secularisation in 1525, the castle became the princely administrator's seat and was reconstructed in Renaissance style, during 1613-1614.

    In the 17th century the castle became private property. The new owner added two wings (destroyed by fire in the same century) for administrative purposes, and a building with a small cylindrical tower, which was destroyed in 1945. In the 19th century, part of the castle was pulled down, and only one four-storey dwelling wing with a saddle roof and a cellar with cruciform vault were left. The castle has remained in this form until today. It hosted, among others, general Dabrowski and his officers in 1807. It was temporarily used to house the builders of the Gizycki Canal, and served also as the Fortress Boyen Commandant's quarters . Today the remnants of the castle are in bad condition and are not being restored.

    In the Middle Ages the history of the city was inseparably bound up with the castle. The city hall was built in 1613. In 1657 Gizycko was attacked and burned by Tatars. The 18th century brought the city a series of disasters. During 1709-1711 it was decimated by the plague and bad crops, and then severely damaged by the huge fires of 1756 and 1786.

    During 1843-1851, the Germans built the Fortress Boyen in Gizycko. It was named after the Prussian minister of war, General von Boyen, and consists of many buildings for different functions and many kilometres of walls and earth ramparts. Its construction was of great benefit for the city because it provided plenty of public work. It was unsuccessfully besieged by the Russians in 1914. After the war it was restored and adapted for tourist purposes.

    Further growth of the city was generated by the arrival of the railway in 1868 and other municipal investments at the beginning of the 20th century. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the city became a famous health resort and tourist attraction, due to its location, surrounded by lakes (today the lakes make up 26% of the city area).

    During the 19th and 20th centuries Gizycko was also one of the centres of the struggle for Warmia and Mazury to become Polish.

    In 1945 entire population was evacuated and after the Soviet army entered on January 26, 1945, Poles settled in the city. Its Polish name was Lec till the end of the war. It was later changed to Luczany, and then to Gizycko, in honour of pastor Gustaw Gisevius (1810-1848), a campaigner for the preservation of the Polish (Mazurian) language and culture in Mazury.

    In 1910 Gizycko had 6962 inhabitants, in 2000 there were 30,000.

    Other historic monuments in the city are the classicistic Lutheran church, built in 1827; the swing bridge from the mid-19th century; and many 19th century private dwellings.

Marek Januszewski
Help with translation:
Nick Martin and Tim Anders

   See also: Old postcards

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