Frombork (Polish: [ˈfrɔmbɔrk] (About this soundlisten); German: Frauenburg [ˈfʁaʊənbʊʁk] (About this soundlisten))[1] is a town in northern Poland, situated on the Vistula Lagoon in Braniewo County, within Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship. It had a population of 2,415 as of 2016.

Panorama of the town
Frombork Cathedral, with Vistula Lagoon in background
South Gate of the Cathedral Hill
Copernicus Tower
Saint Adalbert church
Radziejowski Tower
  • From top, left to right: Panorama of the town
  • Frombork Cathedral, with Vistula Lagoon in background
  • South Gate of the Cathedral Hill
  • Copernicus Tower
  • Saint Adalbert church
  • Radziejowski Tower
Flag of Frombork
Coat of arms of Frombork
Frombork is located in Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship
Frombork is located in Poland
Coordinates: 54°21′N 19°41′E / 54.350°N 19.683°E / 54.350; 19.683Coordinates: 54°21′N 19°41′E / 54.350°N 19.683°E / 54.350; 19.683
Country Poland
Voivodeship Warmian-Masurian
Established13th century
Town rights1310
 • MayorMałgorzata Wrońska
 • Total7.59 km2 (2.93 sq mi)
 • Total2,415
 • Density320/km2 (820/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
Area code(s)+48 55
Car platesNBR
Voivodeship roadsDW504-PL.svg DW505-PL.svg

The town was first mentioned in a 13th-century document. In the early 16th century it was the residence of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who used it as a site for several of his observations.

The town and its 14th century cathedral were badly damaged in World War II. After the war the cathedral was meticulously reconstructed and is again a popular tourist destination, listed as a Historic Monument of Poland.

Frombork is known as “The Jewel of Warmia” because of its many historical sites. The Museum of Copernicus in Frombork[2] holds exhibitions related to the astronomer, as well as to astronomy in general, and includes a planetarium. One of the biggest attractions is also the annual International Festival of Organ Music, held every summer. Between 1975 and 1998 the town was part of the Elbląg Voivodeship.


Early historyEdit

The town was founded as a defensive stronghold on an Old Prussian site. In 1224 at Catania, Emperor Frederick II declared Prussia directly subordinate to the church and Holy Roman Empire. Later in the same year the pope assigned Bishop William of Modena as the papal legate to Prussia. With the imperial Golden Bull of Rimini, the Teutonic Knights were granted control of the region, which they subsequently conquered. According to local legend, the Old Prussian inhabitants were baptised by Anselm of Meissen[citation needed], a priest of the Teutonic Knights and the first Bishop of the Bishopric of Warmia which was created in 1242 by William of Modena.

Supposedly when the stronghold's lord died, his widow Gertruda offered the settlement to the bishop, and in her honor it was named "Frauenburg" (German for "Our Lady's fortress", "Castrum Dominae Nostrae"[3] in Latin). This name is not unique in German, as 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 Frauenburg or Marienburg, like the nearby Marienburg castle and city (now Malbork).

The village was first mentioned in a 1278 document signed by Bishop Heinrich Fleming. On 8 July 1310, Bishop Eberhard of Neisse granted the town Lübeck 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 Brick Gothic cathedral (now the Archcathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Andrew) was built, and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, or "Our Lady" (in Latin, Domina Nostra; in German, Unsere Frau). Hence, the town was called Frauenburg.

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

Copernican eraEdit

Frombork as part of the Polish province Royal Prussia from 1466 to 1772

In 1414 the city was plundered and burned during the Hunger War between the Teutonic Knights and Poland. In 1440, the city joined the anti-Teutonic Prussian Confederation, at the request of which Polish King Casimir IV Jagiellon signed the act of incorporation of the region to the Kingdom of Poland in 1454.[4] In 1454, the Warmian Chapter paid homage to King Casimir IV Jagiellon, recognizing him as rightful ruler. In retaliation the Teutonic Knights invaded the city in the same year.[5] In 1455, Czech mercenaries in the service of Poland, commanded by Jan Skalski,[6] took back the city.[7] The town was recognized as part of Poland by the Second Peace of Thorn (1466).[8] It became an important city of the Prince-Bishopric of Warmia and part of the Polish province of Royal Prussia within the larger Greater Poland Province of the Polish Crown. The city was also devastated after a raid by Albert, Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights in 1520 during the Polish–Teutonic War of 1519–1521.[6]

In the Middle Ages, the inhabitants were mainly merchants, farmers and fishermen. The most famous resident was the astronomer and mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus, who lived and worked here as a canon (1512–16 and 1522–43). Copernicus is said to have jokingly called it "Weiberstadt"[9] ("Wives' Town") or "Gynepolis" (in Medieval Greek). In 1519 Copernicus wrote to the King of Poland, asking for help against the Teutonic Knights who were threatening the city. The letter however was intercepted, and the Teutonic Knights took and burned the city (Copernicus and other canons had left the city shortly before).[10]

Frawenburg at the Frisch Haff in 1684 (Altes und neues Preussen, Christoph Hartknoch)

The astronomer wrote his epochal work, De revolutionibus orbium cœlestium in Frombork.[11] In his book, written in Latin, Copernicus used the Latin name of the town and region - Frueburgo Prussiae [12][13][14][15][16] Shortly after its 1543 publication, Copernicus died there and was buried in the town's cathedral where there is a monument to him bearing the inscription Astronomo celeberrimo, cujus nomen et gloria utrumque implevit orbem[17] (Most renowned astronomer, whose name and glory filled both worlds). His grave was thought to have been found by archaeologists in 2005. This was subsequently confirmed in November 2008 by the publication of the results of DNA tests on fragments of bone and hair found on the skeleton: hair that matched two strands of hair which belonged to Copernicus and are currently located in Uppsala University.[18]

