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Kazimierz in Kraków

Kazimierz in Kraków

The alluring Kazimierz was founded in 1335. Its founder, Casimir the Great (hence the name of the former town) dreamt about setting up a centre which would be an alternative to Kraków. Today Kazimierz is inseparably associated with the Kraków Jewry, who settled here towards the end of the 15th century and created an extraordinarily thriving community. Until World War II it had been one of the largest Yiddish culture centres in Poland. In 1978, Kazimierz (the medieval part of Kazimierz and the Stradom suburb), together with Wawel and the Old Town, were inscribed on the UNESCO list, to commemorate the long tolerant coexistence of Jews and Christians.

The heart of Kazimierz is the Szeroka street, which is actually a huge square, on which four synagogues used to stand. It also featured several prayer houses, the office of qahal (the community administration), the mikveh, the ritual baths and two cemeteries. Some of the buildings go back to the 16th and 17th centuries, and the most precious one is the Old Synagogue, Poland's oldest preserved synagogue and the first to be built in Kazimierz. It dates back to the 15th century, and the proof of its long history is the inscription on the preserved collection box with the date 1407. Today, after remodelling in the years 1904-13, the building has a Neo-Renaissance style. It houses a branch of the City of Kraków Historical Museum and the exhibition is devoted to the traditions and history of the Kraków Jewry.

Old Synagogue, ul. Szeroka 24, Kraków, phone: +48 12 422 0962; opening hours: Apr–Oct, Mon 10am–2pm, Tue–Sun 9am–5pm; Nov–Mar, Mon 10am–2pm, Wed, Thu, Sat, Sun 9am–4pm, Fri 10am–5pm; admission: PLN 8, concessions PLN 6, family ticket PLN 16, free admission on Mon.

At the end of Szeroka street you can find the Remuh Synagogue. It was founded in the 16th century, but the present building is a result of the 19th century remodelling. Currently it is the only synagogue in Kraków that opens regularly. A Renaissance stone Torah ark, placed in the eastern wall, was preserved out of the original furnishings. Through a gate in the wall you can enter the Remuh cemetery. It is the oldest preserved Jewish necropolis in Kraków and one of the oldest in Poland. Apart from sarcophagus tombstones, there are numerous free-standing matzevah dated from 16th to 18th century.

Remuh Synagogue and the Jewish cemetery, ul. Szeroka 40, Kraków, phone: +48 12 429 5735; sightseeing: Mon–Fri and Sun 9am–6pm; admission: PLN 5, concessions PLN 2. Men are requested to cover their heads (a kippah is included in the ticket price), and women to cover their shoulders.

The Jewish district also includes the Nowy square, commonly known as the Jewish square. In the middle of the square stands the distinctive building of a former poultry slaughterhouse, the so-called “okrąglak” (a rotunda), which was erected in 1900. In tenements surrounding the square you will find numerous eateries, pubs and cafes. In the evenings the place is vibrant with life and this centuries-old district reveals its new character – one of an artistic and social mekka.
Kazimierz also boasts splendid Christian monuments, primarily beautiful temples. The impressive Corpus Christi church in the corner of the Wolnica square, part of the old Kazimierz market, was founded as early as in the 14th century, but the construction work did not finish until the middle of the following century. The soaring tower with the Mannerist dome comes from the 17th century. The majestic interior is an extraordinarily successful combination of Gothic and Baroque styles. At 7 Augustiańska street you will find one of the most magnificent Gothic temples in Kraków, the church of Sts. Catherine and Margaret founded by Casimir the Great. Adjacent to it is the monastery of the Augustinians, also built in the 14th century, with beautiful Gothic cloisters decorated with polychromes. The Skałeczna street that runs just next to the temple leads to the famous “Na Skałce” Pauline church. It was erected in the 18th century in place of the older temple and sumptuously furnished. The church crypt (entry outside the church) serves as the National Pantheon. Distinguished personalities buried here include the playwright Stanisław Wyspiański, enchanted by Kraków, the leading representative of the Young Poland movement and symbolism in painting, Jacek Malczewski, as well as the Nobel Prize winner, Czesław Miłosz.

 

Local attractions

Tyniec and the famous Benedictine abbey from the 11th century.
Ojców National Park famous for calcareous, fancifully shaped outliers. 
The Trail of the Eagles’ Nests combining the castles erected on rocky peaks and known as Eagles’ Nests thanks to their location.
Golf course in Paczółtowice – a Mecca for of Małopolska’s enthusiasts of this aristocratic sport 
Romanesque churches in Wysocice and Dziekanowice that remind of the rich history of Małopolska and impress with the beauty of old architecture

 

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