Kraków Commons, Kraków
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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An extensive meadow visually connecting the Old Town church towers with the massive Wolski Forest and the Kościuszko Mound on the horizon. This situation offers one of the Europe’s best exposure of the historic city from within. The Commons are an important part of the cultural identity of Kraków and a remarkable token of the past. They are an urban and cultural phenomenon.

History

It is difficult to divide the history of the area into meaningful historical phases. In the 1256 sources, isolated settlements were reported between Kraków and the village of Zwierzyniec. Zwierzyniec was occupied and effectively developed by the Norbertine nuns brought from Bohemia in the 2nd half of the 13th century. These outskirts of Kraków are also mentioned in the Kraków incorporation document (1257). In 1358 Casimir the Great issued a charter which clearly read that the city held pascua versus Swerzinciam, the pastures extending towards Zwierzyniec. In 1363 the city council sought to purchase from the king the areas before the Szewska Gate and in the so-called Pobrzeże - the floodland between Zwierzyniec and Czarna Wisła. A complaint of 1369 addressed to the king mentioned some local inconveniences, including the shortage of grazing land. In 1375 the notary public, Mikołaj, authorized by the Holy See, acted as a mediator between the city and the Norbertine nuns in a dispute concerning the Commons. The dispute lasted until the 1st quarter of the 15th century when the parties agreed on a settlement. In 1402 the city pastures were for the first time named “Blone” (Commons). In the 16th and 17th century, when Kraków and the surrounding villages experienced a period of peace and prosperity, the Commons began to shrink. From time to time, trials were resumed concerning the limitation of ownership in the Commons between the Norbertine nuns and the Kraków burghers; they ended in the slight shifting of boundaries or settlements. Makeshift shelters built for cattle were completely washed up on 26 August 1813 during the great flood which reached as far as the Commons (up to Bronowice), Stradom, Kazimierz and Zwierzyniec. In the 19th century, the economic importance of the Commons decreased, and after the improvements in transport, particularly the construction of railway, it completely declined. As the city was growing, it was not possible to maintain the original condition of such an extensive area in the close vicinity of the city centre. It was gradually truncated from all sides. The method was simple: every now and again a new household was built whose fence was eating into the meadow. The development was intense, especially from the direction of Zwierzyniec, Smoleńsk and Czarna Wieś. Of paramount importance was the construction of the Kraków Fortress which completely altered the shape of this part of the suburbs. But it was only when a railway line was built along today’s avenue, the Commons lost their former, semi-rural character.  In 1908 the City Council decided to address the issue of the reconstruction and development of the suburbs. In a series of architectural contests, the Commons were enclosed in an impressive road system (Foch Avenue and 3rd of May Avenue in place of the former Rudawa River).  In medieval and modern times, the swampy Commons also guarded the city from enemy attacks. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Kraków Commons became recognizable after a great military parade held by Prince Józef Poniatowski. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries such events were a fashionable entertainment and much-awaited spectacles. On 6 August 1914, from the post-exhibition area of Oleanders, the First Cadre Company of Józef Połsuski set off towards Kielce. The riflemen gathered in the Commons on 3 August and camped there waiting for orders. After them, more riflemen and legionnaires marched from the Commons to fight for independence. Józef Pilsudski returned to the site again. On 6 October 1933, as the Marshal of Poland, he watched a great cavalry parade. In 1850 for the last time Kraków witnessed one of the most popular pastimes of the previous centuries. The Commons was the place of the last public execution in the history of the city. The turning point for the Commons - as a representative and entertainment spot - was the organization on the National Exhibition in 1887. It was held on the initiative of Mayor Feliks Szlachtowski as an extremely fashionable event of the late 19th century featuring the cultural heritage and showing off the economic progress of the country. After the exhibition investment and the construction of the impressive avenues, the Commons somewhat changes their rustic character. Since then, they were often used as a venue of student and academic parades on national holidays. The “new” Commons witnessed numerous important celebrations. In 1910, during the all-Poland celebration of the anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald, the Commons was chosen as a venue for field Mass. Of a different nature but still very important events in the history of the Commons were Holy Masses celebrated for hundreds of thousands of the faithful by Pope John Paul II during his pilgrimages to Poland (1979, 1983, 1987). Here, in 1983, Pope John Paul II beatified Brother Albert Chmielowski and Fr. Rafał Kalinowski. In 1997, Holy Mass celebrated in the Commons by John Paul II coinciding with the canonization of Queen Hedwig, gathered approx. 1.5 million people. It is worth noting that it had not been the first time that the Commons were first to enjoy the grace of canonization. In 1254 the envoys carrying the papal bull confirming the canonization of St Stanislaus were welcomed in this place. The tradition of Holy Mass in the Commons is so much entrenched among the local people that the successor of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, also met the faithful here during his visit to Kraków.

