Urząd Miasta Krakowa
Wydział Kultury i Dziedzictwa Narodowego
ul. Wielopole 17A , 31–072 Kraków
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Early modern period

by Kraków Heritage team
Early modern period Early modern period
The Union of Lublin sealed the fate of Krakow, which was gradually losing political importance to Warsaw. However, its symbolic significance remained great and influenced the further development of the city.

Starting in the second half of the 16th century, Krakow gradually lost its political importance: Sigismund II Augustus left Wawel in 1559 and never returned there; the unification of the Crown of the Polish Kingdom with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania resulting from the Union of Lublin (1569) sealed the city’s marginalisation.

Although it was in Krakow that the idea of union with Lithuania was born, the new state organism and the challenges it faced also required a new capital: for practical reasons, it was much easier to organise sejms (assemblies) in Warsaw with its central location; the same applied to military campaigns to the north, which had its significance in the era of the Livonian Wars. However, moving Sigismund III Vasa’s court to Warsaw didn’t bring Krakow immediate and complete decline and deterioration: the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries was a time of development for the city as a capital on the periphery.


The period of Sigismund III’s reign was also, unfortunately, a moment of breaking with the Jagiellonian principle of religious tolerance: following the ultra-Catholic king’s approval, Protestant churches in Krakow were destroyed. The Evangelical church at St John’s Street in Krakow, known as the ‘hay barn because of its soaring roof, was opened in 1572, but as Calvinist chronicler Wojciech Węgierski wrote, it was like a salt in the eyes of the enemies of God’s saving truth and was ransacked and toppled during the riots two years later. Whatever trace of the building remained was completely destroyed in May 1591.

Fires kept ravaging the city. As late as in 1555, the Cloth Hall has to be rebuilt after burning down. Italian masters Giovanni Maria Padovano and Santi Gucci gave it a Renaissance touch, decorating it with columned lodges and an attic accented with gargoyles. In the early 17th century, the passage was cut across the Cloth Hall that’s still in existence today. However, the Baroque was already looming large.

The royal architect Giovanni Battista Trevano, a native of Lugano, was responsible for rebuilding Wawel Castle after the 1595 fire in the spirit of early Roman Baroque. Trevano designed, among other things, the representative Senators’ Staircase (also known as the Royal Staircase). He also directed the reconstruction of the Royal Palace in Łobzów, near Kraków, which thanks to him was given a Baroque shape. Perhaps his best-known project is the Church of Saint Apostles Peter and Paul at the Grodzka Street inspired by the Roman Il Gesù. Trevano designed its façade and dome as well as the church’s interior.


The most important church and state ceremonies continued to take place uninterruptedly in Krakow up to 1637, when the first wife of Ladislaus IV was crowned queen in Warsaw. As written by Professor Jacek Purchla: the role of the ruler and royal court, who abandoned Wawel, was taken over in the 17th century by the hosts of Wawel Cathedral. This resulted in a flourishing of Baroque sacred art, created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini, the outstanding Italian artists of the Carlo Maderna school.

One of the lasting vestiges of the flowering of Italian art and architecture is the University Collegiate Church of St Anne, modelled by the architect Tylman of Gameren on the Basilica of St Andrew della Valle in Rome – its interior was designed by the great Balthasar Fontana. The collegiate church is a quintessential example of Roman Baroque architecture in Krakow; it quickly became an important centre of religious worship and was even referred to as the ‘second Rome’.


The time of relative prosperity lasted until the mid-17th century, when the city was occupied by the Swedish army after a three-week siege during which the suburbs were burnt down and the Kazimierz district was plundered. As historian Jan M. Małecki wrote, the occupation lasted two years and was very severe: the city was levied with an enormous tribute payment, while private houses, churches, treasuries and cathedral were plundered. After the end of the Swedish Deluge, the state of Krakow was miserable: entire districts were left in ruins, the water supply system that had been in operation since the Middle Ages was destroyed, and the city’s population fell significantly, numbering only around 10,000 residents at the beginning of the 18th century, i.e., two-thirds the size of what it had been a century earlier. In addition, from the mid-17th century on, Krakow was ravaged by recurring epidemics.

The symbolic nail in the city’s coffin was the coronation of Stanisław Leszczyński (1705), the first that took place outside Krakow since the 14th century. Reconstruction of Wawel Castle, destroyed during the Northern War, did not begin until 1731. Attempts to recover from the crisis were few. Two sacred buildings in the Kazimierz district are artistic traces of these times: the church of Sts Michelangelo and Stanislaus in Skałka, rebuilt in the Baroque style, and the nearby Church of the Brothers Hospitallers.


As a result of the first partition of Poland in 1772, Krakow became a border town. Its decline was exacerbated by the appearance of a rival urban centre, Podgórze, established by the Austrians on the right bank of the Vistula. There were, however, some unexpected upsides to the crisis: as explained by Professor Purchla: the interrupted development perpetuated the medieval shape of the city, which made Krakow retain its unique Gothic-Renaissance character. This situation continued during the 1768–1771 Russian occupation.

