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Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Royal Wawel Castle

Dear friends,

WARNING!!! This post will be  quite extensive and it will have loads of pictures so proceed at your own risk, my dearests!!!

As I was shortly pointing out 3 days ago, I did try to see before the wonderful Da Vinci painting - "The Lady With An Ermine" - but I never made it through. It was previously hosted in the Czartoryski Museum, as it is part of their collection, but when I first came to Poland my trip coincided with the over-one-year-period in which the painting toured around the world. After that the Czartoryski Museum was under reconstruction - it still is, yet they managed to have one wing open for the antiques and the 5 gorgeous human mummies + one small cat mummy that they have :)
The Da Vinci painting was due to that moved to the Wawel Castle, where it resides for more than a year (I believe!). Since it was moved I tried to get my fiance to go and see it but each time complications came up. Mostly due to the fact that the Museum is settled down on having only a few people see it at a time so there is a really really really low number of tickets and there is no such possibility of setting a reservation online :(
But this month we are both settled on seeing her! :) We tried the first weekend of this month but we came at around 12 mid-day and there were no tickets whatsoever! So we tried again the second weekend - Saturday morning at 9:30 am the box office opened - we were there at 9:45 am and already the queue was HUGE!!! I did not take a picture so I would not scare you... As our friends were not there yet, we stated that we should at least stand in the queue and IF!!! we get there by the time they come we can take tickets for them also... well... they came and we still were standing in the queue... tell you the truth we stood in line for exactly one hour. Unfortunately we did not get the tickets for The Lady but since we waited so long at the queue we said we would pick what we could.
The nice part is that once you are in the main room for the tickets - not outside or in the hallway - they have screens that display how many tickets are left for the exhibitions. Once we got in the main room we could see that The Lady was out of tickets... so we agreed on seeing The Lost Wawel :)
Here are the details for choosing the tickets - you can see it on the flyer in the picture or you can read them here:
November 2013 - free admission
Free admission all month!
Choose one main exhibition:
1. State Rooms
2. Crown Treasury and Armoury*
Plus one of the following:
a. Acquisitions 2012 and Leonardo da Vinci: “Lady with an Ermine”
b. The Lost Wawel

Free admission tickets available at the ticket windows
in the Visitors Center:
Tu.–Sat.: 9:15 a.m.–2:45 p.m., Sun.: 9:15 a.m.–2:45 p.m.
Ticket booth at the Herbowa Gate entrance – closed all month.
  • Individual visitors: One free ticket admits one visitor; one visitor may pick up a maximum of 4 tickets (for the same selection of exhibitions) at the ticket window.
  • Groups: reservations obligatory; the Reservations Office will accept reservations and issue free passes Tuesday – Saturday. No group visits on Sunday.
Tickets are issued for specific entry times.
For conservation reasons, daily limits on the number of visitors will remain in effect.

exhibitions open
  • Tuesday–Saturday: 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • Sunday: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
    Last visitor entry at 3:00 p.m.
    Sunday – individual visitors only; no reservations;
    *this exhibition is closed on Sundays
Museum closed on Mondays and November 1 and 11
Visitor information: +48 12 422-51-55 ext. 219
If you can’t make it in November, don’t worry. The Castle offers free admission to selected exhibitions every Sunday, December through March and on Mondays from April to October. Children 7 and under always visit free.

We - my friend, my fiance and I - managed to get tickets for State Rooms & The Lost Wawel. When we left home we were settled on The Lady & Crown Treasury and Armory... oh! Well... C'est la vie!

