Formerly seat of the city council, one of the most valuable Renaissance architecture monuments in central Europe




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Palaces and Townhouses.
Town Hall

Formerly seat of the city council, one of the most valuable Renaissance architecture monuments in central Europe.

The earliest mention about it dates back to 1310. It must have been erected shortly before that, at the turn of the 13th century. Evidence of that is a keystone preserved in the cellar that bears the coat of arms of the Przemyślid dynasty, represented on the Polish throne from 1300 to 1306 by Waclaw II. The Gothic town hall was at first an unimposing two - storey building and the tall tower was most probably not built until the early 16th century.

Between 1550 and 1567 the town hall was reconstructed in the Renaissance style by the Italian architect Giovanni Batista Quadro of Lugano. The building was extended to the west and raised by one floor, its roofs were hidden behind attic storeys and its facade decorated with a three - storey loggia. In 1675 the tower was struck by lightning and destroyed. It was rebuilt in 1690, but in 1725 it was felled again, this time by gale force winds.

The new classicist cupola with an eagle was mounted on the tower only during the general renovation of the building, carried out in the years 1781-84 under the auspices of the Good Order Committee. During the next renovation between 1910 and 1913 an extra storey was added. In 1945 the town hall suffered serious damage: the cupola of the tower came down and the top two floors were completely burnt.

The most valuable interiors on the first floor were saved from fire by the city custodian, Józef Jóźwiak. During the reconstruction, which lasted until 1954, the extra storey added at the beginning of the century was demolished. In 1994 the work on general renovation of the town hall was started.

The town hall elevations are consistent in their Renaissance character. The only evidence of the building's Gothic past is the brick fragment of the tower dating back to the early 16th century. The classicist cupola was restored to its form from the end of the 18th century. Perched on its top is an original eagle from 1783. It is 1.8 metres high and has a wingspan of 2 metres.

But the building's most attractive feature is its front elevation with its colonnaded three - storey loggia and the three turrets above it. The medallions between the first and the second floor portray heads of wise men and heroes of antiquity. The attic storey features heads of the Polish kings from the Jagiellonian dynasty. Pictures of the kings from the Piast dynasty, designed by Zbigniew Bednarowicz, started to be posted below the side turrets.

In the centre turret, under the clock, there is a cartouche with the initials of king Stanislaus Augustus. Right above the clock there is a small ledge where every day at noon a pair of billy goats appears.
The oldest part of the building is the early - Gothic cellars with their groined - rib vaulting. The most interesting rooms are on the first floor. The Great Hall (also known as the Renascence Room) boasts one of the most beautiful Renaissance interiors in Poland. It has richly decorated coffered sail vaulting that rests on two pillars. Inside one of the ceiling coffers is the coat of arms of Poznań. In the room's west wall there are two late - Gothic portals from 1508. The Royal Room, with barrel vaulting with lunettes, was where the city council used to convene. Its name, which originated in the 17th century, comes from the royal portraits that hang on its walls. The Renaissance fireplace from 1541 was transferred here from the Municipal Scales building, which was being demolished at that time. The Court Room has Renaissance ceiling from the middle of the 16th century; the polychromy that adorns it dates back to different periods, from the 16th to the 19th century. Inside the room stands a statue of king Stanislaus Augustus made in 1791 most probably by Augustin Schöps. The rooms on the second floor have Renaissance ceilings that were restored after WWII. The town hall houses the Poznań History Museum.

Imperial Castle
The monumental edifice that used to be a residence of the German emperor was built in the years 1904-1910 according to a design by Franz Schwechten, who apparently took on board many suggestions from Kaiser Wilhelm II himself. The castle was a pivotal element of "the castle district" projected as a visiting card of the city and testifying to its supposedly German origins.

The architecture of this neo - Romanesque, multipartite structure harks back to medieval castles, and its individual parts are modelled on Romanesque monuments in Germany and Italy. Most of the designs of the dressed - stone elevation and the interiors were made by Gotthold Riegelmann.

The whole structure is dominated by the tower with a clock, originally 74 metres high. Inside it a chapel was made in 1913. It was designed by August Oetken and modelled on the famous Capella Palatina in Palermo. In the east part of the edifice there was a magnificent throne chamber. Emperor Wilhelm II stayed here twice: first at the inauguration in 1910 and then in 1913.

In the years between the wars the castle was a residence of the Polish President and a part of it was used by the Poznań University. During the German occupation the edifice was rebuilt as a Hitler's official residence; it was then that the showy entrance from Święty Marcin Street was added. Also the tower chapel was closed and a small balcony built on the south wall.

The castle was so badly damaged in 1945 that some cogitated that it should be demolished. In the end it was rebuilt, but without restoring some elements of its external decorations. In addition, the tower destroyed during the wartime fighting was made some 20 metres lower.

