"The historic centre of Cracow, the former capital of"
The historic centre of Cracow, the former capital of Poland, is situated at the foot of the Royal Wawel Castle. The 13th-century merchants' town has Europe's largest market square and numerous historical houses, palaces and churches with their magnificent interiors. Further evidence of the town's fascinating history is provided by the remnants of the 14th-century fortifications and the medieval site of Kazimierz with its ancient synagogues in the southern part of town, Jagellonian University and the Gothic cathedral where the kings of Poland were buried. History of Krakow Krakow has miraculously escaped destruction towards the end of the last war, for the retreating Nazis had every intention of turning Krakow, like Warsaw into fields of rubble. But in January 1945, the Red Army under Marshal Koner outflanked the Germans, obliging them to flee before they could blow the city up. Krakow, the former capital of Poland has a population of over 700,00, is the third largest centre after Warsaw and Lodz. History of Krakow •In the 11th century, Krakow was the main •At the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, the seat of the first Polish kings of the Piast Jagellions forged the first dynastic power in dynasty. Central Europe, and Krakow became the leading city in this part of the European •In 1241, after a Tartar raid, the settlements continent. The Renaissance culture inspired by situated around the Wawel Hill were greatly Italian, German and Dutch centers was in full destroyed. bloom. •In 1333, under the last king from the Piast •1569 - Poland united with Lithuania. Krakow dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370), the became situated on the periphery of the large city became a rightful member of the country and gradually lost its political Western culture. importance in favour of the centrally situated •1364 - The establishment of a university, Warsaw. renovated under King Ladislaus Jagiello •1609 - King Sigismund III (1587-1632), the first (1386- 1434), the first King from the Polish king of the Vasa dynasty, decided to Jagiellon family. It was to become one of transfer his seat to Warsaw. the most important European university schools. Many eminent scientists received •1655 - Krakow was captured for the first time their education here, including the great and plundered by the Swedes. Nicolaus Copernicus. •1795 - After the fall of Poland, Krakow became part of the Austrian empire. •1918 - Poland regained it's independence and the city slowly began to be restored to life. The Royal Castle A few hundred metres from the Main Market Square stands the Royal Castle. It is located atop Wawel Hill which commands a view of the whole town spreading at its feet. The Wawel cathedral has witnessed royal coronations and funerals; and in the Wawel Castle were taken the most important decisions determining the subsequent stages of the country’s development. The origins of this magnificent structure date back to the year 1000. Every visitor to Krakow should see the cathedral, the Renaissance cloisters of the castle and the beautiful royal chambers, decorated with tapestries manufactured by Flemish masters. Adjacent to the castle is the Wawel cathedral, not only a splendid historical building but also a functioning church as well as a national Pantheon, containing the tombstones of many Polish kings, national heroes and poets of the Romantic period. The showpiece of the church interiors is the Renaissance Sigismund Chapel. At the western edge of the hill is the entrance to the Dragon’s Cave, where the legendary Wawel Dragon lived. Wawel Cathedral in Krakow The Wawel Cathedral, Poland's national sanctuary with 1000-year-old history, was the coronation site of Polish monarchs. It presents 14th-century walls shelter with a great variety of top-class objects of art, from Gothic to Renaissance to Baroque to Classicist to Modern. It is also the burial ground of most Polish royalty as well as the greatest national heroes, two poets, four saints and countless Krakow bishops. Basilica of the Virgin Mary's The Basilica of the Virgin Mary (or Kosciol Mariacki) at Krakow’s central Grand Square has been traditionally the temple of choice of the city’s burghers. It also seems to be the most famous of all Poland's churches. The Gothic edifice replaced its Romanesque predecessor by the end of the 13th century. In 1365 a chancel was added and soon its splendid big stained- glass windows, of which three are still in place, were ready as well. By the end of the 14th century the body of the church got the present form of a basilica. The taller (81 m) of its two towers, with a fantastic Gothic spire of 1478 and a gold-plated crown of 1666, curiously belongs to the municipality. The lower tower (69 m), with the 1592 Renaissance roof. The basilica of the Virgin Mary's is home to an unmatched giant Gothic altarpiece carved by great Veit Stoss between 1477 and 1489. The Market Square Krakow’s magnificent Rynek Glowny is one of the largest Medieval squares in Europe and dates from 1257. It is dominated by the Sukiennice, the arcaded Renaissance cloth hall that stands in the centre. The Cloth Hall - Krakow's Cloth Hall, the Renaissance monument of commerce The world's arguably oldest shopping mall has been in business in the middle of Krakow's central Grand Square (Rynek Glowny) for 700 years. Circa 1300 a roof was put over two rows of stalls to form the first Sukiennice building – Cloth Hall – where the textile trade used to go on. It was extended into an imposing Gothic structure 108 meter long and eight meter wide in the second half of the 14th century. - Shopping center and art gallery Nowadays stalls on the ground floor and shops in the arcades mostly sell assorted souvenirs. Upstairs, since the 1880s the Krakow National Museum has exhibited its unparalleled collection of the 19-century Polish art, including Jan Matejko's famous movie-like giant paintings. The Jagiellonian University The 630-year-old Jagiellonian University moved in to the building at the corner of the Jagiellonska and Sw. Anny streets in 1400, when King Vladislav II Jagiello bought the house with funds his late wife, queen-saint Jadwiga, had earmarked for the renewal of Krakow’s alma mater. The Grand College, or Collegium Maius, the oldest college of the Polish oldest and best university, was rebuilt by the end of the 15th century as a splendid late-Gothic edifice around a vast courtyard with surrounding arcades and a well of 1517 in the center. Professors lived and worked upstairs, while lecturing downstairs. In the 1490s they had Copernicus among their students, and the astronomer that revolutionized entire European science remains the most illustrious of Krakow university’s graduates together with Pope John Paul II. Over centuries a whole university quarter has arisen around the Collegium Maius, while the old college became first the university library and then the university museum rich in unrivaled exhibits. The gate is one of the few remains of the Krakow's mediaeval fortification that surrounded the city. It was built at the break of 13th/14th c. The image of the gate's patron, St. Florian, can be seen above the entrance. The main fortified wall was brought down at the beginning of the 19th c. It had been declining since the 18th c. anyway because when artillery came into use, the wall was no longer needed. Florian Gate