WALK 3: The Wawel Castle

Address:
Zamek Wawel, Kraków

Wawel Hill was the centre of power: originally ducal, later ecclesiastical (bishop’s)and royal. Yetthe first traces of human presence on Wawel Hill are several tens of thousands years old: the cracked limestone rock overlooking the river provided perfect shelter. Legend speaks of a dragon nestling at its foot, which was only conquered with the ingenuity of a shoemaker’s apprentice (although other versions of the legend believe him to be a prince’s son). That tale is commemorated in the monument of the dragon standing at the entrance to the Dragon’s Den between Wawel Hill and the Vistula River. As the sculpture is connected to the gas mains, the beast breathes real fire.

A look at the city plan lets you see that the area within the castle walls is comparable with that of the Main Market Square. A visit to the complex of castle and sacred buildings on top of the hill is a de rigueur element in all tours. Usually the hill is reached from the end of Kanonicza Street: one of the oldest and most beautiful streets of Kraków. Hardly changing for centuries, it is still very much alive. Waiting for you up on the hill, in the castle interiors, are exhibitions that simply have to be visited: the royal chambers, a collection of Eastern art and military trophies, a unique corpus of Flemish tapestries, as well as archaeological findsproving over a millennium of presence of Christianity on Polish territory.

The Cathedral is worth a visit too. This is the place where the kings of Poland were not only crowned but also where their bodies were deposited after their deaths. Nearly all the Polish kings and many members of royal families have been buried in the Cathedral, among them bishops of Kraków, somepolitical leaders and commanders and – which is quite unique – poets. Standing in the centre of the main nave is the Altar with the Sarcophagus of St Stanislaus: the altar with the relics of the bishop. The Sigismund Bell is suspended in Zygmuntowska Tower, one of three that the cathedral possesses. It only rings at the moments most crucial for the Polish nation and church.

Even if a visit to the Wawel interiors proves impossible, it does make sense to walk between the castle walls and take a closer look at the Cathedral and the beautiful courtyards (especially the impressive Renaissance arcaded courtyard), gazingdown from the ramparts at the Vistula at the foot of the hill and the modern buildings of ICE Kraków Congress Centre and Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology on the other side of the river.

Date: 2013-06-06 Show ticket
News author: Weronika Dulowska
News Publisher: Portal główny EN
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