Katedralna Street and Katedralny Square
As you leave Tumski Bridge, you arrive in OstrówTumski onto Katedralna Street which runs across the historical area until Katedralny Square and St. John The Baptist's Cathedral. This is why the street is called so. Right at the very beginning on the left there is a little Gothic St. Peter and Paul's Church and behind it there is a former orphanage whose Late Baroque building was founded by Bishop Neuburga in the 18th century. At Katedralna Street numerous palaces and houses can be admired which used to belong to clergy and church institutions. Looking chronologically: at number 7 Nicolas Copernicus stayed for a while, at number 9 there is Vice-chancellor's Office of Papal Faculty of Theology with a beautiful garden where in the middle there is a statue of Blessed Edmund Bojanowski surrounded by children. At number 11 there is Wroclaw Archbishop's Residence and at number 13 - Metropolitan Curia which is a former bishop's residence from the 15th and 16th century, built in place of the 13th century building, and redesigned in Classical style at the beginning of the 19th century. In front of the Cathedral it is worth stopping at 17th century Baroque statue of Immaculate Virgin Mary, having a look around the green square with its Baroque statue of Hercules fighting with a lion, and going up a small hill to enjoy the view of the left bank of the Oder River. This way we arrived at Katedralny Square which was created after demolishing the fortification and filling up a branch of the Oder. Its main attractions are Neo-Gothic building of Metropolitan Seminar, late Gothic house of chapter sessions linked by an arch with St. Giles' Church, and Diocese Museum where medieval paintings, sculptures, liturgical vessels and antique books (including the famous Book of Henry) are exhibited. There is also Poland's oldest 700-year-old bell. In the middle of the square since 2000 there has been Christ The King statue by Czesław Mazur.
St. John The Baptist Catholic Cathedral
It is undoubtedly Wroclaw's most precious monument of sacred architecture. It is over 1000 years old. Before the present Gothic church was erected in the 13th century, there had been three other churches in its place. The oldest one was built between 983 and 988 and resembled a Czech church in Libice, which was proved by historians. The next church was built of fieldstone bonded with clay in 1000 when Emperor Otto III and Pope Silvestre II established a diocese in Wroclaw. Such honour was a proof of the city's great importance which was growing to become a crucial centre of politics, economy and culture in the region. What is preserved from the third Romanesque basilica built from blocks of crystallized limestone are the elements of its portal, specifically - fragments of St. John The Baptist's figure which are exhibited in the Diocese Museum. Though the proverb goes "third time lucky", it was the fourth building which eventually turned out to last for over 750 years. It was in 1244 when the construction works were started in Gothic style, the first Gothic building in Wroclaw. Its architecture partly derives from Cistercian tradition. It took a long time to accomplish the task due to numerous problems, among them Bishop Thomas I's being kidnapped by Prince Boleslav Rogatka. World War II, mainly the Soviet bombing in spring 1945 was merciless to the Cathedral. "The liberators" destroyed completely the vaults of the nave and partly the vaults of the aisles. The reconstruction has lasted since 1945 until now. Two Baroque chapels adjoining the Cathedral are worth mentioning: St. Elisabeth's and Electors'. The first one was founded by Cardinal Fredericof Darmstadt, landgraveof Hesse who believed himself to be St. Elisabeth of Thuringia's descendent. The other one was founded by Archbishop Franz Ludwig von Pfalz-Neuburg, prince-elector and archbishop of Trier, Empress Eleonor's brother and was designed by an eminent Austrian Baroque architect, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach.
It is romantically called the Bridge of Love. It links banks of the northern branch of Oder River between OstrówTumski and Piasek Island. The same as many other ones, this bridge was originally wooden and dates from 12th century. Its present steel double-span construction was built in 1889. It is 52.19m long, 6.84m wide and 6.90m tall. At the entrance on both ends there are stone statues of St. Jadwiga and St. John The Baptist by Gustav Grunenberg from 1893. It served Wroclaw until 1945 and was badly damaged during the war. Some of it was repaired right after the war ended, however marks of gunfire and shrapnel hitting still can be noticed on some elements of the bridge. Another renovation took place in 1990s. Since 1976 it has been on the list of Wroclaw's historical monuments. At Tumski Bridge there are manually operated gas lamp posts still in working order.
