For many ages on the borders between Western and Eastern Europe Lublin played an important cultural role. Centuries ago, trade and diplomatic activity crossed here; today Lublin is a meeting place of artists, scientists, students and businesspeople. When in 1317 Lublin was granted civic rights, it strengthened its position among the important towns of Poland and Europe. The celebrated Lublin Fairs attracted merchants from the Caucasus and Black Sea regions, Lithuania and the interior of Russia. In 1569 the Lublin Union treaty was signed – binding Poland and Lithuania into a one body state in existence until the end of the 18th century. During this time king Stefan Batory established in Lublin the Crown Tribunal – the gentry’s highest court. In 1918, after almost 130 years of occupation, the Temporary Government of the Republic of Poland was formed in Lublin, giving birth to the modern state, and the Lublin Catholic University (Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski – KUL) was established. One of the most significant social movements of the 20th century – ‘Solidarity’ („Solidarność”) began in Lublin and nearby Świdnik, where, a month before the strikes in Gdańsk and Szczecin, the Lublinian workers demonstrated against the Communist Party.
Under the one roof of the town
Lublin through centuries has given a noble example of tolerance; the town has been inhabited by Jews, the Rusins from Belarusia, Ukraine, Lithuania, the native inhabitants of these lands, Protestants, Catholics and other nationalities. Podzamcze – a district in the Old Town – was the place of residence of the Jews and an international intellectual center of Jewish culture. From 1554 a Jewish printing house functioned here; from 1567, the famous Wisemen Academy; from 1580 the Parliament of the Four Lands (Waad Arba Aracot) – the main Jewish legation of the 1st Republic of Poland, and the rabbi called the Seer of Lublin, the originator of Hasidic mysticism, lived here. During the era of the Reformation (17th century) next to the Catholic parish, Calvinist and Arian temples existed. The religious debates were resolved in the spirit of tolerance and science, the religious wars, which haunted Europe, bypassed Lublin. The Russ community has written an interesting chapter in the town’s history. In 1588 the brotherhood of the Orthodox Church, to which the representatives of famous and influential magnate families belonged, was formed. The Holy Trinity Chapel, decorated with Russian-Byzantine frescos dating back to the beginning of the 15th century, is the visible symbol of their power, as well as the Orthodox Church (on Ruska Street) belonging to the community of the eastern church. In the biggest necropolis in Lublin, Roman-Catholic, Evangelical-Augsburg, and Orthodox cemeteries are placed next to each other. The old Jewish Cemetery is located on Grodzisko Hill. In contemporary Lublin, the openness and friendliness, typical for towns where the elements of different cultures have merged together over the ages, can be felt at every step.
History inscribed in stone
It is worth starting a tour of Lublin at the Trinitarian Tower, with its view of the picturesque Old Town spread over four hills: Czwartek (Thursday), Grodzisko (Old settlement), Zamkowe (Castle) and Staromiejskie (Old-Town). Here you will find a stone defensive tower, the oldest historical site (dating back to the 13th century) and the symbol of the longevity of the town. Lublin Castle, built in the Neogothic style (1828) on the ruins of a former king’s castle, was a prison until 1954 – the place where many thousands of Polish people were murdered during World War II and the years of Stalinist terror - 1948-54. Currently the Castle is occupied by the Lublin Museum. Lublin Old Town is the best preserved Medieval town in Poland. Across an area of 7ha on a hill, there are 100 historic mansions and other important buildings. The way to them is through the Krakovian Gate (14th century), the cultural symbol of Lublin and the seat of the Museum of the History of the Town. In the Old Town Market stands the classical Old Town Hall – once the seat of the Crown Tribunal, surrounded by mansions dating back to the 15th century. Each one of them is a separate history book written on facades, gates, windows, yards and basements. Underneath the Old Town, there is an underground tourist trail, leading through the basements of former merchants’ stores, wine cellars during the various epochs in the development of the town.