Above a door in a small alleyway in Gdańsk is a strange emblem: three severed boar heads protruding from a golden shield. Many pass by without glancing up, but those that do often wonder about the mysterious insignia. It is, in fact, the coat of arms of one of the most successful families in the region.
The Ferber family was one of the more heralded families in medieval Gdansk. Over time through trade, shipping, and financial success they became the most educated and wealthy tenants of the ancient city and held positions of power in the region.
All came to a head when in 1460, the city was under siege by the neighboring Teutonic Knights. As the siege dragged on and the starving citizens came down to their final three pigs, the head of the house of Ferber, Johann, came up with an ingenious plan. After butchering the remaining pigs and feeding his hungry defenders, the heads of the pigs, full of valuable meat, were loaded into a catapult and launched at the attackers. It was an effort to trick the assailants that all was well and good within the city walls.
The ruse worked and the Teutonic Knights, despairing that the citizens of the city had so much food in store that they could literally throw it away, packed up and left, ending the siege. Johann Ferber was celebrated as a hero and became the town’s army commander, councilor, and long time mayor and governor of the region. His son, Eberhard, was knighted for heroic deeds in the Holy Land and then granted the status of nobility by the Polish King, Sigismund the Old, in 1515.
As a result, the newly created family crest was adorned with three boar heads, a nod to, and symbolic of, Everhard’s fathers’ wit and bravery in the time of crisis.
Know Before You Go
The emblem is tucked away in a small alley between St. Mary’s Basilica and Mariacka Street. It’s easy to miss, so look up as you pass a nondescript door in the wall.