Wawel, former seat of the Polish monarchy

Saturday, 8 March 2014 - 01:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  4 minutes

Wawel from the Vistula river © Sharx/cc-by-sa-2.5

Wawel from the Vistula river © Sharx/cc-by-sa-2.5

Wawel is a fortified architectural complex erected over many centuries atop a limestone outcrop on the left bank of the Vistula river in Kraków at an altitude of 228 metres above sea level. The complex consists of many buildings and fortifications; the largest and best known of these are the Royal Castle and the Wawel Cathedral which is the Basilica of St Stanisław and St Wacław). Some of Wawel’s oldest stone buildings, such as the Rotunda of the Virgin Mary can be dated to 970AD. There are also wooden parts of the complex which date to about the 9th century. The castle itself has been described as “one of the most fascinating of all European castles.” Together with the old town of Kraków, Wawel is an UNESCO world heritage site.

From this early period of the Wawel’s history originates the popular and enduring Polish myth of the Wawel dragon. Today, it is commemorated on the lower slopes of the Wawel Hill where by the river, is a modern fire-breathing metal statue of the dragon. The statue is sited in front of Smocza Jama, one of the limestone caves scattered over the hill. The dragon, Smok Wawelski, was a mystical beast which supposedly terrorised the local community, eating their sheep and local virgins, before (according to one version) being heroically slain by Krakus, a Polish prince, who legend relates founded the city of Kraków and built his palace above the slain dragon’s lair. The oldest known literary reference to the Wawel dragon comes from 12th century, in the work by Wincenty Kadłubek.

Wawel Cathedral © Jan Mehlich/cc-by-sa-2.5 Today, the Wawel is both a place of national pilgrimage and a popular tourist destination © Jongleur100 Wawel, seen from Kopiec Krakusa © RaNo/cc-by-sa-3.0 Wawel from the Vistula river © Sharx/cc-by-sa-2.5 © Arkadiusz Frankowicz/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Jakub Hałun/cc-by-sa-3.0 Fortress Wawel © Hstoffels Fortress Wawel Courtyard © Leif Arne Storset
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Today, the Wawel is both a place of national pilgrimage and a popular tourist destination © Jongleur100
Wawel is a place of great significance to the Polish people: it first became a political power centre at the end of the first millennium AD and in the 9th century, the principal fortified castrum of the Vistulans tribe. The first historical ruler Mieszko I of Poland (965–992) of the Piast dynasty and his successors: Boleslaw I the Brave (992–1025) and Mieszko II (1025–1034) chose Wawel to be one of their residences. At the same time Wawel became one of the principal Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque buildings were erected there including a stone cathedral serving the bishopric of Kraków in the year 1000. From the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034–1058) Wawel became the leading political and administrative centre for the Polish State.

Until 1611, the Wawel was the formal seat of the Polish monarchy; this was because Kraków was the capital of Poland from 1038 to 1569 and of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569 to 1596. Later, it became the Free City of Kraków from 1815 to 1846; the Grand Duchy of Cracow from 1846 to 1918; and Kraków Voivodeship from the 14th century to 1999. It is now the capital of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship. Therefore the fortress-like Wawel complex which visually dominates the city has often been viewed as seat of power. Wawel Cathedral was not only a place of coronation for the Kings of Poland, but also their mausoleum. Later, it became a national pantheon.

Read more on Wawel Museum and Wikipedia Wawel (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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