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  • Royal Castle

    Przemysł I built his ducal residence in the second half of the 13th century atop a hill that rises some metres above the level of the Old Market square. His son, Przemysł II, the later king of Poland, extended the castle with the intention of converting it into a royal seat. Despite the king's tragic death in 1296, the construction was not interrupted and the castle was most certainly completed in the reign of Kazimierz the Great. It was the largest secular edifice in the country. Apart from the residential tower it consisted of a 63m long, 17.5m wide and at least 9m high building and a defensive tower.

    Throughout the ages the castle suffered damage on a number of occasions and was extensively rebuilt. The Gothic edifice was destroyed in a fire in 1536. Governor Andrzej Górka rebuilt in the Renaissance style but the Deluge and the Great Northern War again wrought destruction to the city. Though partly restored in 1721, the castle slowly fell into disrepair. In 1783 Kazimierz Raczyński, the last governor of Wielkopolska, had a building erected atop Przemysł Hill that housed the archives. It was designed by Antoni Höhne who utilised parts of old castle foundation and south walls. Some annexes were added to the building at a later date. After the second partition of Poland it housed the office of Prussian notaries, the appellate court and the State Archives (since 1885). The building structure on Przemysł Hill was heavily destroyed in 1945. During the restoration work carried out in the years 1959-64, only Raczyński's edifice regained its former splendour.

    Since the times of Władysław the Elbow-high, the castle, being the seat of Wielkopolskan governors, also functioned as the residence of Polish kings and saw visits by many a crowned head, among others Kazimierz the Great, Władysław Jagiełło and Kazimierz IV Jagiellon. John I Albert spent over a year in the castle where he accepted the homage of Hans von Tieffen, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. Some foreign sovereigns also visited the castle, among others John I of Bohemia and Eric I, king of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Several royal weddings were held here as well:  Kazimierz the Great married Adelheid of Hesse in 1341, his daughter Elżbieta wedded Bogusław V, duke of  Szczecin, in 1343 and Maria, Władysław Jagiełło's niece, married Bogusław X, duke of Słupsk, in 1433. In 1513 during Sigismund the Old's stay in the castle, his wife Barbara Zapolya gave birth to Jadwiga.

    Przecław Słota, the burgrave of the castle in the years 1398-1400, is the author of the poem Wiersz o chlebowym stole (also known under the name Wiersz o zachowaniu się przy stole ), the oldest secular poem written in the Polish language.

    The only remains of the castle on Przemysł Hill is the eighteenth-century building covered with a mansard roof. In the cellars and on the ground floor there are rooms surmounted by medieval barrel vaults with lunettes. The north-west outer wall features a piece of the city wall from the late thirteenth century (that can be seen from Wielkopolski Square). Mounted next to the entrance are three plaques: commemorating the restoration of the building by Kazimierz Raczyński (1783), the seven-hundredth anniversary of the coronation of Przemysł II (1996) and the five-hundredth anniversary of the homage paid by the grand master of the Teutonic Order (1993).

    Presently the buildings house the Museum of Applied Arts but they bear no resemblance to the royal residence that once stood here. There are plans to reconstruct the castle. The Commission for the Restoration of the Royal Castle in Poznań was established in 2002 and already a year later it staged an architecture competition. An honourable mention went to Witold Milewski and his team. Their design makes reference to sixteenth-century sources and has been discussed with experts on the history of Poznań. The construction of the castle will be co-financed by the Commission, the Local Government Office and the City Council.

  • Emperors Castle

    The Poznań residence of the German Kaiser William II was designed by Franz Schwechten and erected in the years 1905-1910. It was the last imperial edifice built in Europe, modelled on mediaeval castles and meant to be the symbol of German domination of Wielkopolska. There is an interesting legend linked to the construction of the castle. Commenced in 1905, it attracted crowds of onlookers. The German president of the city took notice of a farmer from Górczyn who visited the building site every day and urged the workers to hard work. Amazed by seeing a Pole who endorsed the building of a German castle, he asked him to state his reasons. The farmer answered: "the prediction says that when the imperial castle is erected, Poland will be resurrected". Indeed, soon World War I broke out and Poland regained independence.

