Wawel: the hill and Royal Castle

Zamek Wawel, Kraków

The oldest traces of human presence on the hill date back to 100,000 years BC. Numerous later finds are undoubtedly connected with a permanent settlement. In all probability, the gord that stood on the Wawel Hill in the 9th century was the seat of the ruling prince, and the centre of the tribal state of the Vistulans. After Małopolska's incorporation into the Piast state (around 990), the gord became one of the main centres of power. The castle was built when Kraków became the main seat of Polish rulers between the 11th and 12th centuries. At the beginning of the 14th century, it was thoroughly expanded by Władysław I the Elbow-high. Among the structures built at that time was the residential tower, known as Łokietkowa, reconstructed and extended by King Casimir the Great (Kazimierz Wielki) who erected the stylish projection encircled with impressive buttresses called the Hen's Foot. During the reign of Jadwiga, an opulent tower was built in its vicinity; it later received the name Danish, as Eric, the King of Denmark, stayed there during his official visit in Kraków. The castle survived in this form until 1499, when it was consumed by a fire. A major refurbishment of the castle in the Renaissance style began in 1504 under Aleksander Jagiellończyk and continued into the reign of Sigismund the Old. Most of the works were conducted by the Italian architect Bartolommeo Berrecci. The former mediaeval castle turned into an impressive palace-like residence with a most imposing arcaded courtyard without losing its defensive role. After the fire of 1595, King Sigismund III Vasa moved his court to Warsaw, and left Kraków for good in 1609. Although work on the construction of the castle was continued after the conflagration, the slow decline from its heyday was already being felt. During the Swedish invasion (1655-1657), the castle was pillaged of virtually everything. The following centuries increased its degradation, which was finally sealed when the former royal seat was converted into Austrian military barracks. The castle was not successfully reclaimed until 1905. It gradually had its former splendour returned. Work on this task proceeded particularly rapidly after Poland regained independence in 1918. At the time, the precious objects and works of art carried away from Poland by the invaders during the Partitions and the First World War were returned to the castle, only to be taken away again in 1939. During the Second World War the castle was the seat of Governor General Hans Frank. Today, it houses several different exhibitions, such as magnificent Royal Chambers, Private Apartments as well as the Treasury and Armoury.
Date: 2013-06-07 Show ticket
News author: Weronika Dulowska
News Publisher: Portal główny EN
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