Wawel Royal Castle
Wawel Royal Castle was the formal seat of the Polish monarchy and the cultural center of Poland until the early 17th century. The main exhibition inside the castle is the glorious State Rooms, in which kings received their guests and hosted formal events. There are 18 representative rooms open for visitors, where you can see beautiful furniture, tapestries and paintings. The largest room in the Castle is the stunning Senator's Hall, which served as the venue for sessions of the Senate, important state and court ceremonies, royal weddings, theatre performances and balls. Other permanent exhibitions in the Wawel castle are: Crown Treasury and Armoury, Art of the Orient, The Lost Wawel and Wawel Recovered.
Wawel Castle is one of the famous landmarks in Krakow. This protected fortification, which includes a castle and a cathedral, overlooks the Vistula River on a raised rock.
The location of the castle offered defensive advantages. With the Vistula on the side and the hill which gave a perfect panorama of the surroundings, the inhabitants of Wawel could see the intrusions before they arrived, and were able to perfectly defend themselves due to the advantages of the river.
Similarly to other strongholds in Poland and Europe, Wawel Castle consists of constructions from different ages, and the initial buildings were replaced by more durable, beautifying structures. Indications suggest that Wawel Hill was inhabitable since the 7th century, and when then Polish rulers started to reside there, the whole country was run from the Castle. These sovereigns were making changes in the Wawel Castle complex to suit shifting styles and their own tastes.
Foreigners who regularly invaded Poland did not like the castle. After the Great Northern War, the Swedes burned it down, and the Austrians looted it and turned it into barracks. Then they decided to rebuild the castle into a fortress. But in 1905 the Poles bought the Wawel from the Austrian Empire and began the restoration. Damaged or impaired constructions were finally able to go back to the glorious look they used to have.
For example, up till now, 30 original Wawel heads sculptures have survived, which Adolf Shyshko-Bogush returned to the reconstructed castle halls. Besides, there was an idea of filling the unoccupied space of the ceiling with modern sculptures, which were commissioned by Wawel to be carved by one of the leading Polish sculptors Xawery Dunikowski. The artist decided to create portraits of prominent Polish personalities for the Village Hall - for example, Adam Mickiewicz or Frederic Chopin. Meanwhile, the castle management changed the concept of reconstruction of the Wawel Renaissance halls and did not place Dunikowski's sculptures in the cassettes.
In the largest hall of the Wawel, the Senate, many important events took place, for example, sessions of the Senate, important court celebrations, as well as theatrical performances and balls. Its walls were decorated with arras from the collection of king Sigismund Augustus based on Old Testament stories. Arras or tapestry is a fabric for wall decoration. Its Polish name comes from the French city of Arras, which specializes in the production of such luxury items. These fabrics played both a decorative and practical role (insulating the castle). They were one of the greatest treasures of Sigismund Augustus, and after his death, they replenished the state treasury. Tapestries were incredibly expensive primarily because of the price of the material from which they were made, including gold threads. As a result of a month's work by a qualified artist, half a square meter of tapestry was produced. The collection of Sigismund Augustus included about 160 tapestries.