on June 19, 2004
The Royal Castle on Wawel Hill probably went through many manifestations between 1038, when Krakow was established as the Polish capital, to 1504, when construction began of the current Renaissance building. It has certainly seen many changes since then. It has seen the royal court moved from Krakow to Warsaw, which became the country's capital. It has been used as an army barracks and occupied by foreign powers. But it has survived and is now a wonderful museum.
Entrance to the various parts of the castle i.e. the State Rooms, Royal Apartments, etc. is from the very attractive Italianate courtyard. Three tiers of balconies/colonnades lift your eyes up the building to the decoration below the roof. The effect is really beautiful.
Sadly, when we visited in March, the State Rooms were closed. However, we were able to tour some of the Royal Apartments, which included rooms used by the kings and visiting dignitaries. There is a small collection of furniture from different periods, including a painted dowry chest, and a collection of religious art and statuary. Some of the rooms retain their original painted ceilings and two have walls covered in coloured leather. There are also examples of the wonderful Zygmunt Tapestries
This collection of 360 tapestries was begun by Zygmunt I and continued by his son, Zygmunt August. The tapestries were commissioned for specific places on the walls of the Royal Castle on Wawel and, thus, were tailor-made to fit the exact dimensions of the area where they were to be hung. The themes of the tapestries range from biblical stories, animal and landscapes to mythical creatures, coats of arms and allegorical scenes. Catherine the Great appropriated the tapestries for herself, having them transported to Russia. They were returned in 1921 but removed to Canada at the start of the Second World War. The tapestries were finally returned to Krakow in 1961.
They really are amazing pieces of art. Huge, intricate and finely detailed, the amount of work that must have gone into creating them is stunning.
Entrance to the Royal Apartments with a – very informative guided tour – was 12pln (about 1.72sterling)
We were also able to visit the Royal Armoury, which holds an interesting collection of weapons, armour – including some very impressive winged suits of armour –saddles and cannons. Entrance fee 10pln (about 1.43 sterling)
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