Friday Photo: the Civic Pride of Mediaeval Krakow

Today’s Friday Photo depicts two surviving mediaeval structures from Rynek Glowny, the main market square of the city of Krakow. Established in the same charter which determined the plan of the city in 1257, the square served as the centre of not only commercial activity, but also civic identity. This can be seen in the tower to the left, all that remains of the town hall, first built in the 13th century, that dominated the square. Just alongside is the Sukiennice, or Cloth Hall. During the later Middle Ages, Europe’s cities experienced rapid growth, which in turn fostered new social hierarchies and relationships. In towns, civic institutions were created, both to regulate and promote the goods produced by the artisan guilds. This relationship between economics and urban governance points to the role of trade in fuelling the creation of cities through charters, and is perfectly expressed in the proximity of these two buildings. Today, however, they survive in slightly altered form. The Cloth Hall’s interior is still devoted to retail, but its appearance was altered by successive renovations from the Renaissance onward, while the town hall’s tower was restored following WWII and now houses cultural events.

4 thoughts on “Friday Photo: the Civic Pride of Mediaeval Krakow

  1. This is really a fine picture. I love the innovative decorative brickwork on the tower, but the whole ensemble is fascinating. I’d like to find a photo showing how this scene looked after the damage of WWII, to compare it with how beautifully it has all been restored.

    • Thanks! I thought all of the architecture in Krakow was fantastic, but the town hall tower is one of the most eye-catching.

      From what I’ve gleaned, it seems as if most of Krakow’s built heritage escaped the war relatively unscathed (not so the population, sadly.) Given that, I would guess that the restoration was to strengthen and to prettyify, rather than to outright rebuild, but since I had no luck finding historic pictures online, that’s just a guess. Some of the features, like the dome, were certainly added after the first phase of construction, though.

  2. I can’t find any photos of WWII destruction in Krakow, but I’m hoping you’ll create a post sometime on medieval Danzig, which had some fantastic buildings and a glorious history. Here’s a quote from a tremendously illustrated book I came across years ago: ‘Perhaps no city of Europe had preserved its medieval aspect to such a degree as Danzig, where picturesquely gabled houses and winding streets clustered around the massive pile of St. Mary’s Church…Almost the whole of Danzig, together with its principal monuments, was completely destroyed.’ (Lost Treasures of Europe, B.T. Batsford LTD, London, 1946).

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