Beyond The Old Town – Matejko Square

Continuing the walk behind the walls of the old town, let’s go beyond them through the
Florian Gate, and we will see a large square surrounded by historic buildings and a huge
monument inside.The central place of the square is occupied by the equestrian statue of
King Władysław Jagiełło, erected in 1910 and funded by the famous Polish pianist and
composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski. The monument was erected on the 500th anniversary
of the Battle of Grunwald, destroyed during World War II by the Germans (for the
occupant it was an uncomfortable symbol of the power of the Polish state in the past),
restored and unveiled again in 1976. The area of today’s square was part of the so-called
Kleparz Market, the center of the separate city of Kleparz located outside the walls of
Krakow. After joining Kleparz to Kraków in 1791, the place was naturally divided by the
construction of the Academy of Fine Arts building and the building of the Railway
Directorate. For all those for whom the memory of the Polish Pope John Paul II is still
alive, for those who follow in his footsteps, the church located in the corner of the square
will be a stop worth visiting.The first church on this site was built at the turn of the 12th and
13th centuries, while the present building dates from the 17th century. From August 1949
to August 1951 he worked in this church as vicar Karol Wojtyła, later Pope John Paul II.

Of course, the building of the Academy of Fine Arts attracts the most attention in the
square, the largest and most impressive structure in this area. In 1876, the municipal
authorities of the city of Kraków gave the School of Fine Arts land for the construction of a
completely new building, the school’s headquarters. The building was designed by Maciej
Moraczewski, in 1879 construction began to be completed in 1880. Perhaps the greatest
contribution to the construction of the building and the Academy was Jan Matejko, one of
the most famous Polish painters and at that time the director of the School of Fine Arts.
During World War II, the activities of the Academy were suspended, in its place the
Germans established a professional art school which operated until 1943, of course, after
the war, the Academy’s activities were reactivated. Today, the main building of the
Academy houses the offices of the rector, chancellor, dean’s offices of painting, sculpture,
galleries and art studios.

At the corner of Matejko Square and Basztowa Street, there is another interesting object
worth stopping and taking a closer look at it. It is the seat of a branch of the National Bank
of Poland. Originally there was an inn and a building, half of which was occupied by the
Hotel Lwowski, before the outbreak of World War I, a competition was announced for the
construction of a completely new hotel, but the outbreak of the war completely thwarted
these plans. After Poland regained independence in 1918, this place was designated for
the construction of a temporary issuing bank. Construction began in 1921 under the
direction of Kazimierz Wyczyński, the author of the project, and due to his death during the
works, the construction was completed by Teodor Hoffman. After the reform of the Polish
monetary system, the Kraków branch of the Bank of Poland was housed in the building.

National Bank of Poland, Photo by Polar123

During the Second World War, the building housed the headquarters of the Bank of Issue
of the General Government. In the seventies of the twentieth century, the original interior
was removed during renovation, fortunately in 2015-2016, during another renovation, the
original interior was restored. This building is a typical example of classicism, very popular
in interwar Poland, this style was very often used when building state institutions, which
was to emphasize the strength of the newly reborn Polish state and the solidity of its
foundations. Two interesting elements of the facade are at the top, two sculptures,
allegories of agriculture and industry, by symbolic depiction of two ways of earning money
with the help of hands and industrial production, they refer to the activities of the bank.
What else is worth paying attention to while in the square? In front of the equestrian statue
of the king, there is a marble tomb of an unknown soldier, while the square itself was the
beginning of the so-called Royal Route leading through the main streets of the city to the
Wawel Royal Castle. This is where official delegations and rulers of other countries used
to enter the city to meet the king at Wawel Castle. Behind the building of the Academy of

Fine Arts there is a fairly large market square, where you can buy fresh fruit, vegetables
and other products from small local producers. It is especially worth visiting in summer,
when the product range is the largest.

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