Cloth Hall

Rynek Główny 1.03.2016, Kraków

The first stone building erected in the square after the city had received its charter in 1257 stood in the place where the Cloth Hall is situated. The traces of this building are preserved in the basement. In the second half of the 14th century, the city builder, Marcin Lindintolde, erected a roofed brick hall supported by buttresses in the middle of the Main Market Square, destined for cloth trade. Based on the freedom granted by Casimir III the Great, merchants could only sell their own goods, and only inside the hall. The building was filled with stalls. Outside, parallel to the Cloth Hall, on the side of Szewska Street, stood a row of shoemaker's and tanner's macella. Opposite, on the side of Sienna Street, a vast space was occupied by two rows of 64 market stalls selling exclusive goods of all kinds. This Gothic building went up in flames in the great fire of 1555. The reconstruction lasted until 1559 and gave the Cloth Hall a Renaissance feel, making it one of the most magnificent examples of the Renaissance style in Kraków. The Gothic hall was divided half way up by a barrel vault, and the new floor was supposed to contain a second hall, where miscellaneous goods were sold, called schmetterhaus. It was accessed by indoor stairs with loggias, situated on the shorter sides of the building. The main architectonic element of the structure was an arcade attic designed by Giovanni Maria Padovano, which masked the sunken roof. The attic was topped with a fancy parapet with Mannerist mascarons, probably designed by Santi Gucci. Over years, the Cloth Hall stood untouched and its shine gradually faded. Pictures taken in the 19th century depicted a dilapidated building surrounded by adjoining wooden shacks – hardly the gem of Renaissance it used to be. In that form, it survived until its renovation and reconstruction led by Tomasz Pryliński between 1875 and 1879. He rebuilt the Gothic arches of the arcade, which since then has been housing exquisite shops and cafés. The building's gas lighting that is still operational today constitutes a technical curiosity from that period. After the renovation, the first floor of the structure housed a gallery of Polish painting, the origin of the National Museum, which was opened in the same halls in 1883. It is worth noticing the Art Nouveau interior of Jan Noworolski's café, with Józef Mehoffer and Henryk Uziembła's polychromy. The passageway located on the shorter axis of the building (called "the cross") features a large iron knife dangling on a chain, the former sign of the Magdeburg Law, which served as a remainder that thieves were punished by cutting off their ear. There is a legend associated with the knife. It tells the story of the two brothers who built the towers of St. Mary's Basillica. When one of them realised that his tower could not be as tall as the other due to weak foundations, he killed his brother with that very knife out of envy. However, the pangs of conscience led to his death as the killer ended his life by jumping from the tower he had built.
Date: 2013-06-06 Show ticket
News author: Weronika Dulowska
News Publisher: Portal główny EN
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