City (Daytime) Part 1

1 : Introduction
2 : City (Day)
3 : City (Night)
4 : Churches
5 : Castle/Cathedral
6 : Fete
7 : Kazimierz and Podgórze
8 : Wieliczka Salt Mine

The main square situated in the Old Town of Krakow is the principal urban space located at the centre of the city. It dates back to the 13th century and is the largest medieval town square in Europe and the "best public space in Europe due to its lively street life".

The main square is a rectangular space surrounded by historic townhouses, palaces and churches. The centre of the square is dominated by the Cloth Hall, rebuilt in 1555 in the Renaissance style, topped by a beautiful attic or Polish parapet decorated with carved masks.

On one side of the cloth hall is the Town Hall Tower, on the other the 10th century Church of St. Adalbert (on the left in the above picture) and the restored 1898 Adam Mickiewicz Monument. Rising above the square are the Gothic towers of St. Mary's Basilica.

The Main Square was designed in its current state with each side repeating a pattern of three, evenly spaced streets set at right angles to the square. The exception is Grodzka Street which is much older and connects the Main Square with the Wawel Castle.

Originally the square was filled with low market stalls and administrative buildings and had a ring road running around it. It was King Casimir III the Great who built the original Gothic Cloth Hall and the Town Hall that filled nearly a quarter of the square.

n addition to its original merchant functions the Main Square witnessed many historical events. It was used to stage public executions of prisoners held in city Town Hall.

It was also a place of regal ceremonies as part of the Royal Road, frequented by diplomats and dignitaries travelling to the Wawel Castle.

The massive Gothic Tower of the early Town Hall (right), built of stone and brick at the end of the 13th century, stands 70 metres tall and leans 55 centimetres, the result of a storm in 1703. The top floor of the tower has an observation deck and is open to visitors.

The original Gothic helmet adorning the tower was destroyed by fire caused by a lightning in 1680. The ensuing reconstruction of the tower took place between 1683 and 1686.

The work was directed by the royal architect Piotr Beber, who designed the new and imposing Baroque helmet which survived only until 1783. At that time, the helmet began to crumble, and was replaced by a smaller structure.

The entrance to the tower is guarded by a pair of stone lions carved at the beginning of the 19th century. During the renovations of 1961-1965 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 performance space called the 'Stage beneath the Town Hall' of the renowned Teatr Ludowy.

Among the square's landmarks is the Cloth Hall (above, right and below) originally designed in the 14th century as a centre for cloth trade.

It was gutted by fire in 1555 and rebuilt in the Renaissance style by Giovani il Mosca from Padua. The arcades were added in the 19th century.

The ground floor is continually used for commerce with its many souvenir shops and cafés; upstairs is the gallery of the National Museum.

                   The interior of the ground floor commercial area
                   is shown in the pictures below.

Old advertisements on the wall of one of the entrances leading to the commercial area of the Cloth Hall (right and below).

On 24 March 1794, and in the Main Square, Tadeusz Kosciuszko announced a general uprising and assumed the powers of the Commander in Chief of Polish armed forces, beginning the Kosciuszko Uprising. In Kosciuszkos times, the Polish state had been twice partitioned by its neighbours: Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Prussia. In spite of his victorious Battle of Raclawice against numerically superior Russian army, the uprising later resulted in a tragic third and final partition of Poland. (More about Kosciuszko will be found in the Castle section of the website.)

Krakow became part of the Austrian province of Galicia for over a century.

During the occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany the square was renamed Adolf Hitler-Platz and the Adam Mickiewicz monument (described below) was destroyed along with historical commemorative plaques taken from buildings in and around the square. After the war the monument was reconstructed.

In 1978 UNESCO placed the Main Square and part of Old Krakow on the list of World Heritage Sites.

On 21 March 1980, during the Russian occupation and at a time of political tension prior to the declaration of the Martial Law in Poland, Walenty Badylak, a retired baker and a veteran of Poland's wartime underground Home Army, set himself alight chained to a well on the Main Square. Badylak was protesting the communist government's refusal to acknowledge the Katyn's war crime.

The Main Square was also central in staging mass demonstrations of the Solidarity movement.

Adam Bernard Mickiewicz (24 December 1798 - 26 November 1855) was a Polish poet, dramatist, essayist, publicist, translator, professor of Slavic literature, and a political activist. He is regarded as national poet in Poland, Lithuania and Belarus.

A principal figure in Polish Romanticism, he is counted one of Poland's 'Three Bards' and is widely regarded as Poland's greatest poet. He has been compared in Poland and Europe to Byron and Goethe.
He is also well for his various works that served as inspiration for uprisings against the three imperial powers that had partitioned the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth out of existence.

He died, probably of cholera, in Istanbul in the Ottoman Empire where he had gone to help organize Polish and Jewish forces to fight Russia in the Crimean War.

Although Adam Mickiewicz had himself never been to Krakow in 1890, 35 years after his death, his remains were brought from Paris and ceremoniously laid to rest in the St Leonard's Crypt under the Wawel Cathedral.

The Adam Mickiewicz Monument in Krakow is one of the well known bronze monuments in Poland and is a favourite meeting place at the Market Square.

The original statue of Mickiewicz was unveiled on 16 June 1898 on the 100th anniversary of his birth and in the presence of his daughter and son.

It was designed by Teodor Rygier, a little-known sculptor at the time, who won the third and final competition for this project by popular demand ahead of over 60 artists in total including the renowned painter Jan Matejko.

Even though the first prize was awarded to famed Cyprian Godebski, professor at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, with Rygier at a close second, for the final execution a more popular design by Rygier was accepted.

At the poet's feet are four allegoric figures symbolising the Motherland, Science, Courage and Poetry. The inscription on the pedestal reads: 'To Adam Mickiewicz, the Nation'.

The monument came into being at a studio on Dluga Street under the supervision of an artistic committee. All the figures were cast in the Nellich foundry in Rome.

The final location of the monument was not decided at once, with at least three other city squares taken into consideration. Ultimately, it was the city Mayor who suggested that the structure be placed in the Main Market Square instead.

On 17 August 1940 the monument was destroyed by the Nazis following the German invasion of Poland (left). It was not to be seen in the Square again until its restoration in 1955.

Most of the figures were recovered from a Hamburg scrap metal heap in 1946 and this allowed the restoration of the Monument's original appearance.

Every year on Christmas Eve the Adam Mickiewicz Monument is decorated with flowers by the florists of Krakow.

As may be envisaged from the picture below of the statue's 'Muse of Poetry' the monument also continues to be a popular tourist attraction!

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