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 historyEdit

The city suffered destruction and heavy population losses during the Polish–Swedish wars. Between 1626 and 1635 it was occupied by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden who looted the cathedral and shipped many cultural artifacts, including Copernicus' manuscripts to Sweden. Further destruction followed during the Deluge (Swedish invasion of Poland of 1655–1660), the Great Northern War and the War of the Fourth Coalition.[6]

Frombork in the 1930s

After the First Partition of Poland (1772) the town was taken over by the Kingdom of Prussia and in 1773 it became part of the newly established province of East Prussia. Subsequently, in 1871 Frauenburg became part of the German Empire. The Preußische Ostbahn railway line was opened in 1899 connecting Elbing (present-day Elbląg) and Braunsberg (present-day Braniewo) via Frauenburg, leading further to the Russian border at Eydtkuhnen (present-day Chernyshevskoye). Passenger services on the railway line ceased in early 2006.

Towards and after the end of World War II the German inhabitants were either evacuated or expelled in accordance with the Potsdam Agreement. After Germany's defeat in the war, the town became again part of Poland, and was resettled by Poles, many of whom were expelleés 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 and others in 1966–1973, in time for the 500th anniversary of Copernicus' birth.

Today, Frombork is regaining its importance as a tourist destination, aided 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 Elbląg, Krynica Morska and Kaliningrad.

Frombork's small port on the Vistula Lagoon

Political timelineEdit


Cathedral Hill, with statue of Nicolaus Copernicus.
The Old Bishop's Palace nowadays houses the Nicolaus Copernicus Museum

Several monuments are on display in Frombork (see external links):

  • monument to Nicolaus Copernicus, was replaced in the mid-1950s as the monument erected by Imperial Germany's Wilhelm II was destroyed in World War II
  • monument honoring Red Army soldiers, inscribed: "Glory to the Red Army heroes fallen in liberating Frombork"
  • monument to Germans of the former province of East Prussia who drowned in the Vistula Lagoon when fleeing their homeland in 1944–1945, made from a glacial erratic rock found in the water
  • memorial honoring the Boy Scouts and others who took part in "Operation 1001" 1966–73, the rebuilding of the town from its devastation in World War II
  • Copernicus' astronomical observatory, work room, instruments and planetarium are on display at Frombork's Copernicus Museum


Frombork is located at the intersection of Voivodeship roads 504 and 505.


The local football club is Zalew Frombork.[19] It competes in the lower leagues.

Twin towns – sister citiesEdit

Frombork is twinned with three cities:[20]


  1. ^ M. Kaemmerer (2004). Ortsnamenverzeichnis der Ortschaften jenseits von Oder u. Neiße (in German). ISBN 3-7921-0368-0.
  2. ^ Wojciech Jan Janeczek. "Muzeum". Frombork. Retrieved 2011-09-16.
  3. ^ Zapiski historyczne, by Towarzystwo Naukowe w Toruniu, Published by Państwowe Wydayn. Naukowe, 2006 [1]
  4. ^ Górski, Karol (1949). Związek Pruski i poddanie się Prus Polsce: zbiór tekstów źródłowych (in Polish). Poznań: Instytut Zachodni. pp. XXXVII, 54.
  5. ^ Bałdowski, Jan (1977). Warmia i Mazury, mały przewodnik (in Polish). Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Sport i Turystyka. p. 82.
  6. ^ a b c Serwis Internetowy Miasta Frombork, "Historia Miasta" (History of the City), [2]
  7. ^ Skurzyński, Piotr (2004). Warmia, Mazury, Suwalszczyzna (in Polish). Warsaw: Wyd. Sport i Turystyka – Muza S.A. pp. 103–104.
  8. ^ Górski, p. 99
  9. ^ Hermann Kesten: Copernicus und seine Welt, [3]
  10. ^ Barbara A. Somervill, "Nicolaus Copernicus: Father of Modern Astronomy", Compass Point Books, 2005, pgs. 45-46, [4]
  11. ^ J R Ravetz Plate, Nicolaus Copernicus 1473-1543 in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, London 1602, p. 7 link
  12. ^ Frueburgo=Frauenburg, Prussia
  13. ^ "Pagina:Nicolai Copernici torinensis De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.djvu/142 - Wikisource" (in Latin). 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2011-09-16.
  14. ^ On his manuscript on page 72 recto (edited) - "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2009-06-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ In De revolutionibus, he states in Book 3 Chapter 2 that he in 1525 observed the star Spica "in Frueburgo Prussiae". - Zakład Historii Nauki i Techniki (Polska Akademia Nauk): Studia i materiały z dziejów nauki polskiej, Published by Państwowe Wydawn. Naukowe, 1961 p. 104
  16. ^ Nicholas Copernicus calculates the latitude of Frombork (in Frueburgo Prussiae). - Marian Biskup: Regesta Copernicana (calendar of Copernicus' papers)., Published by Ossolineum, 1973 p. 65, 128
  17. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Frauenburg" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 42.
  18. ^ Copernicus skeleton identified The Guardian (November 22, 2008)
  19. ^ "Zalew Frombork » Strona główna" (in Polish). Retrieved 24 October 2021.
  20. ^ "Strony w dziale". Frombork. Retrieved 4 May 2014.

External linksEdit