State Rooms

The main exhibition of the castle’s interiors includes several rooms on the ground floor and guest apartments on the second floor. The three rooms on the ground floor, which served as the suite of the Governors of Cracow, have retained their Renaissance wooden ceilings. Their stone portals were reconstructed in the inter-war period. The Envoys’ Stairway which connects the ground level with the private royal apartments on the first floor and the rooms on the second floor boasts original Renaissance portals.
The second floor of the eastern and northern wings houses guest apartments. Their original ceilings were damaged by fire in 1702 and again during the Austrian occupation in the early 19th century. Large fragments of original wall friezes are preserved in the three rooms located to the south of the Envoys’ Stairs (missing fragments were reconstructed before the Second World War). The Envoys’ Room boasts an astonishing ceiling with woodcarvings of 30 human heads. Tapestries commissioned by Sigismund Augustus are the most valuable treasure of the Renaissance rooms, and the only art object preserved from the original interior decoration. Woven in Brussels in the third quarter of the 16th century, they depict  biblical and grotesque scenes, and the coats of arms of Poland and Lithuania. There are also valuable paintings, Italian furniture, predominantly from 16th century Tuscany, and Polish royal portraits.
After a fire in 1595 Sigismund III Vasa commissioned the restoration of the interiors in the northern wing of the castle, which was carried out by the architect Giovanni Trevano and the painter Tomasso Dolabella. Only the Senatorial Room, the largest in the Castle and at present decorated with tapestries, was untouched by the fire. In other interiors among the objects that survived are marble portals and a magnificent early Roman Baroque fireplace, as well as stucco ceilings, such as those in the royal chapel. The present reproduction Baroque ceilings, from the inter-war period, are filled with plafonds by then noted Polish painters-colourists of the time, and the walls are covered with 18th century cordovan tapestries. The Dutch Study in Sigismund III’s Tower houses paintings of the Dutch school. Portraits of Polish kings and members of the royal families, as well as paintings of historic moments in Poland’s past, are the dominant feature in this section of the castle.
The exit from this exhibition is through a second reception stairway, the Senatorial.

Ground floor

1. The Governor’s Parlour

Zoom in - The Governor’s Room
The Governor’s Room
The parlour, with a Renaissance larch wood ceiling, has retained the formal character of a parlour where the Governor received his guests. The furnishings date from the 16th and 17th centuries and are predominantly representative of northern European schools: Renaissance paintings from the Netherlands and Germany, Baroque tapestries (gobelins), and an Italian table.

Second Floor

2. The Tournament Hall

Zoom in - The Tournament Hall
The Tournament Hall
In the hall there are wall friezes with tournament scenes painted in the 1630s by Hans Durer (brother of Albrecht Durer) and Antoni of Wrocław. Italian Renaissance paintings include portraits of young males from the Medici family and were painted by Alessandro Allori and Giorgio Vasari. Among the Italian furniture there is a table from the Palmieri Palace at Siena. The impressive 18th century stove comes from the castle at Wiśniowiec in Wołyń.

4. The Envoys’ Room

Zoom in - The Envoys’ Room
The Envoys’ Room
Here sessions of the Lower House (Seym) were held in the presence of the king. The ceiling coffer, reconstructed in the first half of the 20th century, shows 30 woodcarvings of human heads created in 1540. The original ceiling - the work of Sebastian Tauerbach’s workshop - consisted of 194 of such sculptures (it was seriously damaged at the beginning of the 19th century). The wall frieze, which dates from the same period as the sculptures, depicting ‘The story of human life’, is an illustration of an ancient Greek text Tabula Cebetis. The tapestry entitled God speaking to Noah, from Sigismund Augustus’ collection, was made in the mid 16th century in Brussels based on a pattern by Michiel Coxcie. Renaissance portraits of King Sigismund the Old and of his daughter Anna Jagiello were painted by Marcin Kober. There is also an 18th century stove from the palace in Wiśniowiec.

6. The Planet Room

Zoom in - The Planet Room
The Planet Room
The wall frieze (dating from 1929) showing personifications of the Planets is a reminder of 16th century paintings that did not survive. The furnishing in the room comes from Renaissance times. The tapestry entitled God blessing Noah’s family (mid 16th C.) comes from Sigismund Augustus’ collection, and was weaved in Brussels. Among the Italian paintings of the Venice and Ferrara schools is Jove, Mercury and Virtue painted by the celebrated artist Dossa Dossi (a gift from Karolina Lanckorońska). There is also Italian furniture and a majolica vase on display here.

8. The Bird Room

Zoom in - The Bird Room
The Bird Room
It is to be found inside the Gothic tower. Around 1600, following a fire in the castle, it was transformed into the audience hall. It was then that a large fireplace and portals bearing the coats of arms of the Vasa family were designed by Giovanni Trevano, and the plafonds were painted by Tomasso Dolabella. The existing ceiling dates to the first half of the 20th century. Also at that time the walls were decorated with an 18th century cordovan from king Augustus III’s castle at Moritzburg. There are portraits of Sigismund III and of his spouse Constance the Austrian. Among other western European paintings from the 17th century there is The Allegory of Fortunate Fate by Frans Francken II, and Vanitas by Bartolomeus Spranger. The two stone busts of the Roman emperors Domitian and Nerva, also date from the 17th century. A splendid Dutch cupboard is decorated with scenes of Rome.

