Warsaw Old Town

The old town was built in the 13th and 14th centuries. Century under the rule of Boleslaw II. The city, which was almost completely destroyed by German troops in the Second World War, was rebuilt true to the original in the style of the 17th and 18th centuries. The largely destroyed Royal Palace has also been shining in new splendor since the 1980s. The reconstruction of the old town was a prestige project and is considered a symbol of a new, revitalized Polish state.

Warsaw Old Town: Facts

Official title: Warsaw Old Town
Cultural monument: After the destruction of 85% of the city in World War II, historical reconstruction of the old town with castle (originally 16th century) and St. John’s Cathedral (originally 13th / 14th century), the old town square Rynek Stare Miasto, the oldest house in the old town, “Zur Heiligen Anna”, the city wall and the barbican (gate attachment)
Continent: Europe
Country: Poland
Location: Warsaw
Appointment: 1980
Meaning: Example of the successful restoration of a historical city center from the 13th to the 20th century.

Warsaw Old Town: History

10th century Settlement establishment
1307 Construction of a city wall and a fort
1596-1611 Residence of King Sigismund III.
1655 Destruction by Swedish troops
1768-80 Warsaw stay of the Venetian painter Bernardo Bellotto (»Canaletto«)
1815 Creation of »Congress Poland«
11/11/1918 Capital of the Polish Republic
April 19-16, 1943 Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto
1.8.-2.10.1944 Warsaw uprising kills over 200,000
1952-65 Reconstruction of the old town
1971-1981 Reconstruction of the royal castle

Rising from the Ruins

“One from Moscow who wants to go to Paris and a Parisian on the way to Moscow arrive in Warsaw after a very long drive in the morning and both think they have reached their destination…”, so the words of Andrzej Szczypiorski, one of them well-known contemporary Polish writers and participants in the Warsaw Uprising – but: When the Red Army entered Warsaw on January 17, 1945, the city center, including the Royal Palace and the market square, was in ruins. German fighter pilots bombed the former residence of the Polish kings, and the Wehrmacht and SS razed the Jewish ghetto to the ground. After the Warsaw Uprising, the city was systematically blown up and burned to the ground. Few survivors and scorched earth remained. Anyone from Warsaw who did not perish in an extermination camp or interned after the uprising had fled. The city, which the Venetian painter Bernardo Bellotto – better known by his stage name Canaletto – had captured in muted colors on canvas during his twelve-year stay in Warsaw in the 18th century, had ceased to exist.

According to thereligionfaqs, for Poland, whose government never surrendered and whose state and military structures had survived underground even under the German occupation, it was clear from the start: Warsaw had to be rebuilt – no matter what the cost. But the generation of architects who saw their chance after 1945 in the ruins of the city, in the 20 million cubic meters of rubble, did not want to imitate bourgeois Warsaw from the prewar period. The bourgeois republic of the interwar period, which collapsed under the blows of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army in 1939, was considered morbid and outdated – a new, modern Warsaw was to be built. Space had to be created for this idea, so that even the few remaining pre-war buildings were sacrificed to the pickaxe.

For their reconstruction, the city map from the Middle Ages and the architecture of the 18th century were used. Under the slogan “The whole people are building their capital”, the necessary funds flowed in the forties and fifties, and building materials were brought in from all over the country. The town houses on the market square were first built in their new splendor. The early baroque royal palace was only rebuilt in the 1970s under party leader Gierek. In the face of social unrest, he tried to win the sympathy of his compatriots by rebuilding a national symbol.

Now they are back: the barbican from the 16th century, the city fortifications over the Gothic bridge to the New Town, which was discovered just before the war, and the brick St. John’s Cathedral, the final resting place of the Polish national poet and Nobel Prize winner Henryk Sienkiewicz – who knows not his famous novel “Quo vadis?” Only the traditional functions of the old town could not be taken over by the newly rebuilt core of the capital. The façades were the same as before, but the apartments behind them – the layout of which had only been partially retained – had deserved “representatives of the working class and the intelligentsia.” There was no longer any haggling or trading in Warsaw’s historic market square. Instead of handicraft businesses, high-quality state restaurants opened their doors in the neat townhouses. Literature and city history found their museum space. Today the Old Town Market Square – misused as a parking lot for decades – is now a destination for visitors from near and far, who buy souvenirs from street vendors and enjoy a cold beer, coffee and cake under large umbrellas with colorful advertising slogans. Your astonished glances glide over the stucco work and wall paintings of the surrounding patrician houses – here a lion’s head looks down, there a golden dragon stretches, and finally there is also a baroque youth dancing around happily. Today the Old Town Market Square – misused as a parking lot for decades – is now a destination for visitors from near and far, who buy souvenirs from street vendors and enjoy a cold beer, coffee and cake under large umbrellas with colorful advertising slogans. Your astonished glances glide over the stucco work and wall paintings of the surrounding patrician houses – here a lion’s head looks down, there a golden dragon stretches, and finally there is also a baroque youth dancing around happily. Today the Old Town Market Square – misused as a parking lot for decades – is now a destination for visitors from near and far, who buy souvenirs from street vendors and enjoy a cold beer, coffee and cake under large parasols with colorful advertising slogans. Your astonished glances glide over the stucco and wall paintings of the surrounding patrician houses – here a lion’s head looks down, there a golden dragon stretches, and finally there is also a baroque youth dancing around happily.

Warsaw Old Town