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Collegium Hosianum - defensive walls
Collegium Hosianum - defensive walls
Coat of arms of Braniewo
Coat of arms
Braniewo is located in Poland
Coordinates: 54°23′N 19°50′E / 54.383°N 19.833°E / 54.383; 19.833
Country Poland
CountyBraniewo County
GminaBraniewo (urban gmina)
Established13th century
Town rights1284
 • MayorMonika Trzcińska
 • Total12.36 km2 (4.77 sq mi)
Population (2006)
 • Total17,875
 • Density1,400/km2 (3,700/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code14-500
Area code(s)+48 55
Car platesNBR

Braniewo ([braˈɲevɔ]), (German: Braunsberg in Ostpreußen, Latin: Brunsberga, Old Prussian: Brus, Lithuanian: Prūsa), is a town in northeastern Poland, in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, with a population of 18,068 (2004). It is the capital of Braniewo County.


Braniewo lies on the Pasłęka River about 5 km from the Vistula Lagoon, about 35 km northeast of Elbląg and 55 km (34 mi) southwest of Kaliningrad . The Polish border with Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast lies 6 km north, and may be reached from Braniewo via National Highway (Droga Krajowa) 54.


Braunsberg on the Passarge (now Pasłęka) River, 1684.
(From Altes und neues Preussen, Christoph Hartknoch)

According to the German geographer Johann Friedrich Goldbeck (1748-1812), the town originally was named Brunsberg after Bruno von Schauenburg (1205–1281), bishop of Olmütz (Olomouc) in Moravia, who accompanied King Ottokar II of Bohemia in 1254 and 1267 when the latter participated in the crusade of the Teutonic Knights against the Old Prussians.[1] It has also been suggested that the name Braunsberg might stem from Brusebergue ("camp of the Prussians"), but this notion is not documented.

In 1243 the settlement and the surrounding region of Warmia was given by the Teutonic Order to the newly created Diocese of Ermland (Bishopric of Warmia), whose bishop built his cathedral in the town and made it his chief residence. The city was granted town privileges based on those of Lübeck in 1254, but in 1261 was destroyed and depopulated during the second of the Prussian Uprisings. It was rebuilt in a new location in 1273 and settled by colonists from Lübeck. In 1284 it was given a new town charter, again based on that of Lübeck. However, the next bishop, Heinrich Fleming (1278–1300), transferred the chapter from Braunsberg to Frauenburg (now Frombork).

In 1296 a Franciscan abbey was built, and in 1342 a "new town" was added. As the most important trading and harbor city in Warmia, the town prospered as member of the Hanseatic League, which it remained until 1608. It remained a part of the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights until 1466, when as a consequence of the Second Peace of Thorn ending the Thirteen Years' War, it came under jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Poland as part of the new autonomous province of Royal Prussia.

After the secularization of the Teutonic Order in 1525, a large part of its residents converted to Lutheran Protestantism. Duke Albert, who had been grand master of the Order, sought to unite Warmia with Ducal Prussia, causing the Catholics of the town to swear allegiance to the king of Poland in return for aid against Protestant Prussia. In 1526 a Polish royal commission released Braunsberg burghers from the oath to the Polish king and handed the town back to Prince-Bishop Mauritius Ferber. However, just like the entire area of Warmia, Braunsberg swore allegiance to the Prince-Bishops of Warmia, who were subjects of the popes. Additionally, it had to denounce all Lutheran teachings and hand over Lutheran writings. Thereafter Warmia, though inhabited in part by ethnic Germans, remained predominantly Roman Catholic (even after it became part of Brandenburg-Prussia in 1772).

Braniewo was occupied by Sweden for about three years during the Livonian War in the 16th century. In Warmia, Lutheran teachings again were suppressed when Prince-Bishop Stanislaus Hosius (1504-1579) brought in the Jesuits and founded the Collegium Hosianum school. A priestly seminary was added in 1564. Pope Gregory XIII later added a papal mission seminary for northern and eastern European countries. Regina Protmann (1552-1613), a native of Braunsberg (Braniewo), founded the Saint Catherine Order of Sisters in the town, recognized by the church in 1583. The Jesuit theologian Antonius Possevinus was instrumental in enlarging the Collegium Hosianum in the 1580s to counter the growing Protestant movement.

Ex-Prussian State Railways train station, Braniewo, 2010

The Polish, and mainly Catholic town was annexed by the mostly Protestant Kingdom of Prussia in 1772 during the First Partition of Poland and made part of the province of East Prussia the following year. Braunsberg obtained its first railway connection with the rest of the kingdom via the Prussian Eastern Railway in 1852. In the early 20th century, the town was the leading academic center of East Prussia next to Königsberg. In 1912 the Jesuit college became the State Academy of Braunsberg (German: Staatliche Akademie Braunsberg). Prior to World War II, the population of Braunsberg had grown to more than 21,000, of whom 59 percent were listed as Catholic and 29 percent Protestant. In Braniewo and surroundings a powerful Germanization movement, directed from Berlin, took place, which, among others, prohibited native Poles from speaking Polish under penalty of imprisonment, or forbade those who declared Polish nationality from owning land. This action largerly contributed to the artificially inflated numbers of "Germans" in the area. The Second World War turned much of the town into ruins. After three and a half years of savage warfare, Soviet forces began their assault on German land by attacking East Prussia on Jan. 13, 1945. Red Army formations reached the Vistula Lagoon (German: Frisches Haff) north of Braunsberg on Jan. 26. In early February German civilians began fleeing from Braunsberg across the ice of the frozen lagoon to the Vistula Spit (German: Frische Nehrung; Polish: Mierzeja Wiślana), from which many journeyed to either Danzig Gdańsk, (now in Poland) or Pillau (now Baltiysk, Russia) and managed to board German ships that made the perilous voyage westward. Braunsberg was captured by Soviet troops on March 20, 1945.

Church of St. Catherine, 2010

At the end of the war and thereafter, those German residents who had not fled or been killed were expelled to what remained of Germany. Under border changes promulgated at the Potsdam Conference, the region was returned to Poland and the town became Braniewo, being gradually repopulated by Polish settlers, many from areas of eastern Poland annexed by the Soviet Union under terms of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Heavy fighting and wanton destruction afterwards had left the town about 80 percent destroyed, including much of its historic town center, largely consumed by fire.

In 2001 the St. Catherine Church, built in 1346, destroyed in 1945, and rebuilt after 1979, was declared a Basilica Minor. This Gothic Hall church was built on a site which had held a previous wooden Church of St. Catherine since 1280. Prince-Bishop Lucas Watzenrode of Warmia (1447-1512) had added extensively to the original building.

Number of inhabitants by year[edit]

Year Number
1782 4,370
1831 7,144
1900 12,497
1925 13,900
1939 21,142
2004 18,068

Political timeline[edit]

Notable residents[edit]

International relations[edit]

Twin towns — sister cities[edit]

Braniewo is twinned with:


  1. ^ Bruno von Schauenburg is also known as the founder of the village of Brušperk in Bohemia, the German name of which also is Braunsberg.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°23′N 19°49′E / 54.383°N 19.817°E / 54.383; 19.817