10. The Royal Chapel

Zoom in - The Royal Chapel.
The Royal Chapel.
The chapel was built around 1602 for Sigismund III Vasa. Its vault has retained its original stucco decoration. The fresco is by Józef Pankiewicz and dates from c 1930. The altar (triptych) features a representation of the Holy Trinity on the central panel and saints on the wings. Poland, Krakow, c.1600. A small painting Sigismund III on the Catafalque depicts the King after his death, lying in the castle chapel in Warsaw. The furniture dates from the 17th century.

11. The Eagle Room

Zoom in - The Eagle Room
The Eagle Room
A formal room, where during sessions of the Seym at Wawel, monarchs held a royal law court. The original ceiling with a carved eagle did not survive and was replaced by a new one in the inter-war period. There are portraits of the royals and paintings depicting 17th century historic scenes on the walls. Among these are The Entry of Jerzy Ossoliński into Rome and The Entry of Queen Marie-Louise Gonzaga into Gdańsk, both painted by Bartłomiej Milwitz. The Belgian tapestry (gobelin) The Death of Decius Mus was woven to a pattern by Rubens.

12. The Senator’s Hall

Zoom in - The Senator’s Hall
The Senator’s Hall
This largest room in the castle was originally designated for sessions of the Senate, important state and court ceremonies, royal weddings, theatre performances and balls. The first royal wedding, that of Sigismund I to Bona Sworza, took place here in 1518. The walls are decorated with large figural tapestries with biblical themes from Sigismund Augustus’ collection. A Classicist armchair has replaced the throne.

The Lost Wawel


Archaeological-architectural reserve and lapidarium

The Lost Wawel exhibition in its present form opened in 1975. Building upon earlier expositions dedicated to the history of Wawel Hill and centered on the remains of the Rotunda of Sts. Felix and Adauctus (alternately, Rotunda of the Blessed Virgin Mary) from the late 10th/early 11th century, the exhibition also encompasses the former royal kitchens and coach house.
This unique exhibition combines an archaeological-architectural reserve, architectural elements from various periods, traditionally displayed objects uncovered in archaeological excavations, and scale models of buildings. One room is devoted to the Wawel’s large collection of Renaissance tiles. A multimedia presentation takes visitors through the history of the Wawel Hill in the Middle Ages.
The Wawel lapidarium is a collection of stone sculptures and architectural details recovered over the past 100 years in the course of restoration work and archaeological excavations. All of the objects relate to the Wawel and were removed from their original locations at different times and in varying circumstances. A selection of the finest stonework is on view in several dedicated rooms. The sculptures and carved stone elements presented are not only parts of an architectural ensemble. They are a tangible manifestation of the fate and transformation of the historic buildings on Wawel Hill.
The objects are arranged in thematic groups: architectural elements from the Arcaded Courtyard; fragments of stonework from the façade of the royal palace and pieces uncovered in archaeological excavations conducted on the lower terrace of the royal gardens; and sculpture and stonework from the Wawel Cathedral. The Cathedral’s Sigismund Chapel is one of the finest examples of Italian Renaissance architecture north of the Alps, but can only be viewed through a bronze grille. A display of plaster casts of the Chapel’s carved stone decoration provides a unique opportunity to see these splendid ornamental details close up.

Archaeological-architectural reserve around the Rotunda
of Sts. Felix and Adauctus

Rotunda of Sts. Felix and Adauctus (or Rotunda of the Blessed Virgin Mary), 10th/11th century. 

This is the most important architectural site within the reserve. It was excavated and reconstructed in 1917–1918. The cylindrical rotunda with four apses is built directly on limestone bedrock. In addition, on the south side there is a circular annex connected to the main structure by a passageway. The building is constructed of irregular sandstone plate bound with lime mortar. The extant walls of the structure are 3 to 7 meters high (southeast apse). The rotunda was discovered Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz, who also studied the structure and proposed the first spatial reconstruction of the body of the building (model on view in the exhibition). The visible, upper portion of the reconstruction was built at a scale of 1:1 onto the existing walls. Ever since its discovery, the rotunda has been a topic of scholarly debate. Discussion has ranged from the reconstruction to other possible spatial and functional solutions and dating.
Remnants of medieval structures located to the north and east of the Rotunda of Sts. Felix and Adauctus: the pre-Romanesque walls of the tomb annex with a partly disturbed burial site, a Gothic defensive wall, and the foundations of the Gothic upper castle. Natural depressions or sinkholes and archaeological layers of material culture are visible in the strata of the exposed rock face.
Royal Coach House

