Polish Gothic architecture

Polish Gothic architecture
Wrocław Town Hall, east elevation

The Gothic style arrived in Poland in the first half of the 13th century with the arrival of members of the Dominican and Franciscan orders. The first elements of the new style are evident in the foundation of the Dominican Trinity church in Kraków (1226–1250),[1] built by Bishop Iwo Odrowąż. Another of the earliest manifestations of the Gothic in Poland was the rebuilding of the Wrocław Cathedral which started in 1244. The earliest building was completely covered in Poland, built in Gothic style chapel is considered St. Hedwig in Trzebnica (1268–1269) in the monastery of Cistercian.

In the north and west of the country, there are some scarce Romanesque predecessors (see here). Most Gothic buildings in Poland are made of brick, and belong to the Baltic Brick Gothic, especially in northern Poland (see Significant Brick Gothic buildings in Poland). Nonetheless, not all Gothic buildings in Poland are made of brick. For example, the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków is mostly stone-built. Poland also has some Gothic fieldstone churches, mostly of relatively small size. The centers of Polish Gothic are Kraków, Gdańsk, Toruń, Wrocław.

The reign of the king Casimir the Great was the time of the greatest flowering of gothic architecture in Poland. For the second time a similar development took place in the late Gothic phase, during the reign of Casimir the Jagiellonian.

In the region of Małopolska (on the south) buildings were built of brick with stone blocks to the implementation details. Churches built in the area are often two-nave. Are also found very high basilica of the aisles. Silesia resembles gothic solution of Malopolska with influences from the Czech. Here, too, in addition to the blows of stone bricks were used. One of the characteristics is the location of the tower – at the intersection of the transept of the church choir, on the south-east. The architecture of the northern lands strongly influenced patterns inspired by the Teutonic Order state buildings and other cities of Hansa. Brick churches are mainly Pomerania halls of mighty towers, usually situated in the main axis. Much less common is the basilica. In Mazovia not developed different forms of Gothic. Occurring on this earth buildings are characterized by rather simplified forms already known.


From the 13th century began to modernize the seat of royal and princely expanding existing buildings functional program (such as Wawel Castle, Legnica), and building castles, which initially could be built only with the consent of the ruler. For this reason, the oldest castles have public character of the building. Initially, in the 13th century, the characteristic elements of the locks were placed in a role within the wood-earth castles, so the first castles were irregular in shape (e.g., in Opole). After the mid-13th century abandoned the construction palatiów to be connected rather with the earlier epoch. Regular shape of castles spread throughout the Polish Kingdom in the reign of Casimir the Great, and built them into this shape, even in areas of previous castles (Rawa, Łęczyca, Koło). Castles and monasteries built by Joannites (Stare Drawsko, Łagów, Swobnica, Pęzino) and the Teutonic Order, in the state created by them in Prussia (Malbork, Radzyń Chełmiński, Niedzica) and bishops (in Lipowiec). The castles were built or final defense towers (known as stołp) and residential towers (donżon).

The best preserved Gothic castles are:

Town halls

A town hall called Ratusz was a symbol of a city's power in the Middle Ages. Around the town hall were other buildings associated with the function of the urban organism: hall, municipal building, weight, merchant stalls and pillory. Examples of unconverted later Gothic town halls include the Wrocław Town Hall, the Old Town Hall in Toruń and town halls in Chojna, Gdańsk and Szczecin.[2][3][4] Only the Gothic tower of the Ratusz town hall in Kraków has survived.[5]


Existing settlements received in the 13th and 14th centuries tracking new laws (usually based on Magdeburg Law). Urban area is usually divided grid of streets perpendicular to the plot by creating a chessboard layout. Residential buildings, in the upper reaches is still built of wood or timber-framed art. In order to prevent the transmission of fire during the fire, often the wall was increased at the border of two adjacent parcels and tracts of gable roof receives addressed to the agent. Facades of houses stepped or triangular peaks. Houses of rich burghers sometimes received in the form of a richer decor. More often it was a topic mimicking polychrome wall, and wimpergi tracery. An example of building in the Gothic style is the house of Copernicus in Torun, in Sandomierz Długosz House, oldest building of Jagiellonian University – Collegium Maius, building on ul. Łazienna 22 in Toruń.

Town walls and town gates

The city walls surrounded, sometimes in place of the earlier shafts and such investment is carried out for many years, making frequent upgrades. Older consolidation often was increased. The sequence is often interrupted by walls tower. Cities sometimes receive a new, second belt walls (e.g., Wrocław, Toruń). Leading to the ornate gates of cities often preceded the late Gothic period barbakanami connected with them neck. First this form of defense on Polish soil was established in Toruń – Barbican Starotoruński of 1426, the best preserved in Poland barbican Barbican in Kraków. To this day preserved fragments of walls, of which most survived the gate, for example, in Szydłów, Sandomierz, Kraków St. Florian's Gate and the Kraków barbican. Significant parts of the walls have been preserved in Stargard, Pyrzyce, Byczyna, Toruń. In Chełmno and Paczków city walls are preserved almost in its entirety.


Gothic churches can be found all over Poland, especially in major cities of late medieval Poland, including Kraków, Wrocław, Gdańsk. The St. Mary's Church in Gdańsk is the largest brick church in the world. The Pelplin Cathedral in Pelplin, Pomerania is one of the largest churches in Poland. Kraków's St. Mary's Basilica and Wawel Cathedral are among the most recognisable landmarks of entire Poland.

Other buildings

See also


  1. Marek Strzala, Stroll through the historic Kazimierz area. Krakow Info.com (Internet Archive). Retrieved February 13, 2014.
  2. Szlakiem Rynków i Ratuszy w Polsce PTTK
  3. Elżbieta Zagłoba-Zygler, 20 lat rajdu motorowego PTTK "Ratusze w Polsce" "Gosciniec" Polskiego Towarzystwa Turystyczno-Krajoznawczego, PTTK
  4. Janusz Rosikoń, Ratusze w Polsce Rosikon Press
  5. Kamil Janicki, Co się stało z krakowskim ratuszem? Ciekawostki turystyczne.
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