Königsberg castle was not only a symbol of the once famous Hansa city of Königsberg, it also became a symbol of the history of Eastern Prussia.
The laying of the first stone in the foundation of the fortress is supposed to have taken place on the left bank of the river Pregel to the west of the Prussian settlement conquered and destroyed by the knights of the Teutonic Order on the first of September, 1255. This year is considered to be the year of the founding of the city.
However, the actual construction only began in 1257 and was carried out for decades. The fortress formed a spacious quadrangle in the middle of which there was a courtyard 67 m wide and 105 m long.
In the western wing of the castle there was a City Council, the luxurious Moscovite Hall, decorated as the Hall of Fame, and a two-aisled Church with a magnificent organ, which was used as the Church for the coronation of the Prussian monarchs by Schultheiss von Ulfried.
In the northern wing there was a dwelling of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order with a firmaria (hospital) furnished in the times of the Order, a state archive, and a Museum with 20 volumes from the famous Silver Library. In the basement of this part of the building there was a celebrated wine restaurant “Bloody Court”. In the north-eastern corner there was the seven-sided Oat Tower which was built in 1275 and served as a granary first, and later as a room for prisoners.
In the eastern wing there was a main entrance with buildings from the times of the Duke Albrecht. Here there was an audience hall in which Kurfuerst Friedrich III crowned himself and his spouse in 1701. Royal chambers were located here as well.
In the southern wing part of the building was used as the Supreme and Government Presidium. The ethnographical Prussian Museum and collections of art works were also located there.
The Castle Tower, which served as a bell tower for the Castle Church, was 94 m high above the level of the Pregel river. Every morning at 11 o’clock and in the evening at 9 o’clock a trumpeter played choral tunes from the tower.
The wine restaurant “Bloody Court”, which had huge cellars, was especially popular. The name originates from the court which had been there since 1512, and related to the fact that in the XVII century court proceedings werecarried out just above the torture chambers and dungeons that were located in the basement. A story about one Königsberg beggar sentenced to death is not forgotten. As his last wish he asked to drink some wine together with the judge and the executioner in the basement of the Bloody Court before his execution. When the judge and the executioner had drunk too much, the beggar escaped and saved his life.
However, the word “Bloody Court” may also mean the name of a dish – a rare steak with blood.
In the guest book of the restaurant one could find the names of famous people who had visited – for example, Thomas Mann and Richard Strauss.
The castle was seriously damaged during the two carpet bombings of the city by the British air force in August 1944. With time the Castle Tower developed a huge hole, so our party leaders ordered it destroyed in 1953. Intellectuals of the region expressed their strong protest against the senseless demolition of the castle ruins, but…”Party is always right!” The last remnants of the castle were demolished in 1970.
Subsequently it was decided to build a new symbol of the young city of Kaliningrad, the “House of Soviets”, on the vacant plot. 21 floors were built instead of the 28 in the original design, then funds finished up and the development policy of the party changed, and this unfinished building is left still looking hopelessly up into the sky. In the evil 1990s the building was sold to various companies and individuals, and now, before anything can be done, the problems with the existing building need to be solved first. As a part of an ambitious project “Heart of the City” the building could change its dull appearance and become a Congress Center or something similar.
What will the future prepare for us? Let us wait and see…