Łódź - a city full of creative energy
Łódź, the largest city in Poland, aside from Warsaw, is a cultural phenomenon and a fascinating place inhabited by distinguished artists, scientists and industrialists. It is a modern city deeply rooted in tradition. A city of the multicultural heritage of Poles, Germans, Jews and Russians. A city of the industrial revolution, of the steam engine and the electrical era. It is the city housing the world-famous Modern Art Museum (Muzeum Sztuki Współczesnej) and the Lodz Film School (Łódzka Szkoła Filmowa). Łódź – a city of creative energy, vibrating with the pulse of our modern era.
A dialogue of four cultures
From the 19th century Łódź has been the Promised Land for many nations: Poles, Germans, Jews and Russians. Among them were many great industrialists, merchants, bankers, architects and writers who created a modern city and its culture. The Jewish community at the turn of the 20th century was estimated at two hundred thousand and in that number there were the great industrialists - Izrael Kalmanowicz Poznański, musicians - Artur Rubinstein and Aleksander Tansman, the distinguished architect - Dawid Lande and a master of poetry - Julian Tuwim. The Shoah, the darkest episode in the history of Europe, took the lives of all the members of the Jewish community in Łódź. The way of death led from the ghetto in Łódź, (called Litzmannstadt by the Germans), to the Nazi death camps in Oświęcim (Auschwitz) and Chełmno (Kulmhof). The remaining material symbols of the Jewish culture, the inherent parts of the cultural landscape of Łódź are historic buildings such as the centre of the Jewish community (no. 18, Pomorska Street), the Reicher synagogue (no. 28, Rewolucji 1905 Street) and the biggest necropolis in Europe covering an area of 4100 acres (no. 40, Bracka Street) where one hundred and sixty thousand graves and seventy thousand Jewish headstones, masebhas, are preserved. In the 1830’s German weavers and cloth makers came to Łódź in great numbers; the German industrial culture played a significant role in the development of the city. It has left priceless reminders of technical and urban history: factories and the haughty residences of the manufacturers, power and communication machinery, historic tenements, three Evangelical churches, theatres, schools and the cemetery next to Ogrodowa Street. The powerful textile empires created by industrialists of German origin, Scheibler, Geyer, Grohman and Heinzel, have survived to this day and are used as the foundations of various institutions. The over one hundred-year-old presence of Russians in Łódź is related to the time when Poland did not exist as a nation and the city, paradoxically, had its moment of dynamic development. The remnants of that Russian culture are the Eastern Orthodox Churches, chapels, the headquarters of governing bodies and examples of sepulcher art in Łódź cemeteries. The most significant trace of those times is the St. Alexander Nevsky’s Eastern Orthodox Cathedral (Kilińskiego Street). Built in the neo-Byznatine style on an octagon plan, the church houses a magnificent iconostas. The Festival of the Four Cultures, held annually in September, reflects this multicultural heritage of Łódź.
City within the city
The old textile districts illustrate the power and the investing momentum of those outstanding industrialists. In Tymienieckiego Street stands the oldest industrial plant in the city called Kopisch’s Bleachery (Bielnik Kopischa) (1826), and next to Piotrkowska Street is Ludwik Geyer’s White Factory (Biała Fabryka Ludwika Geyera), inside which the first steam powered engines were installed and used. Nowadays the building houses the Textile Museum (Muzeum Włókiennictwa) and the International Fabric Triennial (Międzynarodowe Triennale Tkaniny) – the most important of its kind in the world. One of the most interesting monuments of the industrial age in Łódź is Księży Młyn, built by Scheibler in the 1870’s. This city within a city, connected by a private railway network is comprised of residential houses, factory buildings, spinning mills, warehouses, workers’ houses, a hospital, a school, shops, a sports park and a power station. The massive red brick walls, mighty towers, monumental gates and chimneys are the symbols of the 19th century’s Industrial Revolution - Księżny Młyn remains one of the magnificent monuments to European industrial culture.
Pearls of European Art Nouveau
Leopold Kindermann’s villa built in the Art Nouveau style (Wólczańska Street) is the most beautiful example of this style in Poland. The picturesque, asymmetric block of the building topped by a high roof is finely encrusted with floral and figural motifs and stained-glass windows. Equally intriguing, surprising by the lightness of its form and stylistic elegance, is the Art Nouveau house (built in 1909) at no. 100 Piotrkowska Street (the famous Esplanada restaurant) distinguishing itself with its fine ornamentation and artistic, hand-wrought balustrades. Equally beautiful is Reinhold Richter’s villa (no. 6 Skorupki Street) worth seeing for the ornamentation of its front elevation. Łódź is a particular encyclopedia of the Art Nouveau style in its different functional variants: villas, governmental buildings, factories and outbuildings. The old Łódź necropolis contains many Art Nouveau tombstones and sculptures.