Objects discovered in archaeological excavations on Wawel Hill are displayed in the chambers of the former coach house. Material traces of everyday life in the Middle Ages, such as shoes, buckles, pots, and tools among others, are grouped together by their constituent materials. Plaster casts and architectural details which correspond to models of medieval buildings provide context. One of the most intriguing objects on view is a tomb slab carved with an image of the Tree of Life. It comes from a bi-apsidal pre-Romanesque rotunda (known as church B).
Small Kitchen

Parts of the 16th-century royal kitch-ens are preserved in this chamber: foundations of the pillars that supported stove hoods, remnants of ovens, and the original ceramic tile floor. Late medieval ceramics, such as kitchen vessels, tableware, floor and stove tiles, are displayed in glass cases. Also on view are models of the 15th-century psalm singers house founded by Jan Długosz and the 14th-century Gothic cathedral.

Lapidarium (I)

Architectural details from the Arcaded Courtyard, which was restored by Zygmunt Hendel in 1905–1914. Original 16th-century stonework elements, later replaced by copies, constitute a large portion of the Wawel lapidarium.
Lapidarium (II)

Stonework fragments from the royal palace and ensembles of carved stone details found in archaeological excavations of the lower terrace of the royal gardens.
Lapidarium (III)
Stonework from the Wawel Cathedral includes a Renaissance altar ensemble from 1521, carved by stonecutters from the workshop responsible the Sigismund Chapel; a tympanum from the tomb (1613–1615) of Piotr Tylicki, bishop of Krakow; and a 1558 marble sculpture of St. Anthony Abbot.
Lapidarium (IV)
Exhibition of plaster casts of the carved decoration of the Sigismund Chapel. The oldest were cast in 1868–1874, from molds made by the Krakow sculptor Parys Filippi. The casts were made by students attending Courses for Women at the Museum of Technology and Industry in Krakow and published in an 1878 album on the architectural decoration of the chapel entitled Album ozdób z kaplicy Zygmuntowskiej.

Tile Room

The 16th–17th century tiles in the collection come from ceramic heating stoves once found in the royal castle. It is the most valuable ensemble of its kind in Poland. The tiles are beautifully decorated with figural elements, vegetal and animal motifs, and coats of arms. Models of tile stoves are also on view.

Multimedia Room
The exhibition also includes a virtual computer reconstruction of selected early Romanesque and Romanesque buildings of Wawel, based on archaeological, architectural, illustrational, photographic and conservational evidence. The buildings are shown on Wawel Hill surrounded by wooden and earth fortifications and with cottages within.
The stories from above are taken from the site of the castle that is both in Polish and English language and really easy to navigate. The pictures are taken from that site as well as visitors are able to take pictures out and about the castle but NEVER inside! So put your cameras aside and enjoy the tour. I recommend getting and audio-guide for the stories and for more understanding of the exhibitions as each room has only one plaques that states what is in the room and what you can see - that is all, no stories - no romance - no feeling. Just plain facts ;)
You are though allowed to take pictures once you are outside and I really always like taking pictures. The pictures above also show the German wall raised during the Second World War, when Wawel became the residence of the detested Nazi Governor General Hans Frank. There was a great plus to that - Hans Frank was quite an art lover and when Hitler stated all Krakow should be blown up he did not agree, hence we still have the very old and beautiful Wawel intact :) + the German wall, where the kitchen/stables (cannot remember the whole story) was before. You will not notice the difference now as it was renovated a few years ago and restyled a bit so it would fit the scenery ;)
Picture taken by one of my lovely "daughters" :) Mummy and Daddy are proud of you :*
I just love the small details of the castle from the small and weirdly positioned balconies to the red rooftops with the drainage system made out of dragon heads... EPIC!!!
Can you see the Dragon heads? Unfortunately I did not have the other lens with me to take a better shot :( But both me and my fiance tried and you can zoom in and see or you can just come to Krakow and check it out for yourself :)
Also in the main court if you wanna help rebuilding and reconditioning Wawel there is a nice box where you can deposit money - below you can see a picture of it ;)
And you can also see the fact that it is full with a lot of foreign currency so you can't say you don't have zloty with you, you can put your own currency ;)
Anyway, Wawel should be on everyone's To Do List :) And it will still remain on my list until I will manage to see The Lady! And since the 3rd time is the charm... or so they say! We will try again on Tuesday this week, so keep your fingers crossed for me please :) If you wanna join us, you are more than free to tag along with me and my lovely fiance. In case we do not make it this time we were thinking of trying the Japanese Museum so either way it will be lovely and I will tell you more about it very soon ;)

Yours truly,
The Museum Fan LadyBug :)

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