Church of Virgin Mary on Sand
Let us begin with the sand. It is an island on Oder River but the name dates to a remote time and place. A Latin dedication of the church sounds Sancta Maria in Arena as the first Roman church dedicated to Virgin Mary was built on the area of former circus. In time the word arena started to be translated as sand. On the island the first Romanesque church and Canons Regular of the Lateran's convent were built in the first half of the 12th century - historians cannot agree whether it was in 1133 or 1148. It was a small church, 35m long where today's central part of the nave and the southern aisle are located. In the 13th century the first alteration works took place and the Romanesque shape of the church survived until 1334. Over the ages it was enlarged and redesigned a number of times, also after various fires. In 1945 the church and the convent were destroyed. Even though it was first thought to leave them ruined, they were rebuilt in stages in the years 1946-1948 and 1961-1963. The interior regained its original Gothic forms, the furnishings were brought from destroyed Silesian churches. The roof has maintained its shape from before 1730. The square plan convent adjoins the church. Originally it was Gothic, but it was redesigned and enlarged in Baroque style between 1709 and 1715. In 1632 the church was looted by Swedish troops. After the secularization the convent was used as a library from 1811. After being destroyed during World War II it was rebuilt by Marcin Bukowski between 1956 and 1959. Unfortunately, the Gothic wing was demolished to collect Gothic bricks. At present the former convent houses a branch of Library of Wroclaw University.
Piotr Włostowic's Boulevard
As you walk along the picturesque boulevard on the bank of Oder River, a 12th century Silesian knight and magnate is surely worth remembering as the street bears his name. We know when Piotr Włostowic of Łabędź family, called Włast, died. It was in 1153. He lived long enough to gain renown as a leader of wars and expeditions, as a founder of numerous convents and churches, as Boleslav III The Wry-mouthed's count palatine whom he became after Skarbimir's rebellion and exile. Due to Salomea's (BoleslavIII's wife) intrigues he was removed from the court, however Vladislav II restored him to favour and appointed him a voivode and Silesian region administrator. Włast did not turn out to be very grateful, though. During the conflict of Vladislav II with his younger brothers, he supported them not him and was blinded in 1145 and banished. He went to Rus but returned a year later after Vladislav II had been exiled. He died in Wroclaw. Piotr Włostowic's Boulevard runs on Piasek Island along the city Oder where it splits into southern and northern branches. It is a fragment of Piasek Island boulevards which are named are Stanisław Kulczyński's and Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński's. Since 1998 a boardwalk can be taken to Wroclaw's oldest part, OstrówTumski (Cathedral Island). The promenade was built after Millennium Flood in 1997.
Today's Maria Mill is a complex of two previous mills which date back to the 13th century. In 1267 on the islands Piasek and Młyńska, divided by a narrow canal of Oder, two mills were built: Maria on Piasek Island and Feniks on Młyńska Island. 200 years later two of them burned down, they were rebuilt and were still in use, though changed names occasionally to e.g. Corpus Christi Mills. They burned down again in the 18th century and new ones were built in 1793. Then they were altered a number of times over the years and the most important change came when in place of a footbridge the third building appeared, exploiting the current of the river. They served as mills until World War II. After 1945 they were closed down; however it was decided not to pull them down. The whole complex was named Maria Mill but no function was invented for them. Part of it was turned into flats, the rest is unfortunately declining.
It was built between 1906 and 1908 in place of the 14th century Lubusz bishops' residence, remodelled in 16th century into Sand Arsenal. The building survived until 1905 when it was demolished. Its only fragments are stone spheres fixed in the northern wall of Market Hall. It was designed by Richard Plüddemann. He combined the forms of historical style with the latest technological solutions and worldwide pioneer construction of parabolic reinforced concrete arches designed by Friedrich August Küster. It made the building unique and ensured it its own place in the manuals of architecture. After the great renovation of 1980-1983, Market Hall whose interior can surely be found among finest Wroclaw's commercial attractions, is still used for its original purposes.