Description

The Commons is a meadow about 1.5 km in length and 0.5 km in width, extending along the east-west axis from the so-called second Kraków ring road - Trzech Wieszczów Avenue. It is enclosed by Foch Avenue from the south and 3rd of May Avenue from the north: they are all the boundary limits of the meadow. From the west side, the Commons is also closed by a short stretch of the Rudawa River and Piastowska Street. North of the site, there are some monumental buildings: the National Museum, Oleanders, Jordan’s Park, a sports complex of the Wisła and Cracovia football clubs, and a modernist residential complex behind the tram terminal station, at the so-called Quiet Corner (the name of a former outdoor pub). Behind Piastowska Street, there are the remnants of a defensive structure of the mid-19th century, which is part of the noyau fortification, and the street itself overlaps with the former rocade road. The Rudawa River is lined by public allotments. To the south, along Foch Avenue, there is a residential complex, mostly Modernist from the interwar period, and to the east - the stadium of Cracovia Footbal Club and a hotel of the same name (now defunct), built in the 1960s, of a neutral form but lacking in any particular style. Unfortunately, this picturesque complex has a strong disharmonious element in the south-west corner: the sports facilities of Juvenia and the Zwierzyniec stadium. Although separated by greenery, they interfere with the purity of the system. The heart of the Commons is a flat, grassy land with an area of ​​nearly 1 square kilometer. Even the local residents forget that besides grass the Commons have also hundreds of trees. The plain meadow is enclosed from the north by a triple row of old trees: 485 trees in total along 3rd of May Avenue (an ash alley and a linden alley on the border of the Commons, a trace after the so-called Old Rudawa Rive, once supplying the Old Town moats), and from the south by a young row of more than 200 trees along Foch Avenue. It is worth noting that in the row along 3rd of May Avenue, as many as half of the trees were planted during the first phase of development, i.e. at the beginning of the 20th century. Designers should also be praised for selecting native species, consistent with the natural habitat, which translates into the good shape of the stand. The younger plantings of the mid-20th century are dominated by the linden tree (40%), ash (25%) and different species of the maple.

Available without limitations.

Compiled by Roman Marcinek, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Kraków, 23.10.2014.

Bibliography

  • Bąkowski K., Przechadzka historyczna po błoniach. Kraków 1908.
  • Bogdanowski J., Warownie i zieleń twierdzy Kraków, Kraków 1979.
  • Grabowski A., Starożytnicze wiadomości o Krakowie. Kraków 1852.
  • Marcinek R., Błonia. To też są zabytki (in:) „Spotkania z zabytkami”, Warszawa 2000, vol. 24, pp. 26-27.
  • Marcinek R., hasło: Błonia (in:) Encyklopedia Krakowa, Warszawa-Kraków 2000, pp. 71.
  • Marcinek R., Z dziejów Błoń krakowskich (in:) „Teka Komisji Urbanistyki i Architektury PAN”, Kraków 1999, vol. XXXI, pp. 7-24.
  • Marcinek R., Myczkowski Z., Błonia krakowskie („Parki Krakowa” series), Kraków 2013.
  • Rajman J., Klasztor Norbertanek na Zwierzyńcu w wiekach średnich. Kraków 1993.
  • Schonborn B., Zwierzyniec. Historia, zabytki, tradycje, legendy. Kraków 1953.

General information

  • Type: park and garden complex
  • Chronology: poł. XIII w. - poł. XIX w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Al. Trzeciego Maja, Al. Marszałka F. Focha, Piastowska , Kraków
  • Location: Voivodeship małopolskie, district Kraków, commune Kraków
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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