In the second half of the 18th century, Krakow reached the limits of its decline. The city remained within its medieval walls, while Kazimierz, plundered by wars, was haunting with its ruins for a long time. The Austrian invader decided to locate a rival city on the other bank of the river. Various options for this investment were considered – including the plan of the Austrian engineer, Karl de Hoefern, shown in the reproduction. The city in question – Podgórze – was eventually built a little further west compared to the vision presented here. Today, it’s one of Krakow’s districts with the most distinct history and identity.

The Enlightenment reforms of King Stanisław August Poniatowski, who visited Krakow only once during his reign, resonated here less than in other parts of the Kingdom; according to Professor Małecki, the only major change inspired by the new spirit was the reform of Krakow Academy carried out by Hugo Kołłątaj.

After the adoption of the 3rd May Constitution, the Russian army entered the city again, and the last Sejm (assembly) of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, sitting in Grodno (Hrodna), referred in its resolutions to Warsaw as the capital city. Krakow had formally lost its political significance, but unexpectedly, thanks to its border location, it became the cradle of the first independence uprising: it was on the Krakow’s Main Market Square, on 24 March 1794, that General Tadeusz Kościuszko declared the outbreak of an uprising and, as supreme head of the armed forces, took the oath of office for the entire Polish nation.

Our Great Ones'. Meeting about Marian Kornecki and the protection of wooden architecture in Malopolska

Our Great Ones’. Meeting about Marian Kornecki and the protection of wooden architecture in Malopolska

by Kraków Heritage team
We kindly invite you to a meeting dedicated to the memory of Dr Marian Kornecki (1924-2001), an outstanding art expert, defender and populariser of wooden architecture. It will take place on 22 April 2024 (Monday) at 6 p.m. in the Karolina Lanckorońska Hall at the Jagiellonian University Institute of Art History (53 Grodzka Street). The meeting will be enriched by the screening of fragments of archival films unknown to a wider audience.
Ceremonial march of Jagiellonian University professors on the list of intangible cultural heritage

Ceremonial march of Jagiellonian University professors on the list of intangible cultural heritage

by Kraków Heritage team
The ceremonial march of Jagiellonian University professors inaugurating the academic year has been added to the list of intangible cultural heritage. This is yet another entry from the capital of Malopolska after the Cracovian nativity scene, the Krakow bobbin lace, the Lajkonik parade and Polish national dances – and proof of the strength and vitality of Cracovian traditions.
I see you, Kraków!

I see you, Kraków!

by Kraków Heritage team
On the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the inscription of Krakow on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which falls this year, the City of Krakow, in cooperation with the International Cultural Centre, has prepared a unique, bilingual publication in which specialists and enthusiasts involved in the heritage of the city under Wawel Hill play the role of “collective narrator”.
The Future of the Past. How Krakow celebrates 45th anniversary of its inscription on the World Heritage List?

The Future of the Past. How Krakow celebrates 45th anniversary of its inscription on the World Heritage List?

by Krzysztof Żwirski
The 45th anniversary of Kraków being listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites is the perfect opportunity to look back at how far our city has travelled since 1978. It also allows us to answer the question whether present-day Kraków is as ambitiously self-aware as it was almost half a century ago.

“Black Art” – 550 years of printing in Poland

by Krzysztof Żwirski
In 1844, while moving one of the bookcases in the Jagiellonian Library, an inconspicuous sheet of paper slipped to the ground. Densely printed on one side in Gothic characters, it turned out to be the oldest known print in Poland.
A city re-written, or The Krakow Modernism Route

A city re-written, or The Krakow Modernism Route

by Krzysztof Żwirski
“A Guide to the Architecture of 20th Century Krakow” can be understood as an invitation to discover “our own” Krakow. The one outside the tourist brochures, where the daily life of its inhabitants actually takes place.
Conservation of the Veit Stoss Altarpiece with Europa Nostra Award 2023!

Conservation of the Veit Stoss Altarpiece with Europa Nostra Award 2023!

by Kraków Heritage team
The European Commission and Europa Nostra today announced the winners of the European Heritage Award / Europa Nostra Award 2023. This year, 30 exceptional heritage achievements from a total of 21 countries were honoured with this highest European award. This year’s laureates in the Conservation category include the Veit Stoss Altarpiece at St Mary’s Basilica in Krakow.
Through Krakow to Central Europe

Through Krakow to Central Europe

by Krzysztof Żwirski
There is much more than a geographical fact hidden in the simple observation that Krakow is a similar distance from Warsaw as it is from three other Central European capitals – Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava.

No, this is not all there is to say about Krakow. Heritage is an open-ended collection – it’s up to us to fill it with meaning!

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