Ulica Grodzka, the Wawel and Kazimierz
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Ulica Grodzka:

The main street leading out of the southern side (by the Wierzynek Restaurant) is also the oldest in Krakow, forming part of the Royal Way and running to the Wawel.

A little way down it is the Pl.Wiosny Ludow dominated at its eastern end by the Dominican Church and at the western by the Franciscan Church.

No.3/4 Pl.Wiosny Ludow, the 17th century Wielopolski Palace; Town Hall, the residence of the aristocratic Wielopolski family, was damaged by fire in 1850 and purchased by the municipal authorities for their headquarters. On the facade, on the south side, is a crenelated parapet. There is a handsome Art Nouveau extension at right angles to the main block seen from ul.Poselska. In the times of mayor Jozef Dietl (1804-78) the interior walls were decorated with large portraits of previous mayors. A statue of Dietl (1937-39), by Xawery Dunikowski, stands on a plinth in front of the palace.

No.6, the Larisch Palace has housed the Society of Fine Arts since 1854.

The Franciscan Church/Monastery;Klasztor Franciszkanow was founded by Duke Henry the Pious for monks coming from Prague. A single-nave Greek cruciform church was constructed in 1269, a sacristy,side chapels and cloisters being added on later. Wladyslaw Lokietek made a dramatic escape from the monastery in a basket lowered over the city walls. Wladyslaw Jagiello - the pagan Lithuanian chosen by the Poles as their king - was baptised and then crowned here in 1386.Several fires caused the collapse of the tower and destroyed the mediaeval furnishings. The present neo-Gothic interior contains magnificent Art Nouveau stained glass and wall paintings of flowers forming a hymn to St.Francis (in the chapel and transept) by Stanislaw Wyspianski, carried out after the disastrous city fire of 1850. The northern chapel contains Stations of the Cross painted by Jozef Mehoffer(who was strongly influenced by Van Gogh). The remains of Boleslaw the Bashful, Duke of Krakow (who issued the city's foundation charter in 1257), his sister Salome and Piotr Kochanowski are buried in the church. The monastery cloisters contain a gallery of portraits of the Bishops of Krakow. The monastery itself was the home of St. Maximilian Kolbe before his deportation to, and martyrdom at Auschwitz.

The Dominican Church;Kosciol Dominikanow sw. Trojcy (in Pl. Dominikanski) was the site of the original wooden church of the Krakow burghers, dedicated to the Holy Trinity and erected in place of the former pagan temple. In 1222 the Bishop of Krakow, Iwo Odrowaz, at the instigation of his kinsman St.Hyacynth (St.Jacek) installed the Dominicans; their first base in Poland. The basilica with a nave and two aisles was erected in the 13th century - in its construction brick was used for the first time in Krakow - and rebuilt several times; the imposing stepped gable of the east front was added in 1462. There is a beautiful late 14th century stone portal with exceptional filiate and animal carving inside the neo-Gothic vestibule. The 1850 fire ravaged the interior and the vault of the nave. In the chancel is the bronze stele of the humanist scholar Filippo Buonaccorsi (Kallimach) designed by Stwosz, and a copy of the tombstone of Leszek Czarny ("the Black"), Duke of Krakow. The chapel of St.Hyacinth, 1614-18, (at the head of the flight of steps in the north isle) has stucco decoration and contains the tomb of St.Hyacinth by Fontana. The Kaplica Myszkowskich, 1603-14, (fifth chapel in the south aisle) makes striking use of black and white marbles; the busts of the family are in the dome. The next chapel contains a miraculous image of Our Lady of the Rosary; the crypt is the resting place of Teofilia Sobieska - mother of Jan Sobieski. The monastery cloisters with preserved fragments of walls are among the oldest in Krakow.

Continuing down the ul.Grodzka past houses with carved house signs, many of exotic animals; No.32, Podlewe; No.38, Pod Elefanty.


To the left of the Art Nouveau back of the Town Hall is a plaque marking the site of Joseph Conrad's childhood home, No.12. His father, Apollo Korzeniowski, a patriotic poet, had moved to Krakow after his release from exile in Russia.

