The name itself, as Starigrod, first appeared in 1198 in a document from the Pomeranian Duke Grzymisław, who gave away the Starogard land to the Knights of St. John. In 1308-1309 the Teutonic Knights took over the Gdańsk Pomerania, which covered the Joannite town, along with its environs. It is the Teutonic Order that contributed to the town’s economic development. In 1348 Grand Master Heinrich Dusemer granted Starogard a town charter.
The central point of the town is a spacious market square with the Old Town Hall located in the middle of the square. There are two historic churches nearby: the 16th-Century St. Matthew’s Gothic Church and the early 19th-Century St. Catherine’s Church. The bookshops surrounding the market square offer maps and tourist folders. The Old Town was encircled by a mediaeval defensive wall, of which the north-western and north-eastern sections still remain in good condition. The corners of the walls and openings of the gates were fortified with towers, of which three have survived until the present.
Starogard’s most valuable historic sites and structures include:
The north-western section of the walls is the best preserved. It rises up to 5 metres, with a width of nearly 2 m. Three corner towers still stand and the characteristic rectangular layout of the Old Town streets remains unchanged, along with the streets encircling the town, and running along the walls in the internal part of the town. Today, the Gdańsk and Szewska towers belong to the Museum of the Kociewie Land and house both permanent historical and ethnographical exhibitions, and many interesting temporary exhibitions. The Młyńska Tower (also known as Tczewska) is a reconstruction of old fortifications. It was set on stone foundations in the first quarter of the 14th Century. Thanks to its private owner, the half-timbered structure of the upper floor and roofing were recreated. Nowadays, besides the corner section of the defensive walls, it is a charming fragment of the town’s mediaeval panorama.
Starogard’s Market Square is the oldest fragment of the town. The Wierzyca‘s left bank featured a mediaeval grange and a village belonging to Piotr Święca. Since in 1305 this land was purchased by the Teutonic Knights, they soon started delimiting the area to develop the fortified settlement. The construction work was led by Theodotus of Florence, to whom Starogard owes its spatial arrangement, with a regular network of streets that stretch from the centrally-located market square. The square is 107×107 m, and is larger than the Old Town Market Square in Warsaw. The almost entirely wooden Old Town was utterly destroyed in a fire of 1772. Today’s buildings of the Old Town around the market square, erected on mediaeval foundations and cellars, comes from the 19th Century. The centre of the market square is occupied by the Town Hall, with two churches at two of its corners: the mediaeval St. Matthew’s Basilica Parish Church and the Post-Evangelical St. Catherine’s Church built at the turn of the 19th Century.
The Town Hall
As it can be seen today, the Gothic Revival structure crowned with an iron flag with the date of 1339, when Starogard was granted a coat of arms (in 1348 it received the town charter under Kulm law), comes from the 19th Century. The original Town Hall was burnt down before the end of the Middle Ages, and the one that came after was severely damaged during the Swedish wars. Nevertheless the old Gothic foundations have been preserved. The building features a memorial plate saying: “In this Town Hall on 17 August 1769, in response to the call of the Bar Confederation, a Confederation of the Pomeranian Voivodeship was established to defend the sovereignty of the Republic of Poland and protect the Catholic faith.” The Town Hall now houses the Registry of Vital Records and a branch of the Museum of the Kociewie Land.
Its basilica-like form belongs to Starogard’s most magnificent historic building, which has an interesting shape and is clearly worth recommending to any pilgrim and tourist also for its valuable and unique interior, which features such items as a Gothic stoup, a an imposing (42 sq. m) 15th-Century fresco depicting the Last Judgment, a Renaissance tombstone of Jerzy Niemojewski, mediaeval woodcarving works – a statue of St. Jacob in a Rococo altar and the famous Starogard Christ (copy; the original, from about 1320, can be found in the Diocesan Museum in Pelplin).
The church is located in the north-east corner of the Starogard market. It features partly-preserved genuine furnishings and interior decor. Rebuilt in 1873, the church tower is the most important structure in the old part of the town, serving as a good orientation point during walks in Starogard.
Milling traditions in Starogard date back to 1283, with a water mill mentioned as existing here. In 1871 it was purchased by Franciszek Wiechert, who transformed it into a great family enterprise. Located near the complex of mills, the eclectic palace with sophisticated ornamentations comes from 1893, when it was renovated to serve as the showcase of the Wiechert family. The entire complex – a private property undergoing conservation and reconstruction work – is not available to tourists.