26/07 - 31/07/2016

Places

The Barbican

The Barbican

Within the ring of green space surrounding Old Town, where just about every person in Krakow strolls, sits, and chats, called the “Planty” by locals, there is a cylindrical brick building with distinctive turrets. It is the Barbican, now deprived of its original medieval function, which served as a gateway into the Old Town, and which was the start of the route known as the Royal Road. In those days it led through the Florianska Gate, then down the Florianska Street to the Main Square, passing St. Mary's Basilica, then down the Grodzka Street to Wawel Castle. The most prominent city guests, kings’ coronations, processions, royal funeral processions, diplomats and merchants used this route.

Additionally, war heroes and gallant chiefs with their war prisoners entered the royal town through the Barbican, and this is why it was called the Gate of Glory (Porta Gloriae). In the 15th and 16th centuries, this defensive structure was significant place, especially in the times of Turkish and Tatar invasions. It ensured essential access to the municipal arsenal of Krakow.

The Barbican was initially connected to the Florianska Gate via a gorge, and in Medieval Times it was surrounded by a deep moat, though it is no longer there now. There was also an underground walkway under the Barbican leading through the waters of the moat, which, in case of any threat, could be used by warriors who defended the city on the walls of the fortress. The builders designed the building with very solid walls. The part of the Barbican that was above the water level was made from fired, solid brick. The walls in their entire height were resistant to gunfire. Their thickness varied from about 3 metres to about 45 centimetres. In its four storeys, the Barbican fitted around 130 loopholes from which warriors could shoot. They were intentionally very closely spaced, so that the garrison defending the fortress could cover the whole field in front of them. On the top of the building there are well-preserved porches with holes in the floor, which were used to pour molten lead, boiling oil or hurl bullets on the heads of the enemies.

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