May 6, 2021

Discovering Krakow's Old Town: Exploring the History and Architecture of the Barbican

Krakow's Old Town is full of historical and architectural wonders that attract tourists from all over the world. One of the most impressive structures is the Barbican - a Gothic-style building that has served as a crucial element of military architecture in the city.

History of the Barbican

The Barbican was erected at the end of the 15th century as an element of fortification strengthening Krakow’s defences from the northern side. The work was undertaken because, following King John I of Poland’s defeat in the Battle of Cosmin Forest in 1497, there was a huge danger of a Wallachian-Turkish invasion. The building survived in good condition until the beginning of the 19th century, when it was faced with the threat of demolition, along with the nearby Florian Gate, as a result of a decision by the Austrian Emperor Francis II.

Barbican from the side of Matejko Square

Description of the Barbican

From the outside, the Barbican has a circular shape. Due to the period when it was built, it’s a Gothic-style building topped with seven watchtowers. The diameter of the Barbican as a circle is 24 m, while the walls are up to 3 m thick, which also provided additional protection. Interestingly, the Barbican was connected to Florian Gate by means of a fortified passageway – the so-called “neck”. The walls of the neck also had their own defensive elements, including battlements with embrasures (arrow slits).

The main entrance to the Barbican was located on the side of the Kleparz district. It was designed to provide additional protection for the city, including the ability to direct flanking fire from the city walls. The Barbican and its walls were surrounded by a moat 24 m wide and 3.5 m deep.

The Barbican as a Symbol of Krakow's Heritage

Moreover, the Barbican is a symbol of Krakow's resilience and determination to preserve its historical heritage. Despite facing the threat of demolition in the 19th century, it was saved thanks to the intercession of two senators who saw its value as a cultural treasure.

Visitors can enter the Barbican through the main entrance located on the side of the Kleparz district. They can also walk along the fortified passageway, known as the "neck," which connected the Barbican to Florian Gate. In addition, the walls surrounding the Barbican were once surrounded by a moat that added an extra layer of protection.

In summary, the Barbican is an essential landmark of Krakow that every tourist should visit. Its historical significance, remarkable architecture, and unique features make it a must-see attraction in the city.

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