Walwel Castle
(click on pictures to enlarge)

     

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Barbican wall
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Wawel Castle
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Monument by the castle
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Aerial photos of the castle
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Another aerial photo
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And one more

 

History of Wawel Castle

From the dawn of Polish history Wawel Hill in Cracow was a center of secular and ecclesiastical power. The establishment in 1000 of the bishopric of Cracow was soon followed by the construction on Wawel of the first cathedral. The Wawel castle functioned as the residence of the Polish rulers from the mid-11th to the early 17th century. The present structure incorporates Romanesque fragments and considerable Gothic parts, but it acquired its present form mainly in the period c. 1504-1535, during the reign of the kings Alexander (1501-1506) and Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) of the Jagiellonian dynasty. The construction of the Renaissance castle was begun by Master Eberhard Rosemberger - responsible for the actual building - and Francesco the Florentine, who executed decorative stone elements and the arcaded galleries. Their work was continued by Master Benedykt and another Florentine, Bartolomeo Berrecci. Those artists created together one of the most stately monuments of Renaissance architecture in Europe.

At the turn of the 16th century some of the castle rooms were refashioned in the early Baroque style. Those rooms received marble architraves and fireplaces as well as ceilings with paintings in gilded frames. After King Sigismund III left Cracow in 1609, Wawel in fact lost its function of a royal residence and its gradual decline began.

Following the third partition of Poland in 1795, the former royal castle was converted into Austrian army barracks for the greater part of the 19th century. The army did not leave Wawel until 1905; it was then possible to start conservation work aimed at restoring to the monument its historical qualities. The year 1930 saw the formal establishment of the Wawel museum as a department of the State Art Collections. At the same time the castle functioned as an official residence of the president of Poland.

During the Second World War Wawel was the seat of the occupation authorities of the Government General and residence of Hans Frank. Almost immediately after the liberation of the country the museum was revived, acquiring a form similar to the present one in the 1960s. The year 1992 marked the commencement of large-scale repairs and conservation work in the Royal Castle and the nearby Cathedral, which are to prepare Wawel for the celebrations of the millennium of the Bishopric of Cracow in 2000.

Today the Wawel Royal Castle is a museum - a historical residence in character - additionally including some specialized exhibitions.
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