Architecture Around the World ......................Poland - Table of Contents

Wawel Castle
Cracow (Krakow), Poland
TEXT Beneath Illustrations

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16th century Renaissance courtyard and loggia

Fish scale terra cotta tiles ... Dormer with shed roof

Exposed rafter tails and modillion supporting the cornice



Courtyard and loggia

16th-century frescoes

Acanthus leaves decorate the bracket

Uppermost story of the loggia

Classical balustrades

Polish students visiting the Wawel to learn Polish history

Renaissance-influenced Ionic column


Renaissance-influenced Ionic capital



Transom and casement windows


Note tie rod

Renaissance staircase


Renaissance staircase


Twisted stem molding

The Gothic Wawel Castle was built at the behest of Casimir III the Great and consists of a number of structures situated around the central courtyard. In the 14th century it was rebuilt by Jogaila and Jadwiga of Poland.

During the early 16th century King Sigismund I the Old (Zygmunt I in Polish) and his wife, brought in the best native and foreign artists including Italian architects, sculptors, and German decorators, to refurbish the castle into a splendid Renaissance palace. It soon became a paragon of stately residence in Central and Eastern Europe and served widely as a model throughout the region.

In 1609 King Sigismund moved the capital to Warsaw, and tough times for Wawel began. Both the castle and other buildings were neglected despite the concerns of local governors.

Following the ravages of World War II, by the decree of the State National Council, the Wawel Castle became a national museum.

The first story portico and the first two orders of arcading surrounding the courtyard form covered walks which on the ground and first floor are protected by Renaissance arches, while on the top story protection from the damp climate is provided by a steeply sloping roof with gutters, supported by slender columns.

Fragments of 16th-century frescoes are still visible on the walls.

Photos and their arrangement © 2008 Chuck LaChiusa
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