This massive Gothic structure with its dominant silhouette over old tenement houses is one of the most emblematic monuments of Olsztyn. High Gate is the most impressive remnant of the medieval fortification of the city and the only preserved gate of the three original gates (the others are: the Dolna and Młyńska gates).
Previously, it was called the Upper Gate and its present name came into use in the 19th century. Today, within the gate’s premises, anyone can find accommodation – as a guest of the hotel established within here.
The building was erected in the late 14th century, and its rise was associated with the enlargement of the city together with the movement of parts of its walls, which started in 1378. Over the moat, a wooden bridge led to the building. Solid gates and a portcullis served to close the entrance. Over centuries the building played the primary functions of defense and observation. It was also arranged as a customs control point for people coming to the city.
High Gate was repeatedly repaired and modernized. After another renovation in 1788, it held the armory of the dragoons squadron. In the 19th century it changed its functions again when the majority of the city walls were destroyed and demolished. The Prussian minister of heritage conservation, Ferdinand von Quast, saved the building. In 1858 he carried out a renovation where the gate was rebuilt by adding the tops, with pointed-arch cavities in the walls. Then, the building was designated a prison and, in 1880 it was joined with the next door building by a staircase. In 1895, a hole, for walkability, was punched.
The most famous among the local prisoners was Wojciech Kętrzyński (1838-1918), a promoter of Polish issues, who was accused of smuggling weapons to the participants of the January Upspring. In 1863 he spent five days in a cell, which is mentioned in a plaque on the wall of the outbuilding.
In subsequent years the building located a fire station, and a police and residency office. Before World War II it was designated for housing. After 1945, it found itself in the hands of the Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society (PTTK). It was renovated in 2003 by reconstructing a portion of the wall, where a plaque commemorating the 650th anniversary of the city was placed. This red brick building has a square shape (9.5 m x 9.8 m). Its four full levels are crowned with the partial fifth floor in the peak area. The height of the gate is 23 m and the original Gothic walls measure 18.6 m. Both the gate and its outbuilding are covered with a gable roof. The wooden portcullis was reconstructed within the gate’s crossing and, at the Old Town side, above a cavity in the wall a mosaic of Our Lady the Queen of Peace was inserted. This very mosaic is a gift from Pope John Paul II, which is mentioned in a commemorative inscription next to the bronze head of the pope.
Currently, on the square in front of High Gate, excavations are being conducted. During these works, further remains of the fortification were discovered, which is likely to become a further tourist attraction of the city.