Today the castle is run by a cultural entity, Centrum Kultury "Zamek". It also houses other institutions, such as the Animation Theatre and a cinema. In the Rose courtyard there is a fountain modelled on a 13th century lion fountain in the Alhambra Palace, Grenada.

In the small park adjacent to the castle there is a rock put here in 1990 to commemorate the victims of Katyń. In 1999 a monument to the victims was unveiled.

Royal Castle
The residence started to be built in the mid-13th century by the Great Poland prince Przemysł I. Most probably the first structures built were an inhabited tower and farm buildings surrounded by a wooden pale. Later the princely residence was included inside the medieval city walls. There was also a wall that separated it from the town. Around 1290 prince Przemysł II started to expand the structure intending to make it in the future a royal castle. The king's tragic demise in 1296 did not stop the work.

The castle was finished in the first half of the 14th century, most certainly during the reign of Casimir the Great. At that time it was the largest secular structure in the land. Next to the tower with the living quarters rose a massive building measuring 63 by 17.5 metres and at least 9 metres high. To the south it was adjoined by a tall defence tower. From the times of Wladyslaw the Elbow - High the castle was the residence of governor - generals of Great Poland. The Gothic structure was burnt down during the fire of the city in 1536. It was rebuilt in a Renaissance form by governor Andrzej Górka. The Swedish Deluge and the Northern War brought more destruction. In 1716 for the first time in its history the castle was stormed. The destroyed buildings were partially rebuilt in 1721, but by then the castle had fallen into visible decline.

In 1783 the last governor general of Great Poland, and at the same time president of the Poznań Good Order Committee, Kazimierz Raczyński erected an archive building upon the foundations of the southern part of the castle and partially using its walls. It was designed by Antoni Höhne. Later it was extended by workshops. After the second partition of Poland the building first housed the Prussian regency, then the appeal court, then after 1885 the state archives.

In 1945 most buildings on Przemysł Hill were destroyed. During reconstruction, carried out between 1959-64, only the edifice built by K. Raczyński was restored. Today it houses the Museum of Applied Arts.

The castle hosted many sovereigns. Among those who liked to stay here were Casimir the Great, Wladyslaw Jagiello and Casimir the Jagiellonian. King Jan Olbracht lived here for almost a year and it was here that in 1493 he received the sovereigns from the grand master of the Teutonic Knights, Johann von Tiefen. Two royal weddings took place at the castle: that between Waclaw II and the daughter of Przemysl II, Ryksa in 1300 and that of Casimir the Great with the Hesse princess Adelaide. While Sigismund the Old was staying here for many months in 1513 his wife queen Barbara Zapoyla gave birth to their daughter Jadwiga. Another curious fact is that from 1398 to 1400 the castle burg Graf was Przecław Słota, the author of The Bread Table Poem (better known under the title Poem on Table Manners), the oldest secular poem written in the Polish language.

The 18th century building has modest classicist features. It is covered by a mansard - type hip roof. Medieval barrel vaulting with lunettes have been preserved in the vaults and on the ground floor. In the outside northwest wall there is a fragment of the old city wall from the end of the 13th century (it can be seen well from the Wielkopolski Square). Next to the entrance there is a plaque put here in 1783 to commemorate the reconstruction of the edifice by K. Raczyński. There are also two more recent plaques, one from 1996 commemorating the coronation of Przemyslaw II and one from 1993 celebrating 500 years of the Teutonic grand master's homage.

Old Market Square

The central square of the city established in 1253 on the left bank of the Warta River was designed on the base of a square with four 141 - metre sides.

In terms of size, the square is the third biggest in Poland, losing only to the squares in Krakow and Wrocław.

Each side of the square has three streets running out of it, dividing its sides into two sections with eight 35-43 metre long, 7-8 metre wide plots.

Of the twelve streets starting at the square, four (Wrocławska, Wroniecka, Wielka and Wodna) used to lead to the city gates.

The square was to be built up with administrative and commercial edifices. Soon after the creation of the city, the town hall, the Municipal Scales and market stalls were built.

Originally the structures built both in and around the square were made of wood. However, as soon as in the end of the 13th century brick buildings began to appear: the Municipal Scales, the Gothic town hall, and in the 14th century the cloth hall.

In the first half of the 16th century a complex of small houses, called the merchants' houses, was built by the merchants who owned the individual plots.

In the 17th century, the bread market was moved next to the Municipal Scales and in their place the arsenal was built. Next came the guardhouse in the late 18th century.

These buildings were repeatedly destroyed, rebuilt and modified and were finally restored to their original form (except for the arsenal and the cloth hall) after 1945.

The speed with which the wooden structures were phased out increased after the great fire in 1471. The houses around the square were built with initially two and later three rows of rooms, with their gables facing the square. They were used as lodgings, but served also as workshops and stores.

On the ground floor, as you entered the building from the square, there was the so - called "grand hall" used for commercial and representative purposes. In the back, separated from the house by a small yard, was a small building used as storehouse and workshop.