    The castle was meant as the focal point of the castle quarter which replaced old polygonal fortifications. Professor Joseph Stübben, an eminent German architect, marked out a broad street that ran around the centre of the city (now Niepodległości Avenue and Królowej Jadwigi Street). Following the examples of Vienna and Kraków, the street with the adjoining parks and lawns was to function as a promenade. The former Tietzen Stronghold located between the Royal Gate and the Berlin Gate was demolished and changed into a large public park (now Mickiewicz Park) surrounded by stately edifices. Apart from the imperial castle, the so-called imperial forum consisted of the Neo-Renaissance Royal Academy (now Collegium Minus, part of the University) and the Neoclassical Municipal Theatre (now the Wielki Theatre).

    Emperor William II visited Poznań three times only. When Poland regained independence after WWI, the castle was given to the Poznań University and it was used by presidents of the Second Republic during their visits to Poznań. Albert Speer rebuilt the castle during WWII for Hitler's residence and there are still some traces left of Speer's design: a room being a copy of Fuehrer's Berlin office, the balcony on the tower and the gala entrance from Św. Marcin Street. Damaged in 1945, the castle was planned to be pulled down. During the reconstruction several elements of the decoration were not restored and the tower was lowered. Today, the castle is being extensively renovated. The beautifully restored garden in the back features a monument to the victims of the Katyń massacre. Adjoining it is the Rose Courtyard with the fountain of lions modelled on the famous fountain in Grenada in Spain. The castle courtyards are used for cultural events during summer.

    Today the castle houses the "Zamek" Culture Centre, the Animation Theatre and the Museum of the Poznań June 1956.

  • Town Hall

    The town hall in Poznań is undoubtedly the most magnificent Renaissance building in Wielkopolska and one of the finest in Poland. The earliest mention of it is from 1310 but it must have been built at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries judging by the keystone in the cellar decorated with the coat of arms of the Czech dynasty of the Premyslids (Weneclaus II Premyslid was King of Poland in the years 1300-06). The Gothic town hall was a small one-storey building without a tower that was not added until the early sixteenth century. In the mid-sixteenth century a fire swept through the city and the town hall was partly destroyed. Giovanni Battista Quadro, an Italian architect from Lugano, enlarged the town hall westwards in order to strengthen the tower which was on the verge of collapsing. He also added the three-storey loggia and gave the edifice a Renaissance appearance. Bas-reliefs placed above the arches of the arcades on the first floor represent the virtues desired from councillors: Patience and Prudence, Love and Justice, Faith and Hope and Courage and Moderation. The decoration of the façade also features medallions with ancient figures (above the arcades of the loggia on the first floor) and paintings showing rulers of the Jagiellon dynasty (above the second floor), from the left: Jadwiga, Władysław Jagiełło, Władysław III of Varna, Kazimierz IV Jagiellon, John I Albert, Aleksander, Sigismund the Old and Sigismund Augustus. Portraits of Piast rulers are placed on both sides: Mieszko I, Bolesław the Brave, Przemysł I, Przemysł II, Władysław the Elbow-high and Kazimierz the Great.

    The decoration of the remaining façades is by far less ornate. The north façade features an inscription starting with the words: Hoc opus artificis Joannis Baptistae Itali... ("This is the work by Giovanni Battista, the Italian...") and a pair of compasses and a square, the symbols of architects. Worthy of notice are the buttresses supporting the tower on the north and the attic that from the east resembles a crenellated wall with three pinnacles. The central pinnacle features a clock above which two tin goats appear every day at noon and horn one another. The first clock mechanism was installed in 1551. Right under it is a cartouche with letters S (tanisław) A (ugust) R (ex) - the initials of King Stanisław August Poniatowski. The fragment of the tower made from bricks from the early sixteenth century bears witness to the Gothic provenience of the town hall, whereas the cupola surmounted by the Polish eagle (1.8-metre high, 2-metre wingspread) is from the late eighteenth century.

