Poland 2016 – History of Krakow
BEGINNINGS OF KRAKOW
According to the legend the name Krakow comes from the prince, called Krak, who used to rule the city. Although people inhabited this part of the land already in Stone Age, it is probable that the settlement of the city was built here between 6th-8th century – as one of the 5 mounds that dates back to this period, is believed to be Krak’s grave.
The first one to mention Krakow’s name was Abraham ben Jacob – Jewish merchant who described the city in 966 as an important commercial center. The merchants, who added significantly to the development of Krakow, would come here to sell and buy goods – as the city was located on the important Amber Route (leading to the Baltic Sea).
DEVELOPMENT OF THE CITY
The city started to flourish in about 1000 (when it became the seat of bishop and later on of princes) but it gained the municipal rights (based on Magdeburg Law) eventually in 1257. Soon after the city walls – to protect Krakow from invaders – were erected. The remnants of the city walls can be admired today (with the charming Florian gate that leads the visitors through so called Royal Route).
KRAKOW – THE CAPITAL OF POLAND
In 1320 the King of Poland was crowned for the first time in Krakow Cathedral (on the Wawel Hill) so Krakow then became the official seat of the kings – the capital of Poland. Soon after the city gained Jagiellonian University – second university opened in Central Europe (after the one in Prague) – that was founded by king Casimir the Great. He also built Kazimierz city (where afterwards Jewish quarter was established) – that is now one of Krakow districts. Originally, the Jewish quarter was, where now the Jagiellonian University stands, and the Univeristy was in Kazimierz, they changed places later.
KRAKOW LOSES ITS SIGNIFICANCE
Krakow lost its significance during the existence of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – as the city seemed to be separated in the suburbs of the country. Although the kings (with the court) moved its seat to Warsaw at the end of 16th century, Krakow still remained official capital where the kings were crowned and buried (exactly in the cathedral on the Wawel Hill).
THE CITY IN 19th/20th CENTURY
The development of the city was ceased by the partition of Poland – when Krakow was under Austrian rule. During this period, the city underwent the process of restoration – changing its medieval shape, also Podgórze city was founded then. Krakow went back to Poland in 1918 – when the country anew became independent. Although during the WWII Krakow was occupied (as all the cities of Poland) it remained almost undamaged. During the communist regime it gained another interesting district – Nowa Huta – that can be still admired as an example of monumental architecture.