Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow
Wawel is a limestone hill in the centre of Krakow upon the Vistula River with a complex of impressive historical monuments of unique historical and artistic values. This extraordinary sanctuary determines the Poles’ identity, is their national and cultural symbol. Wawel used to be the seat of Polish rulers, their necropolis and place where the Polish history took shape.
The oldest ruler’s seat was established at Wawel in the 1st half of the 11th century during the rule of Boleslav the Brave and Mieszko II. The pre-Romanesque complex of prince’s residence was located in the highest south-east part of the hill. It included the residential building, the palace hall, the building with a corridor (cellar) and the Rotunda of St. Felix and St. Adaukt, the best preserved example of the pre-Romanesque architecture in Malopolska.
In the 2nd half of the 11th century the main building of the Romanesque palace complex, the two-storey hall of 24 pillars was erected. The remains of this structure were discovered under the northern wing of the present palace. The main palace church in the 11th and 12th century was the Romanesque basilica of St. Gereon (St. Mary of Egypt) revealed under the western wing of the palace and the Batory’s Courtyard. Nowadays works are in progress to set up an architectural reserve at that site. The Church of St. Mary of Egypt was a three-aisle building with a transept, an eastern crypt and two towers in the west. It functioned till the end of the 13th century.
In the 14th century the Romanesque palace complex was transformed into a Gothic residence. At the site of the “hall of 24 pillars” a new building was erected probably with three storeys. At the same time the upper castle was encircled with defensive walls. The entrance gate to the palace courtyard (to be later reconstructed) has preserved from that period. During the reign of Casimir the Great (1333-1370) the residential part of the castle was expanded by reconstructing the old buildings and adding new ones. For example, the representative and residential wing with the arcade cloister was erected.
At the end of the 14th century, during the reign of Władyslaw Jagiełło, the great construction campaign covered the south-east corner of the palace. A new residential tower with external tracery decoration (the so-called Danish Tower) was erected. Inside one of the ground floor rooms there is a preserved ribbed vault with keystones presenting the coat of arms of Jagiellons and the House of Anjou (the Jadwiga and Jagiełło’s Room). The arcaded gallery leading formerly to the alleged ‘water tower’ took its final shape. This bay was reconstructed with the recently restored coats of arms: Jagiellon Dynasty, the Eagle and the Pogoń (Chase). Since the 17th century the building has been commonly known as the Hen’s Foot.
The present shape of the palace was determined by the great reconstruction that took place in the years 1506-1534 during the reign of King Sigismund the Old. All the works were directed by Francesco of Florence, sculpture and royal architect. The masonry was conducted under the supervision of Master Eberhard of Koblenz and Benedict. The western and northern wing was erected on the basis of Gothic buildings; the eastern wing had new foundations. On the southern side a wall (curtain) was constructed with cloisters closing the Renaissance courtyard. A group of stone masons led by Bartolommeo Berrecci completed and installed Renaissance details in all parts of the palace. Some of window frames and portals had still the Gothic and Renaissance features. During the residence’s reconstruction the old palace chapels, Chapel of St. Mary of Egypt and Rotund of St. Felix and St. Adaukt, were liquidated.