No.7, the Hebda House;Kamienica Hebdowska, dates from the 14th.century. It is named after its first owner, Archdeacon of Gniezno and Cannon of Krakow. After 1612 it became the residence of the Benedictine abbots of Tyniec.

The group of buildings stretching from Senaka to the Planty is the former St.Michael's Prison;Wiezienie sw.Michala which became the Archeological Museum after the War. Until the 17th.century it was the residence of the Teczynski family and the court of the Abbots of Tyniec. It was converted into a monastery by the Carmelites who were expelled by the Austrians in the 19th.century in order to convert the building into a prison. During WW2 it was a site of Polish martyrdom. The museum (closed Wed. & Sat.) contains collections of prehistoric, Egyptian and ancient Slav objects (including the 7th./8th.century stone monument of Swiatowid).

No.40, the Stadnicki Palace has attractive Rococo plasterwork.


Perhaps the most picturesque in Krakow, the street has well-preserved rows of houses from the 15th. & 16th.centuries. Above almost all the fine entrances are coats of arms which took the place of house numbers.

No.5 was the headquarters of Tadeusz Kantor's Cricot 2 theatre.

No.7 ,Dom Pod Trzema Koronami (1369) has a Renaissance facade and the walls have preserved fragments of Gothic architecture.

No.9 is the Wyspianski Museum, a 14th.century burghers' house, once the home of the 18th.century patriot and reformer, Hugo Kollataj. The museum is dedicated to the key figure of the Mloda Polska movement. Wyspianski was a painter, poet, playwright as well as designer of stained glass (Wed-Sun).

No.15 , the Dom Szreniawa bears the "Szreniawa" coat-of-arms dating from the 16th.century. Inside it has Gothic doorways and an 18th.century Rococo cartouche.

No.17,Dom Zygmuntowski has a doorway with the coat-of-arms of the Jagiellons. On the right hand side of the doorway is a 15th.century Gothic oblique window called a hooper window.

No.18 is a Gothic house rebuilt in the Renaissance style. The doorway was carved in 1570 by Jan Michalowicz of Urzedow. Over the doorway is a cartouche with the coat-of-arms of the Chapter of Krakow and an arcaded courtyard with galleries inside.

No.21, Dom Dziekanski; the Dean's House is a 16th.century Renaissance palace with sgraffito decoration on the facade. Inside is an arcaded quadrangle by Santi Gucci. On the first floor, over the pillars, cartouches with the coats-of-arms of the Bishops of Krakow. In the courtyard stands a Baroque state of St.Stanislaw.

No.25 is the Dom Dlugosza which was, in the 15th.century, a royal bath-house and was later given to the great Polish historian Jan Dlugosz, tutor to the sons of Kazimierz IV Jagiello. Wyspianski's father, Franciszek, had his sculpture workshop here (plaque). On the Wawel side of the house is a 17th.century painting of the Madonna with Child which has traces of bullets dating from the time of the Swedish invasions, and a foundation tablet from the demolished house of psalm singers.

The Collegium Juridicum at No.53 was built at the end of the 14th.century for the Voivode of Kalisz. In 1403 the building was bought by the Krakow Academy for the Faculty of Law. It has a beautiful doorway and arcaded Renaissance courtyard.

The Church of SS.Peter & Paul;Kosciol sw.Piotra i Pawla is the oldest Baroque building in Krakow, built on the site of a Gothic church.Construction was begun in 1596 by Jozef Britius for the Jesuit Order (who were brought to the city to fight the Reformation), and completed by Giovanni Trevano of Lombardy, builder to Zygmunt III Vasa. Built on a cruciform plan, the stone facade is based on Roman models, esp. il Gesu. The interior contains the tomb of the famous preacher, Piotr Skarga (d.1612) who inspired the building of the church, and has stucco decoration by Falconi (1619-33). The row of Apostles in front of the church are copies of the originals damaged by pollution.

Next door is St.Andrew's Church; Kosciol sw.Andrzeja a rare monument of Romanesque architecture left in Malopolska. Founded by Duke Wladyslaw Herman in 1086 to commemorate the birth of his son, Boleslaw Krzywousty, the west front,in white limestone, is dominated by two towers with square bases (the walls are 1.6 m. thick), octagonal upper storeys and Baroque caps (1639). The fortified nature bears witness to the salvation of those Krakovians who sheltered here during the Tartar invasion of 1241. In 1316, a monastery for the order of the Poor Clares was added. The Baroque interior has stucco by Fontana, frescoes by Dankwart, and an elaborate boat pulpit. There is a richly stocked treasury with some of the oldest Christmas crib figures in Europe (14th.century).

