May 12, 2021

There is a place where wandering tourists can get to learn about the oldest history of Cracovian trade. Where is it located? In Sukiennice, known as the Cloth Hall. This characteristic building, with its colonnade and beautiful attic, instantly attracts the attention of everyone who visits the Old Town. What was the Cloth Hall, when was it founded and what is it hiding now?

The past of the Cloth Hall

The beginnings of Sukiennice date back to the 13th century. In 1257, when Krakow received Magdeburg rights, Prince Bolesław V the Chaste undertook to fund stone stalls in which cloth could be sold. He lived up to his promise and the building was erected soon after. It was formed into a double row of stalls, in the middle of which was an alley that was closed at night. The stalls and the street were surrounded by butchers and booths. At the beginning of the 14th century, the covered stalls began to resemble a market hall.

In the second half of the 14th century, during the reign of the King Casimir the Great, the Cloth Hall was rebuilt in a gothic style. Inside the 108-metre-long hall, covered with characteristic, sharp-arched vaults, there were 18 stalls. Doubled arcades were added to the north and the south. Sukiennice survived in this form until 1555, when it was destroyed by fire.

As a result of another rebuild, the appearance of Sukiennice changed a lot. The characteristic attic appeared (which is preserved to this day), decorated with gargoyles and a colonnade arcade. The pierced transverse transition has also been preserved.

Shaped in this way, Cloth Hall survived until the second half of the 19th century, when another reconstruction was carried out as part of the organization of the Main Square. Architect Tomasz Pryliński was the author of the project to restore the Cloth Hall, which was released between 1875 and 1879. The lower hall was converted into a string of wooden stalls.
Projections were adjoined and on their tops appeared gargoyles – caricatures depicting the mayors of Krakow, Mikołaj Zyblikiewicz and Józef Dietl.

Sukiennice today

Nowadays, the Cloth Hall is a place visited mostly by tourists. The wooden stalls of the lower hall offer various kinds of souvenirs and devotional articles – from the jewellery to arts and crafts. The first floor houses the Gallery of 19th- Century Polish Art, and in the cellars -– opened to the public since 2010 – is the Underground Rynek museum.

The Cloth Hall in the Market Square in Kraków, seen from the side of St. Wojciech

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