22 May 2017

Visiting Kraków - the Wawel Castle

Wawel is a fortified architectural complex erected over many centuries atop a limestone outcrop on the left bank of the Vistula river in Kraków. In 1978 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Historic Centre of Kraków.
The Wawel Castle was built at the behest of King Casimir III the Great. It consists of a number of structures situated around the Italian-styled main courtyard. The castle, being one of the largest in Poland, represents nearly all European architectural styles of medieval, renaissance and baroque periods. 
The complex consists of many buildings and fortifications. The largest and best known are the Royal Castle and the Wawel Cathedral. Some of Wawel's oldest stone buildings, such as the Rotunda of the Virgin Mary can be dated to 970AD. There are also wooden parts of the complex which date to about the 9th century. The castle itself has been described as "one of the most fascinating of all European castles".

Wawel is a place of great significance to the Polish people. It first became a political power centre at the end of the first millennium AD and in the 9th century. It was the principal fortified castrum of the Vistulans tribe (Polish: Wiślanie). The first historical ruler Mieszko I of the Piast dynasty and his successors: Boleslaw I the Brave and Mieszko II chose Wawel to be one of their residences. At the same time Wawel became one of the principal Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque buildings were erected there including a stone cathedral serving the bishopric of Kraków in the year 1000.
Until 1611, the Wawel was the formal seat of the Polish monarchy. Kraków was the capital of Poland from 1038 to 1569 and of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569 to 1596.
During the 20th century, the Wawel was the residence of the President of Poland. After the invasion of Poland at the start of World War II, Kraków became the seat of Germany's General Government, and the Wawel subsequently became the residence of the Nazi Governor General Hans Frank. 

The hill which takes the form of a horst originated in the Miocene epoch (23–25 million years ago) and consists of Jurassic limestone dating back to the Oxfordian age. This limestone is strongly karsted and abounds in caves.
The Wawel Hill has archaeological remains indicating settlement from the 4th century. Archeological studies suggest that the earliest settlement dates back to the Middle Paleolithic era, c. 100,000 years BC and owed its rapid development to its location being the crossing of a number of key trading routes.

From this early period of the Wawel's history originates the popular and enduring Polish myth of the Wawel dragon. Today, it's commemorated on the lower slopes of the Wawel Hill where by the river, is a modern fire-breathing metal statue of the dragon. The statue is sited in front of Smocza Jama, one of the limestone caves scattered over the hill. The dragon, Smok Wawelski, was a mystical beast which supposedly terrorised the local community, eating their sheep and local virgins, before being heroically slain by Krakus, a Polish prince, who legend relates founded the city of Kraków and built his palace above the slain dragon's lair.

Wawel Cathedral

The Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus on the Wawel Hill  also known as the Wawel Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church located on Wawel Hill. More than 900 years old, it's the Polish national sanctuary and traditionally has served as coronation site of the Polish monarchs as well as the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Kraków.
The current, Gothic cathedral, is the third edifice on this site. Tge first was constructed and destroyed in the 11th century. The second one, constructed in the 12th century, was destroyed by a fire in 1305. The construction of the current one began in the 14th century on the orders of bishop Nanker.

The Cathedral comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. The main altar, located in the apse, was founded about 1650 by Bishop Piotr Gembicki and created by Giovanni Battista Gisleni. Underneath the canopy is placed a silver coffin of national patron saint St. Stanislaus created between 1669-1671 after the previous one (donated in 1512 by King Sigismund I the Old) was stolen by the Swedes in 1655.

Town Hall Tower

Town Hall Tower is one of the main focal points of the Main Market Square in the Old Town district of Kraków.
The Tower is the only remaining part of the old Kraków Town Hall demolished in 1820 as part of the city plan to open up the Main Square. Its cellars once housed a city prison with a Medieval torture chamber.
In 1967, after a complex conservation which underlined its gothic ancestry, object was given to the Historical Museum in Cracow for management of it.

The entrance to the tower is guarded by a pair of stone lions carved at the beginning of the 19th century. They were brought to Kraków from the Classicist palace of the Morstin family in Pławowice during the renovations of 1961–1965, during which the bay windows on the second floor of the tower were incorrectly reconstructed by a local TV personality, architect Wiktor Zin. Over the entrance is the original Gothic portal with the city coat-of-arms and the emblem of Poland. For many years the basement beneath the tower has been used as the performance space called the Stage beneath the Town Hall of the renowned Teatr Ludowy.

Krakow's Droshky
Krakow's Droshky

Krakow's Droshky

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