Main Market Square

Rynek Główny, Kraków

The layout of the enormous Main Market Square was drawn up when the town received urban charter according to the Magdeburg Law in 1257. It was established at an intersection of the old trade routes, on a square measuring little over 200 by 200 metres. The Polish name Rynek (“Ring”) appeared for the first time around 1300. However, it was given its official name (Rynek Główny) in 1882, during the unification of the nomenclature of the streets and squares. The square was drawn up with the use of the checker board layout, characteristic of mediaeval cities. There were three streets leading from each frontage of the square, except for Grodzka Street, which replaced the old trade route in the close vicinity of St. Adalbert's Church and was given a diagonal and widened shape. Other asymmetries were also necessary. They resulted from the location of such pre-charter buildings as St. Mary's Basilica and St. Adalbert's Church. They were also taken into consideration when drawing up the direction of individual streets. The best example is Bracka Street, which took the shape of an arch so that it led straight to the entrance of Franciscan Church. Even when considering all irregularities, the layout of the location was distinguished by simplicity and practicality. The Main Market Square constituted the most important public space. This modern centre met all fundamental requirements of the townsfolk concerning the city's function (seat of the authorities in the town hall), trade and economy (Cloth Hall) and religion (St. Mary's Parish Church). Throughout the next centuries, the surface of the Main Market Square was gradually developed. It was mostly occupied by stalls, divided into individual commercial squares. Thus, there was a salt market, coal market, chicken market and lead market, barrel market and so on, all separate from one another. The development was chaotic, devoid of greater value and did not bring any glory to the Market Square. When the self-government initiated its plan to introduce order into the whole city in the 19th century, the main square became one of its priorities. Between 1868 and 1879, a number of facilities were pulled down, including stalls and outbuildings around the Cloth Hall (with simultaneous reconstruction of its edifice) as well as the buildings of the Small Weigh House and the Great Weigh House. Some time before (1820), the town hall that was standing at the level of Szewska Street was pulled down and only its tower remained. In 1898, the statue of Adam Mickiewicz was unveiled. Thus, the Main Market Square obtained an image resembling its present look. Since its beginning, the Main Market Square has served as the centre of the social and political life that often went beyond the city limits. It was the site of the most important historical events. In 1525, it was the site of the homage pledged by Albert of Prussia to King Sigismund I the Old (an event of great political importance, which ended the 300-year period of conflicts and wars with the Teutonic Order; Albert of Prussia transformed the monastic state into a secular principality subject to the Polish king). It was also the site of the official initiation of the Kościuszko Uprising in 1794. In 1809, Józef Poniatowski officially rode into the city at the head of the army of the Duchy of Warsaw, which coincided with a great patriotic manifestation at the Market Square. In most recent times, in May 1981, it was the site of a special silent demonstration called the White March, a spontaneous protest after the attempted assassination of John Paul II. The distinctness of the Main Market Square is further augmented by annual events organised here for decades (and sometimes for centuries), connected with local traditions (procession of Lajkonik with a group of musicians, nativity scene competition, organised since 1937 on the steps of the statue of Adam Mickiewicz, or the enthronement of the Rooster King).
Date: 2013-06-06 Show ticket
News author: Weronika Dulowska
News Publisher: Portal główny EN
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