A SHORT HISTORY OF KRAKOW, POLAND

By Tim Lambert

Early Krakow

According to legend Cracow was founded by a hero called Krak who killed a dragon by feeding it animal skins filled with sulfur. In reality Krakow was a thriving settlement and a centre of trade by the 10th century. Krakow was first mentioned in 965 by a Spanish merchant who described a flourishing town on important trade routes. By 1000 Krakow had a bishop. Then in 1028 Krakow was made the capital of Poland. However in 1079 Stanislaus the bishop of Krakow was killed by the king. He later became patron saint of Poland.

In 1241 disaster struck when the Mongols invaded Poland. They sacked Krakow. However Krakow was rebuilt and in 1257 Boleslaw the Shy gave the town a charter (a document granting the townspeople certain rights). From then on Krakow had self government.

From 1320 Polish kings were crowned in Krakow. Meanwhile the present Wawell Cathedral was built in Krakow in the years 1320 to 1364. The Cloth Hall was also built in the 14th century. (It was rebuilt after a fire in 1555). In 1364 Kazimierz the Great founded Krakow Academy. Then in 1499 the Great Barbican in Krakow was built.

Meanwhile by the 14th century there was a large Jewish community in Krakow .

In the 15th century a style of shoes with long pointed shoes were popular in Europe. They were called crakows because they were believed to have originated in Krakow.

In the years 1491 to 1495 the great Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus studied at Krakow. In the 16th century Krakow continued to flourish. Wawell Royal Castle was rebuilt as a splendid palace.

However Krakow ceased to be the capital of Poland in all but name after 1596. From that date the kings resided in Warsaw. Krakow continued to be the official capital till 1791 but in reality Warsaw was the effective capital.

Although Krakow lost some of its importance in the 17th century and 18th century St Anne's Church was rebuilt in the years 1689-1705.

In the late 18th century Russia, Prussia and Austria divided Poland up between themselves. In 1795 Krakow was taken by Austria.

However in 1796 Czartoryski Museum was founded by Princess Izabela.

Modern Krakow

In 1809 during the Napoleonic Wars Krakow became part of the Duchy of Warsaw. In 1815 following the defeat of Napoleon Krakow was made its own state. It was called the Republic of Krakow. However in 1846 there was a rebellion in Krakow in an attempt to establish an independent Poland. The rebellion was crushed and afterwards the annexed Krakow. It became the Grand Duchy of Krakow.

Meanwhile in the early 18th century most of the fortifications around Krakow were demolished. Fortunately Krakow Barbican was preserved. In 1850 Krakow was severely damaged by a fire. Nevertheless in the late 19th century Krakow flourished. Meanwhile Krakow Railway Station was built in 1847.

Meanwhile Krakow Scientific Society was founded in 1816. Krakow Archaeological Museum was founded in 1850 and the National Museum in Krakow opened in 1879. Julusz Slowacki Theatre was built in 1893.

Krakowski Park opened in 1885 and Jordan Park opened in 1889.

From 1882 horse drawn trams ran in the streets of Krakow. From 1901 they were replaced by electric trams. Then in 1912 the first cinema in Krakow opened.

In 1918 Poland became an independent nation again. However in 1939 the Germans invaded Poland. In 1939 there were about 65,000 Jews living in Krakow. During the Second World War most of the Jewish population of Krakow were deported and killed. Unfortunately after the war the Nazi tyranny was replaced by Communism. However most of the old buildings in Krakow survived the war intact.

The Nowa Huta Steelworks was built in the early 1950s. The Polish Aviation Museum opened in 1964. Then in 1978 Krakow old town was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.

Following the collapse of Communism Krakow is again flourishing. Krakow Technology Park opened in 1998. Today tourism in Krakow is thriving. Modern Krakow also has shopping malls, Krakow Plaza, which opened in 2002, Galeria Kazimierz, which opened in 2005, Galeria Krakowska, which opened in 2006 and Bonarka, which opened in 2009. Meanwhile Eros Bendato (a sculpture of a giant head) was moved to Krakow in 2003. Krakow Opera House opened in 2008.

Today Krakow has a population of 755,000.

A short history of Gdansk

A short history of Poznan

A short history of Torun

A short history of Warsaw

A short history of Wroclaw

A short history of Zakopane

A short history of Poland

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