    The early Gothic cellars with rib vaults are the oldest part of the edifice. The Grand Vestibule on the first floor (also called the Renaissance Room) ranks among the most beautiful interiors in Poland. The vault of the vestibule supported by two pillars is decorated with depictions of animals, mythological and biblical characters, the Sun, the Moon and planets. The coffers feature the crest of Poznań and the coat of arms of Poland, Lithuania and Polish royal families. The adjoining Royal Room boasts a Renaissance fireplace embellished with the crest of the city. The Courtroom is surmounted by a Renaissance vault from the mid-sixteenth century and features a statue of the last Polish king, Stanisław August Poniatowski (the Commission of Good Order established in his reign contributed to the cleaning of the city shattered by natural disasters and wars that raged in the 17th and 18th centuries; the town hall was also refurbished thanks to its efforts).

    The town hall houses now the Museum of the History of the City of Poznań.

  • Górka Palace

    The municipal residence of great splendour that belonged to a prominent Wielkopolskan family was erected in the years 1544-48 and it replaced old Gothic burgher houses. Built for Andrzej Górka of the Łodzia coat of arms, the governor of Wielkopolska, the palace of rectangular plan consisted of two buildings connected through a gate wing in Klasztorna Street.

    The Górkas, starting from the above-mentioned Andrzej, were sympathetic towards the Reformation and so the palace became the centre of Lutheranism. When Stanisław, the last male descendant of the family, died in 1592, the palace was inherited by the Czarnkowskis. Four years later it became the property of the city which sold it to the Benedictine sisters from Chełmno. After the suppression of the order in 1833 the palace housed a grammar school for girls and after 1880 was used as a tenement. It has been rebuilt several times but the walls of the cellars and the ground floor remain virtually intact. Damaged in a fire during World War II, the palace was painstakingly rebuilt after the war and presently houses the Archaeology Museum.

    The Renaissance sandstone portal (in Klasztorna Street) is most probably a work by an Italian artist. The frame of pilasters supporting the lintel features an arcade with a semicircular arch. Rich ornamentation includes garlands of laurel leaves, cornucopias, masks, flower motifs, grotesques and the engraved date of 1548. The portal opens onto the inner yard with a tree-wing arcaded gallery whose pillars, presumably a work by Silesian stonemasons, have survived to the present day. The yard, which has been recently covered with a glass roof, features a 3.2 metre-high Egyptian obelisk from around 1200 BC. The Archaeology Museum is one of the oldest of its kind in Poland; it continues the tradition of the Museum of Polish and Slavic Antiquities established in 1857.

  • Działyński Palace

    The palace was erected for the Great Lithuanian Marshall Władysław Gurowski and replaced two medieval houses located along the west side of the old market square. Antoni Höhne rebuilt it in the years 1785-87 in the mixture of Neoclassical and Baroque styles (it is one of the first Neoclassical buildings in Wielkopolska). With a garden laid out in the back it was a palace of great splendour. In the years 1808-1872 the palace belonged to the Działyńskis, a prominent Wielkopolskan family whose main residence was in Kórnik. During the subsequent partitions of Poland the palace was an important centre of Polish national life where public lecturers by Polish scholars were held, economic exhibits were organized and cultural arrangements were organized. In 1924 the palace became part of the Zakłady Kórnickie foundation established by Władysław Zamoyski. Destroyed in a fire in 1945, it was rebuilt in the years 1953-57 to a design by Aleksander Holas.

    Two gates lead to the building that were used by horse carriages. The façade of the two-storey building is surmounted by a tympanum with Ogończyk, the coat of arms of the Działyński family, and an attic decorated with bas-reliefs depicting ancient scenes: a sacrificial procession (two armed soldiers leading a bull and two prisoners) and a triumphal parade of soldiers and a chariot. Above the attic there is a panoply and a sculpture of a pelican - the symbol of devotion and sacrifice.

    The Red Room, the most beautiful room in the palace, is on the first floor; the balcony running along the entire façade can be accessed from the room. The room owes its name to the colour of the walls. It features two pairs of stucco statues depicting Władysław the Elbow-high with Kazimierz the Great and Władysław Jagiełło with his brother Witold. Also today it is used for concerts and important social events.

    The building is owned by the Polish Academy of Sciences and it also houses a branch of the Kórnik Library.

