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Sunday, 15 March 2015

The Most Important Residence Of Polish Kings

Dearest friends,

Here is a bit of History: On the high hill on the bank of the Vistula River, originally a medieval castle called Wawel had been built. As in 1138, Kraków became the capital of Poland and the Wawel’s Cathedral became the coronation place of the Polish kings, the castle became their most important residence. Three dynasties made their home at Wawel. First the dynasty of Piast. The last of the Piast – Casimir III the Great (1310-1370),who built tens of defensive castles throughout Poland, developed Wawel into the biggest Polish castle. Then the Angevins and the Jagiellons, who made the castle to the center of their powerful state.
The fire of 1499 destroyed Wawel, but as the reconstruction had been necessary Sigismundus I The Old invited Italian architects, Polish, Italian, German and Dutch artists to build Wawel as we see it today – a splendid Renaissance royal residence, with its impressive volume placed high on the hill, beautiful courtyard. As the works continued (1502-1536), the Royal apartements were refurbished in the early Baroque style, received marble fireplaces and painted celings. When King Sigismund III of the Vasa dynasty moved the capital of Poland from Cracow to Warsaw in 1609, trying to stay closer to Sweden, Wawel lost its importance. Nevertheless, the castle remained the coronation place and the Royal Treasury seat. It is said that only on one of the chapels - part of the Wawel's Cathedral - they used 50 kilograms of pure gold (found that out during one of the Free Walking Tours ;) ).
As the neighbors of Poland – Russia, Austria and Prussia grew in power, they began to divide the weak Polish Kingdom among themselves. Following the third and the final partition of Poland in 1795, the city of Kraków was within the teritories adjusted to the Austrian Empire. The Wawel castle became Austrian army caserne and served as such until 1905. Several years later, already in the independent Poland, the National Museum has been established on the Wawel hill (1930). At the same time, the castle served as as an official residence of the Polish president.
During the German occupation of the WWII Wawel was the residence of the Nazi Governor Hans Frank, whose offices were located in the new building built on the hill. He was a great fan of art and he loved Krakow so the fact that Krakow & Wawel Castle and Cathedral are still standing comes all from himself. He had the order to plant bombs inside the Castle and the city and detonate them in case he should have to leave - which he did not, and we are thankful for that! During the years after the war, the castle has been reconstructed, its collection enriched and the castle's treasures which were given into the deposit for the time of the WWII to the Bank of Canada returned (1959). 
The 50 kilo gold chapel :)
Here are some short facts about the Castle & Cathedral:
  • The Castle is approximately 500 years old and was designed by an Italian.  
  • There are no interior hallways in the Castle.  All of the rooms are connected by exterior walkways (in the Italian style). 
  • The current Wawel Cathedral was constructed in the 14th century with two previous churches occupying the site in the 11th and 12th century.
  • The Wawel Cathedral is the burial site for Polish monarchs. You can visit the crypts and see the tombs of the Polish monarchs as far back as the 14th century. The crypt also holds the tombs of generals, national heroes, poets, revolutionaries, and other important leaders.
  • The Bell Towers - There are actually two towers with 8 bells, the most famous is the Sigismund Bell at the top, and there is a clock tower as well. The bells were all made at different times but dates range from the 12th to the 17th centuries. Each bell has a plaque next to it which tells you the technical data such as the weight and dimensions of the bells.
Also, the Castle & Cathedral and the hill upon which they are located have a lot of myths and legends connected to it. Here is one of them :)
The legend says that thousands of years ago, before man became the master of the earth it had been inhabited by a race of giants. It cannot be said today what they looked like, but one can suppose that they led lives similarly to us, trying to understand the mystery of existence and seeking love and happiness. They also got very much used to their dwelling places and if circumstances forced them to leave and go far away they would always come back to their native land at the end of their lives. One such giant was buried near Wawel Hill.
For centuries the bones of these large creatures lay decomposing in the ground and therefore only very few of them were later able to be dug out by people. But whenever some of them were found they were treasured as precious amulets which would protect their owners from all sorts of evil. Thus the inhabitants of Kraków were overjoyed when three mighty and well preserved bones of a giant were dug out by chance near Wawel Castle.
One wise astrologer read in the stars that it was a very good omen. That's why the bones was suspended near the entrance to the cathedral.
Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loves Long Walks In The Wawel Gardens :)