The Krakow Barbican

18th Nov 2019

Barbakan w Krakowie obok Bramy Floriańskiej

The Kraków Barbican

he Kraków Barbican is the element of medieval city's fortifications. Located in the centre of the Planty Park, just between the St. Florian's Gate and Basztowa Street, it is one of the most precious monuments of Kraków and one of the last remains of defensive structures in Europe.

Barbicans started to be built at the beginning of 15th century. They usually had a form of round, brick constructions which were situated outside the main line of defence and connected to the city walls. The principal role of the barbicans was to defend the main city gate. For this reason the walls of the building were provided with numerous loopholes, which gave the possibility of shooting up the enemies from the top.

The Barbican of Kraków was erected in the years 1498-1499 under the reign of Polish king Jan Olbracht, who feared the attack of Wallachian, Tatarian and Turkish enemies, threatening Kraków at that time. The king himself laid the cornerstone for the construction, whose main function was to protect the main city gate of St. Florian, which it was connected to. Built in the Gothic style in brick and stone, it had seven watch towers. The walls of 3 metres thick, which was surrounded by 30-metre-wide moat, made the barbican extremely difficult to get through.

Being the main northern entrance to the city, Barbican used to co-create the beginning of the famous Droga Królewska [E. the Royal Route]. It led from St. Florian Church, through Barbican, the Florian Gate, Floriańska Street, the Main Square by the Mariacki Church, then down Grodzka, Senacka and Kanonicza streets up to Wawel Castle. Droga Królewska was the historical coronation path as well as the funeral corteges of Polish monarchs. This is the way all the important foreign diplomats trod, and where Polish kings, returning after battles and being welcomed by the crowds of Kraków's citizens, used to come back to Wawel. For this reason Barbican was called The Gate of Glory (Porta Gloriae) of Kraków city.

Nowadays, Barbican stands as a museum and it poses a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków. It serves as a venue for multiple exhibitions. The 500-year-old fortification also features interesting sport events such as Polish championship in fencing or presentations of knight tournaments and court dances. Barbican is accessible for the tourists, who have the opportunity to get inside the building and become acquainted with the history of Kraków's defensive architecture.

The Grunwald Monument

27th Nov 2019

pomnik grunwaldzki na placu matejki w Krakowie

The Grunwald Monument

The Grunwald Monument [Polish: Pomnik Grunwaldzki] is an equestrian statue of the king Władysław II Jagiełło, erected in 1910 according to the project by Antoni Wiwulski and Franciszek Black. Placed on Jan Matejko Square in Kraków, it commemorates the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald in 1410.

The memorial was founded by the distinguished Polish pianist and future Prime Minister of Poland Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who established it 'for the glory of our forefathers and for brothers for courage' [Polish: 'Praojcom na chwałę braciom na otuchę] which has been engraved on the pedestal. Unfortunately, the Grunwald Monument was demolished in 1939 by Germans, and reconstructed only in 1976, following the design of Marian Konieczny. In front of the statue there is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

On the day of 15 July 1410, on the plains nearby Grunwald village, one of the largest and bloodiest battles in the history of medieval Europe was fought. The allied Polish and Lithuanian forces, which were commanded by the king of Poland Władysław II Jagiełło and the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas, defeated the Teutonic Knights and German chivalry that was united with them. It was a total victory - the power of State of the Teutonic Order was broken and the Jagiełło dynasty was raised to the rank of the most important dynasties in Europe. For these reasons, the Battle of Grunwald is considered to be the most important triumph of Poland in her long and proud history.

The top of the 24-metre memorial is crowned with the statue of the king Władysław Jagiełło on his horse. In his right hand the king holds a naked sword. On the front wall there is a figure of Lithuanian duke Vytautas, who was Jagiełło's cousin, Underneath, dead Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights Urlich von Jungingen lies at duke's feet. The east side of the monument presents Polish knights who pick up Teutonic banners from the ground. On the west side, there is a Lithuanian warrior blowing his horn and holding a tied up Teutonic captive. Finally, the back wall of the monument features a Polish peasant who is breaking down his chains as a symbol of victory.

The construction of the memorial took place in the conspiracy, since Kraków was then the part of Austrian partition. At that time, Polish country didn't exist on the map of the world. It can therefore be said that the Grunwald Monument was created ''to lift up the hearts'' of Polish nation. The statue was solemnly revealed on July 15, 1910 at high noon. The ceremony was attended by 150,000 visitors as well as a great number of Kraków's citizens and the speeches were delivered i.a. by the mayor of Kraków Juliusz Leo and the founder of the monument Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

Due to its historical dimension and national importance, the Grunwald Monument was gradually being destroyed during the World War II. Eventually, in 1945 it was blown up with dynamite by the retreating Nazis and the dismantled figures were transported to Germany. Over the following years its place was empty and only on 6 October 1976 the Grunwald Monument was recreated in its former location. Fortunately, because in 2010 Poland was able to celebrate there the next round anniversary of the battle and 100th anniversary of the monument's foundation. Located right behind the Barbican and near Academy of Fine Arts, the monument stands as a symbol of struggle for Polish statehood and another must see position on the map of Kraków.