  • Archbishop Palace

    The earliest mention of the residence of Poznań archbishops is from 1404 though a bishop's palace must have existed here already when the cathedral was built. The palace suffered extensive damage during wars and floods and was rebuilt several times (among others, by Giovanni Battista Quadro in the 16th century and Pompeo Ferrari in the 18th century). The present building is a three-wing edifice in a mixture of styles. The main west wing of the palace owes its Neoclassical appearance to extensive reconstruction undertaken by Juliusz Salkowski in the years 1852-1854 and modified by Karl Heinrich Schinkel. The entrance into the building leads through a balcony portico with Ionic columns. The two marble figures of St. Peter and St. Paul were sculpted by Oskar Sosnowski; until 1945 they adorned the main altar of the cathedral. The north wing was erected on the remains of walls from the 15th and 16th centuries; it features a Neoclassical gate with a large two-column portico. The late-Baroque statue of St. John Nepomuk from around 1730, standing in front of the palace, was transferred from a nearby village of Kobylepole. Located on the west side of the square is the building of the Metropolitan Curia, erected in 1834 to a design by a builder named Traeger, and partly rebuilt in 1870 and around 1920 to a design by Marian Andrzejewski. Parallel to it but farther to the west is the building of the cathedral rectory in a mixture of the Baroque and Neoclassical styles erected on old foundation in 1792 and rebuilt in 1859, most probably by Karl Heinrich Schinkel. Two stone plaques from 1598 and 1715 mounted to the north wall bear inscriptions pertaining to the history of the rectory. The bust in the tympanum of the façade presumably depicts Jan Kochanowski who held the post of a titular curate of the Poznań Chapter in the years 1564-74.

    The statue of Pope John Paul II (designed by Krystyna Fałdyga-Solska, 2000) stands in the square. The spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church visited Poznań twice, in 1983 and 1997.

    Standing next to it is an interesting building called the Psalm-Singers' House. In old times twelve priests sang the Book of Psalms in the cathedral throughout the entire twenty four hours of the day. Bishop Jan Lubrański built this house for them. Worthy of notice are ogee-arched blind windows in the north gable of the edifice.

    The island of Ostrów Tumski also features 9 nine canonries and 3 vicarages where canons used to live. The oldest is the canonry Fundi Godziemba built in the early sixteenth century whose name is derived from the coat of arms of the Lubrański family. The vicarage in 7 Posadzego Street from the 18th century features an interesting Polish-style shingled roof.

  • Guardhouse

    The oldest mention of the wooden building of the municipal guard is from the early eighteenth century. The present Neoclassical edifice was built in the years 1783-1787 to a design by Jan Chrystian Kamsetzer on the initiative of Kazimierz Raczyński, the governor of Wielkopolska and the chairman of the Poznań Commission of Good Order. It is a rather small building with a four-column recess on the front and sandstone sculptures on the attic. The composition above the entrance depicts two female figures blowing bugles that flank the coat of arms of Poland. The cartouche on the left features the Nałęcz coat of arms of the Raczyński family and there is the crest of the city of Poznań on the right. Mounted above the entrance is a plaque with the Latin foundation engraving and the date 1787.

    The guardhouse now features the Museum of the Wielkopolska Uprising 1918-1919 (branch of the Wielkopolska Museum of Independence Struggles).

  • Merchant houses

    Located south of the town hall, the houses were once used for trade purposes. In the Middle Ages makeshift wooden stalls were erected there where herring, salt, binders, torches, candles and other commodities were sold. In the 16th century the stalls were replaced with narrow houses with Renaissance arcades supported by sandstone columns. The houses featured stalls on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors. House no. 17 boasts the coat of arms of the merchant guild consisting of a herring and three palm trees and House no. 24 has the owner's emblem on the capital of the column. The work must have been finished around 1535 judging from the date carved on the capital of the column of House no. 11. The edifice adjoining the merchant houses in the south was built in 1538 and is called the Municipal Chancellery or the House of Scribes. Until the 18th century it was the residence of municipal scribes and presently it houses the Society for the Friends of Poznań founded by Mayor Cyryl Ratajski. The arcades are a popular spot where local artists sell their cityscapes. Kurzanoga [Chicken Leg] Street behind the merchant houses presumably owes its name to a house that once stood there.