St.Martin's Church;Kosciol sw.Marcina ,an e.Baroque church, was built by Giovanni Battista Trevano between 1638-44 and used for Lutheran worship since 1816. The main altar has a painting of Christ Calming the Storm by Siemiradzki and a 14th.century crucifix.

At the end of ul.Grodzka stands the small, e.14th.century Gothic St.Giles' Church;Kosciol sw.Idziego. The stalls and doorframes are made up of fragments of the old shrine of St.Jacek (1581-3) removed from the Dominican church in the 17th century.

Opposite the church is the famous Royal Arsenal, built at the beginning of the 16th.century and now the University Geographical Institute.

The Wawel is the religious, spiritual and patriotic heart of Poland and the most splendid of her castles, the seat of her kings for over 500 years. A drive leads up the limestone hill past the equestrian statue of Kosciuszko (destroyed during the war and reconstructed and given by the city of Dresden) through the Armorial;Herbowa Gateway and left to the Cathedral. Beyond is an open square (cleared by the Austrians to make a parade ground; the excavated remains can be seen) and, by the side of the Cathedral, a passageway to the Castle courtyard. This was the site of a wooden burg between the 6th -10th.centuries. By the end of the 10th.century there were a number of stone buildings here. Around 1000 Boleslaw Chrobry built a cathedral. The Romanesque building was destroyed by fire in 1305 - Wladyslaw Lokietek became the first king to be crowned in Krakow in the burnt-out shell. Kazimierz Wielki built the Gothic castle, new Cathedral and defence walls and towers. The Renaissance residence was created 1507-36. Much damage was done by the Swedes, Russians and Austrians leading to restoration by the Polish Patriotic Society from 1905 onwards.

The Cathedral still has surviving Romanesque fragments including the St.Leonard crypt. The present construction was built between 1320-64. The massive prehistoric bones suspended by chains to the left of the entrance are supposedly the bones of Krakus' dragon (in reality a mammoth's shin, skull of a rhinoceros and rib of a whale); legend has it that when they fall the end of the world will be at hand. The shrine of St.Stanislaw is directly in front as one enters. In front of the shrine are the tombs of Wladyslaw Jagiello (d.1434) in red Hungarian marble, and (symbolically since his body was never recovered) of Wladyslaw Warnenczyk (d.1444). On the northern ambulatory; Wladyslaw Lokietek (d.1333), and access to the Zygmuntowska Tower containing the huge Zygmunt;Sigismund bell (two and a half m in diameter, weighing eleven tonnes) used only on church or national holidays- it takes eleven men to ring it. In the east is the gothic crucifix of Jadwiga where her remains were transferred in 1987 by John Paul II. In the southern aisle are the sarcophagi of Kazimierz Wielki (d.1370) in whose reign the Cathedral was consecrated, and Jadwiga (in white Carrara marble); the Kaplica Zygmuntowska;Sigismund Chapel, 1519-31, built by Berecci, considered the most beautiful renaissance chapel outside Italy and recognisable from outside by its golden dome. On the western aisle is the 15th.century Swietokrzyska Chapel, its walls and vaults covered in Ruthenian paintings by artists from Pskov (an example of the vast territories of the Jagiellonian Dynasty); on the left is the sarcophagus of Kazimierz Jagiello (d.1492) carved in mottled Salzburg marble by Wit Stwosz. The St.Leonard crypt holds the tombs of Kosciuszko, Poniatowski, Pilsudski and Sikorski, Mickiewicz and Slowacki, as well as various monarchs (the altar is by Viollet-le-Duc).