With time there were more and more departures from this initially uniform arrangement

, as in the case of the palaces built by the wealthy, noble families of the Działyńskis and the Mielżyńskis in the 18th century. There were more changes in the 19th century and in the early 20th century.

Old Market Square 2

Following the devastation wreaked during the liberation of Poznań in 1945, when 60% of all the buildings in the square were destroyed, including 80 buildings gutted by fire, reconstruction began in the very same year.

The work, carried out in accordance with meticulously drawn up conservation plans, aimed to restore the square to its former splendour. In the 1950's the arsenal and the cloth halls made way for modern looking exhibition pavilions.

After 1945 the Old Market Square lost its predominantly commercial character, becoming instead a residential area with many cultural institutions. Some of the shops on the ground floor were kept, often to sell souvenirs.

In the 1970's many fashionable bars, cafes and restaurants were opened. After 1990 the square saw the arrival of offices of several banks and even more eateries.

Between 1880 and 1955 there used to be trams running across the square. Traffic of all vehicles was gradually reduced and eventually in 1970 the square became closed to any traffic, with the exception of special permit holders.

In the second half of the 19th century the square was equipped with water and gas installations and illuminated by gas lighting. Early in the next century an underground electrical network was constructed. In the late 19th century the surface of the square was replaced. The present paving is a result of a general renovation carried out in the late 1960's.

Every June the square is home to a lively street fair (Jarmark Świętojański), and throughout the summer it features many cultural events including some performances of Malta Theatre Festival.

In the summer months many bars set up beer gardens in the square, where you can drink as much coffee or beer as you want and make yourself familiar with Polish cuisine! There is neverending party on the square! Join it!

Merchants' Houses
They are unique relics of early commercial architecture. As early as in the 13th century there used to be herring stalls here that also sold salt, candles and torches, as well as some every day items. In the late 15th and 16th centuries the wooden sheds were replaced with narrow, often single - window brick houses with shops downstairs and living quarters on higher floors. The entrances to the stores were protected by arcades, walled up in the 19th century. During the post - war reconstruction the houses were restored to their original form. The arches of the arcades are supported by small sandstone columns; most of them original (house number 11 column bears the date 1535). The southernmost house, dating back to 1538, is known as the City Chancellery or the House of Scribes. Until the 18th century the city scribe lived in it; today it houses the Society of Friends of Poznań. In the arcades Poznań artists sell their paintings, most of them depicting the Old Market Square.

Former Jesuits College

The college - or a monastic house where part of the friars devoted their time to educating young people - was founded in Poznań in 1570. One year later the first Jesuits came to town. The College was opened in 1573; one of its founders and the first rector was Father Jakub Wujek. The school boasted high academic standards.

In 1611 king Sigismund III Vasa granted the Jesuits a privilege that elevated the school to the rank of university. However, following a protest from the Krakow Academy, Pope Paul V vetoed the creation of the new institution of higher learning.

Between 1678-85, by the power of a privilege granted by John III Sobieski, the college had the right to issue academic degrees in the areas of philosophy and theology. The Jesuits possessed an impressive library; they had their own printing house since 1677 (it is known to have produced 630 titles) and ran a school theatre. The closure of the Jesuit order in 1773 did not interrupt the activities of the school; from 1780 it existed as Great Poland Academy, then (until 1793) as the Poznań Faculty School.

The college as it is today was built in the 18th century. The edifice was designed by Jan Catenazzi and its construction started in 1703. Barely had the foundations been laid when the Northern War broke out. Construction was only completed between 1722-32. Originally the building had the shape of a horseshoe. In the middle of the 18th century one of its arms was extended all the way to the wing situated by the side of today's Kolegiacki Square. Around the same time, the yard was closed from the north with a two-storey building with a gate, over which a tower was built.

In the 19th century a low landing was built with an entry from the side of the courtyard, and at the beginning of the 20th century the building along Za Bramką Street was added.

After the closure of the college, the buildings housed various Prussian offices, including the regency of the Grand Duchy of Poznań. Between 1815-1830 they were the residence of the Duchy's governor, Duke Antoni Radziwił. In the Duke's salon played Frederic Chopin in 1828.

In the autumn of 1806 Napoleon Bonaparte lived here. Between the wars the buildings housed the authorities of the voivodship. Today it houses the City Council.

The massive four-storey edifice is covered with a two-tiered roof. All its elevations, regardless of when they were built, are decorated in the same Baroque and neo-Baroque style. In the years 1995-1998 the structure was renovated and its interiors modernized. In the west the buildings were adjacent to St Stanislaus the Bishop's Church.

On the other side of Gołębia Street there is a Baroque building of the former Jesuit school built in the middle of the 18th century. Its four-storey wings surround a small courtyard. Until 1858 this was St Mary Magdalene's Grammar School. Today the building houses a State Ballet School. A commemorative plaque on one of the walls informs that the troupe of Wojciech Stanisławski performed here for the first time in Poznań in 1783.
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