The Museum of Johannes Hevelius and Gdańsk Science in the attics of st. Catherine’s church in Gdansk – the Johannes Hevelius Year Celebration

Elżbieta Ratajczyk-Piątkowska, Ksenia Piątkowska



Year 2011 was announced as the Year of Johannes Hevelius. Johannes Hevelius had his observatory in Gdańska, in the Old Town, near the oldest Gdańsk St. Catherine’s Church and the Main Town Hall on the highest floors of the townhouses at Korzenna Street. The astronomer’s tomb is in St. Catherine’s Church.     In May 2006 as a result of a fire the church roofs burned down. The brick tower, roof gables and vaults maintained their form but they needed repairs. Unfortunately, all the structure of the church roofs, the wooden construction and their spatial form were completely destroyed by fire. In this tragic situation a decision was made on reconstruction of the church roofs in accordance with the preserved photographs illustrating the roofs with a turret and a dormer from the period before a previous fire which was in 1905. According to this reconstruction design, a modern roof construction was accepted – it was made of steel above the presbytery while above the nave and church chapels it was made of glued laminated timber. Inside a new spatial attic the Hevelius and Gdańsk Science Museum was opened, with the church still maintaining its sacral function. Two main problems that had to be faced when executing the Museum design were controversies connected with the fact of joining the so far sacral function of the church with a new secular function – that of a museum as well as a lack of accessibility of the attic to potential visitors. The historical church is located in the immediate vicinity of the Radunia River and the monastery buildings between Katarzynki Street and Profesorska Street. In order to ensure comfortable and safe access to the museum for visitors, construction of a new independent entrance building was proposed on the river canal in a distance from the church. The entrance building was connected with the church by a link which was suspended on the attic level and there it joined the reconstructed roof dormer. This solution made it possible to preserve the historical character of the surroundings without interfering with the exposition field of the historical shape of the building. As there are very few preserved items from the studio of the Gdańsk scientists, the Hevelius and Gdańsk Science Museum shall function as an interactive exhibition. Its main attraction shall be the preserved church façade painting and the uncovered construction of the medieval vaults.

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