The Royal Castle is a Renaissance building ordered by Zygmunt Stary after the 1499 fire which destroyed the structure put up by Lokietek and Kazimierz Wielki. Built by the Italians Florentczyk and Berrecci. The quadrilateral building has beautiful 3 storey arcades surrounding an inner courtyard and the Italian model has been adapted for functional reasons, esp. the roofing. The state rooms contain splendid Flanders tapestries (136 remain after the looting of centuries)- the most important collection of this sort in the world - and the Audience Hall has the famous heads (1531-5) representing the various strata of society looking down from the ceiling (only 30 out of an original 200 remain). The frieze, The Life of Man, is by Hans Durer (Albrecht's brother who worked in Krakow 1529-34).The Senators' Hall has a collection of tapestries illustrating the story of Noah and the Ark and a 16th.century minstrel's gallery. The castle was last used as a seat of government by Hans Frank, Generalgouverneur, and his deputy, Seyss-Inquart.

The State Art Collections contain Szczerbiec, the jagged sword of Boleslaw Chrobry, damaged on the Golden Gate of Kiev and used as the coronation sword of the Kings of Poland.

The Thieves' Tower;Baszta Zlodziejska (so-called because it was "where malefactors are sent") stands across the open space created by the Austrians for a parade ground; it is one of three Gothic towers on Wawel Hill built by Kazimierz Wielki in the 14th.century (the other two, the Danish Tower and the Zygmunt Tower are actually incorporated into the Castle). Next to the tower is a descent to the Dragon's Lair; a large cave in Wawel Hill on the river-side slope where, in the 16th.-18th.century the fishermen and rafters had their inn. Popular legend has it that this was the den of Krakus' dragon (a fire-breathing statue of him stands at the exit.

It is easy to forget that the city stands on a river - The Vistula;Wisla - Poland's chief river (55.7% lies in her basin)1090km long. In summer boat excursions are organised to Tyniec, Bielany or simply along the river with her views of old fortifications.

Following the path along the river, away from the city and turning, keeping parallel with the fortifications we come to the Sandomierz Tower;Baszta Sandomierska (tradition has it that it served as a prison for gentry from the district of Sandomierz) built c.1467 on a quadrate base. It has seven storeys furnished with holes for fire-arms.

Along the ul.Bernardynska, looking up to the Southern Approach, can be seen the tallest of all the castle towers (over 20m.) the Senatorial Tower;Baszta Senatorska , a huge brick construction built in 1462 by Kazimierz Jagiello.

Opposite the tower stands the Bernadine Monastery;Klasztor Bernardynow. Originally a Gothic church stood here which was destroyed during the Swedish invasion of 1655. The Baroque basilica on a Latin cross plan was built here by Krzysztof Mieroszewski in 1670-80. In the interior is a unique altar and valuable 18th.century paintings. In St.Anne's Chapel there is a 15th.century figure of St.Anne with the Virgin and Child from Wit Stwosz's workshop. On the wall of the left aisle is a 17th.century Dance of Death.


The Church of the Missionaries;Kosciol Misjonarzy is one of the finest, though incomplete, examples of Late baroque in Krakow, built in 1719-28 by Kasper Bazanka. The centrepiece of the facade is based on Bernini's St.Quirale in Rome. The monumental 18th.century painting on the high altar is by Tadeusz Kuntz.


South of the Wawel lies the district of Kazimierz, originally an independent town with its own municipal charter and laws, named after Kazimierz Wielki who founded it in 1335. Thanks to the granting of special privileges the town grew rapidly and soon had a town hall and market square almost as huge as that of Krakow. The decisive influence on the character of Kazimierz was Jan Olbracht's decision, in 1495, to move Krakow's Jewish population into the area (the population had grown rapidly in the 1330s when Kazimierz offered the Jews shelter from persecution in the rest of Europe); it became one of the great centres of European Jewery. In time the town divided into a Jewish quarter to the east and a Christian one to the west separated by a wall. Descriptions of Kazimierz in Polish art and literature make it clear that there was something special about the Oriental atmosphere of the place. In 1939 there were about 70,000 Jews in Krakow; most were exterminated at nearby Auschwitz (the present population is around 600).

Ul.Stradomska becomes ul.Krakowska at ul.Dietla (laid out in 1873 on the site of a filled-in branch of the Wisla and the real boundary between Stradom - a suburb of old Krakow - and Kazimierz).


No.24, the Reformed (or Temple) Synagogue of 1860-62, is occasionally - though rarely - used. The facade is triaxial and has two storeys. The extensive interior has coloured decoration in the women's gallery. The stained glass is decorated with geometrical, plant and animal motifs.