  • Former Jesuit College

    The Jesuits came to Poznań in the 16th century and built a monastery, a church and a school (college) whose first rector was Reverend Jakub Wujek - the author of the first Polish translation of the Bible. The college opened in 1573 and sustained high standards of education but never achieved status of the university due to strong opposition from the Cracovian Academy. The Jesuits had a large library, a private publishing house (since 1677) and a school theatre. The order was suppressed in 1773 but the school did not cease to exist; it continued as Wielkopolska Academy since 1780 and as Poznań Department School (until 1793). The building, which now houses the City Council, served different purposes. In autumn 1805 the Russian tsar Alexander I had a stopover here and a year later the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte stayed in the college for almost three weeks. In the years 1815-1830 it was the residence of Count Antoni Radziwiłł, governor of the Grand Duchy of Poznań (most probably Frederic Chopin performed for him in 1828). Today, concerts are held in the White Room which is adorned with Frederic Chopin's bust (a work by Marcin Rożek).

    The Society of Jesus started its educational activities in a former hospital building but it soon proved too small. The construction of a new school edifice was commenced in 1701 by an Italian architect Giovanni Catenazzi but the project was put on ice for the duration of the Great Northern War. The work was resumed in 1719 by a Jesuit builder Jan Zelner and a designer Franciszek Koźmiński. The main wing of the building is in the south, the side wings flank a trapezoid yard that in the years 1748-1752 was closed from the north by a one-storey building with a gate surmounted by a tower. In the nineteenth century two low towers with stairwells were built and a risalit containing monumental stairs leading onto the first floor was added. The building facing Za Bramką Street was built in the early twentieth century. The monumental four-storey edifice is covered with a pitched roof and features uniform Baroque and late-Baroque façade decorations. It was extensively refurbished both on the outside and inside in the years 1995-1998.

    On the opposite side of the Gołębia Street lies the Baroque building of the former Jesuit College erected in the mid-eighteenth century that now houses the State Ballet School. The arcaded yard is used for summer concerts and performances. Two commemorative plaques marked the place where the first professional theatre in Poznań was opened by Wojciech Bogusławski (1783) and where the oldest local school, St. Mary Magdalene Grammar School, was established (the plaques were taken down during recent restoration work).

  • Raczyński Library

    The Neoclassical edifice of the library was built in the years 1822-1829, most probably to a design by French architects Charles Perciere and Pierre- François Leonard Fontain. The front façade is reminiscent of the east façade of the Louvre and features 12 pairs of imposing cast-iron Corinthian columns. It was the first building in Poland built solely for the purpose of housing book collections and the first Polish public library. Opened on 5 May 1829, the library was founded by Count Edward Raczyński who also provided it with several thousand volumes. In accordance with the foundation statute, the library became the property of the city. The historian Józef Łukaszewicz was appointed the first librarian of the institution. During the Prussian rule the library became the bastion and symbol of Polish culture and the book collection was "accessible to everyone on an equal basis".

    Before the outbreak of World War II, the library collection consisted of c. 165,000 volumes. During the war, the most precious part of it was moved to Józef Aleksander Raczyński's landed estate in Obrzycko. Those 17,000 volumes (mainly manuscripts, incunabula and old prints) survived the war, whereas the rest of the collection in Poznań was destroyed in a fire in 1945. Damaged in 1945, the library was rebuilt in the years 1953-1956 and the façade was refurbished in 1998.

    Today the Edward Raczyński Municipal Public Library is the second largest library in Poznań (after the University Library). The special collections contain over 9,000 manuscripts (including 100 papyri), nearly 18,000 old prints (including c. 250 incunabula) and around 10,000 maps and charts. Worthy of mention are: a manuscript of a codex from 1460 that include theological treatises by Augustinus Triumphus of Ancona, Polish old prints by Stanisław Hozjusz (1533), Łukasz Górnicki (1566) and Mikołaj Rej (1568), printing matters from Melchior Nehring's publishing house (1577) and the Jesuit printing house in Poznań (17th -18th centuries). The library has established an extensive network of branches throughout the city and it runs three literary museums (devoted to Ignacy Kraszewski, Henryk Sienkiewicz and Kazimiera Iłłakowiczówna) and a memorial room commemorating the local marine writer Jerzy Pertek.

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