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THE HERITAGE OF MENNONITES IN THE VISTULA VALLEY (Dziedzictwo mennonitów w nadwislanskim krajobrazie kulturowym)

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In studies devoted to the history of Dutch settlers in Poland we can often find the opinion that the wooden houses built in the end of the 18th c. and the 19th c. in the Vistula valley are Mennonite houses and can be linked with the Netherlandish building tradition of the 16th c. In fact, all the material traces of the first Mennonite settlers are long gone. In the 18th c., especially after the first partition of Poland, most of the Mennonites left and were replaced by German settlers of Evangelical denomination. Those who decided to stay in the Vistula valley lost their original privileges and were assimilated. The wooden houses which are popularly called 'Dutch', surviving until today in the Vistula valley, are wide-front peasant cottages of log construction, built in the shape of T, with an arcade supported by 4-9 poles. Houses of that sort are of Franconian provenance and appeared in the Vistula valley together with German settlers in the 18th c. In new conditions German settlers replaced the traditional frame construction with the log construction. Only one such house, located in Chrystkowo (district of Swiecie), comes from the 18th c. We do not know anything about the houses built in the Vistula valley in the 16th-18th c. They might have been narrow-front houses with an arcade on the gable (such as the house in Gdansk-Lipce, built in 1572), forming a homestead together with other detached buildings. This kind of house probably developed in the 14th c. in connection with the settlement campaign initiated by the Teutonic Order in Prussia and in the Zulawy. Thus, the Mennonites may have used the local model of homestead, well-tried in a frequently-flooded area. The old tradition derived from the Middle Ages vanished after the wars at the beginning of the 18th c. The nineteenth-century houses in the Vistula valley testify to other tendencies, which emerged with the industrialization of villages under the influence of new groups of settlers and Prussian building regulations.
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  • Aleksander Jankowski, Instytut Historii i Stosunków Miedzynarodowych, Uniwersytet Kazimierza Wielkiego, ul. Przemyslowa 34, 85-758 Bydgoszcz, Poland
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