No.40, the Remu'h Synagogue and Cemetery is still used by Krakow's surviving Jews. This is the smallest synagogue in Kazimierz, established in 1553 by Israel Isserles (Zygmunt August's banker, and associated with his son Rabbi Moses Isserles - philosopher and scholar. It is a unique complex of relics of Jewish architecture and sacred art reaching back to the mid.16th.century. The cemetery has Renaissance tombstones discovered during conservation work (some were deliberately buried to prevent desecration during the Swedish wars); it is unique in Europe. The tombstone of Rabbi Moses (1572) is easily recognised by the stones placed on it as a mark of respect. Other tombstones broken up by the Nazis have been collaged together to form a high and dramatic "wailing wall".

No.24, the Old Synagogue, is the oldest synagogue to survive in Europe (after Prague). Built in the second half of the 15th.century, it was rebuilt after a fire in 1557 by Mateo Gucci (at which time it received its Renaissance interior) and again in 1904 &1913 by Zygmunt Hendel. The level of the terrain was lowered to that of the 15th.century in 1923. It was restored (after Nazi destruction) in 1956-59. The interior has two naves and two slender columns holding up sexpartite vaults. In 1794 Kosciuszko appealed from the bimah for aid (the Jews responded patriotically as they did again in 1830 and 1863). The Torah shrine in the wall is original. The building now houses the Jewish Museum (Wed.-Sun).


Corpus Christi Church;Kosciol Bozego Ciala was founded by Kazimierz Wielki in 1340, the first church in Kazimierz and for a long time the main parish church (hence its position at the corner of Kazimierz's main square, pl.Wolnica. The front elevation has a Gothic gable whilst the interior is Baroque with a beautiful high altar (1634-7), massive stalls in the chancel (1624-32) and an 18th.century boat-shaped pulpit (complete with rigging and sirens). St.Anne's Chapel houses the tomb of Berrecci, the creator of the Zygmunt Chapel in the Wawel. The church was used by Charles X Augustus as his headquarters during the Swedish siege of Krakow.


Kazimierz Town Hall, now the Ethnographic Museum (Wed-Sun), was built in the L.14th.century in a vast market square, and remodelled in the Renaissance style in the 16th. Since 1947 it has housed the Ethnological collection (founded in 1905) and, despite Nazi destruction, one of the finest in Poland and only a small part of it is on show; it displays the interiors of traditional peasant houses,folk costumes, religious folk art, and traditional designs for Easter eggs from the various parts of Poland.

Turning back up ul.Krakowska; Ul.Skaleczna:

St.Catherine's Church; Kosciol sw.Katarzyny was founded by Kazimierz Wielki, in 1363 for the Augustinian order but was badly damaged by floods, earthquakes in the 15th. and 18th.centuries and Austrian vandalism. It is one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in Poland with a slender chancel (1345-78) and a basilica of c.1400. The Baroque altar dates from 1634 and the large tomb of the Castellan Spytek Jordan (1603) praised by Vasari for his patronage of the arts. The ceiling bosses spell out "Kazimierz". The gardens are surrounded by high walls - 14th.century remains of the old town of Kazimierz.

At the end of the street, beyond a Rococo gate, stands the Paulite Monastery and the Baroque Church of St.Michael the Archangel and St.Stanislaw "on the Rock" known as "Na Skalce". The first church built on the small limestone outcrop here was in the 11th.century to honour the bishop, Stanislaw, beheaded by Boleslaw Smialy in 1079. The bishop was canonised in 1253 and became the patron saint of Krakow. In the 14th.century a Gothic church was built here and demolished in 1733, being replaced by the present structure designed by Anton Gerhardt Muntzer. It has a high elevation with two towers and a wonderful staircase under which is a crypt; the National Pantheon housing the tombs of Dlugosz (d.1480), Karol Szymanowski (d.1937), Siemiradzki (d.1902) and Wyspianski (d.1907). The "pool" is supposedly the site where St.Stanislaw's finger fell when it was hacked off; the waters have been credited with miraculous healing powers. After their coronation, all new kings came to this site to carry out a solemn ritual of penitence and expiation.