Earl Józef Maksymilian Ossoliński's (1748-1826) lifetime achievement, was started the foundation of the National Ossoliński Institute in 1817. He was an outstanding scientist and visionary, book and art collector, member of various scientific associations, Vienna Imperial Library prefect. During the tragic times of partition he created an institution consisting of a library and museum which allowed the enslaved nation to preserve its identity and to remind subsequent Polish generations of who they were and who they had been before their country lost its independence. Ossoliński handed down all his collections to the foundation: books, manuscripts and numismatics as well as some of his properties which were to become the source of funds to support the foundation. He also intended to publish a scientific magazine and look after young scientists. He dreamed the foundation would become a national, Polish museum and cultural institution. However, he needed another devotee to support him in order to achieve the goal. Henryk Lubomirski turned out to be the one, representative of a splendid and rich family, art expert and collector. On 25 December 1823 an agreement was signed which stated that Henryk Lubomirski handed down a part of his priceless collection to Ossolineum and declared to be supporting it financially. Ossoliński chose Lviv as the seat of the foundation, however he passed away before National Ossoliński Institute was opened to the public as it took a long time to deal with formalities. He died in 1826 in Vienna and the foundation was opened to public in 1827. It stayed in Lviv until 1946. After World War II started, Soviet authorities decided to take over the collections of the institute and create Library of Lviv, branch of USSR Academy of Science. In July 1941 it fell into Nazis' hands. At the end of the war they tried to transport a part of the Ossolineum collections to Germany but the transport was abandoned in Lower Silesia. It was found by Poles and they were brought to Wroclaw. After the war Ukrainian government "gave the Polish nation some other pieces of the collection left in Lviv as a gift". The Ossolineum of Wroclaw was located in a 17th century former convent of Red Star Crusaders, where stood St. Matthias' boys' Catholic middle school from the 19th century. It was quickly renovated and in 1947 the reading room was opened, giving scientists access to part of the collection. In 1953 National Ossoliński Institute became a branch of Polish Academy of Sciences and was divided into two separate sections: National Ossoliński Institute, Polish Academy of Science Library and National Ossoliński Institute, Polish Academy of Science Publishing House. At present the Ossolineum collection possesses a collection of over
1,800,000 units. Every year a few important exhibitions are prepared, meetings with authors, soirees as well as concerts and theatre shows are organized.
Wroclaw University is Poland's second oldest university, after Jagiellonian University of Cracow. It is also one of Central Europe's oldest. It was established in 1702. However, it might have already been established by Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary 200 years earlier as the king signed the founding act of Silesian university in 1505, however Pope Julius II did not concede his permission to do so. It was the Jesuits and Emperor of Austria Leopold I who succeeded and this is why the first university name was Leopold's Academy. After the Order of Jesuits was dissolved in 1776, the university became a state institution. The important date is the year of 1811 when King Frederic Wilhelm III decided to merge Viadrina, declining academy of Frankfurt Oder, with Wroclaw Academy. After World War II the university was re-opened in 1945 and for the next 6 years it was a common institution of Wroclaw University and Technical University. A lot of personages are connected with the university e.g. Johann Galle (Planet Neptune discoverer) and 11 Nobel Prize winners, among them Theodor Mommsen (literature), Paul Ehrlich (medicine), Otto Stern, Max Born and Erwin Schrödinger (physics), Eduard Buchner and Friedrich Bergius (chemistry). Among its graduates there are some great poets and writers: Marek Krajewski, Adam Asnyk, Stanisław Grochowiak, Władysław Terlecki, Wojciech Żukrowski. At present it is Silesian's biggest university with nearly 40,000 students. The University's pride is its library with Poland's biggest collection of 31,000 units of antique books from years 1456 to 1800 and the architecture of the buildings. The gems are: Imperial Staircase, Mathematics Tower, Oratorium Marianum, and above all Leopold's Auditorium - the University's biggest and most magnificent part of the main building. Once the whole academy was dedicated to the founder's name, today it is just (or no less than) the auditorium. This hall is a masterpiece of secular Baroque. It was designed by Christophorus Tausch and created between 1728 and 1732. It delights with the splendour of its sculptures and paintings. The frescos were painted by Johann Christoph Handke of Ołomuniec, the sculptures were carved by Franz Joseph Mangdoldt. One becomes overwhelmed by illusionistic decoration which represents Act of Entrusting the University to Virgin Mary, Apotheosis of God's Wisdom and Earthly Wisdom. On the back wall which imitates Triumph Arch one can see Apotheosis of Emperor Leopold I, also honoured with a statue, sitting on a throne, wearing a suit of armour and holding attributes of imperial power. His two sons have also been honoured with statues: Joseph I and Charles VI. Over the professors' heads sitting in boxes there is a gallery of oval portraits of rulers and dignitaries of merit for the development of the university. Leopold's Auditorium is also famous for its magnificent acoustic and the most important events of academic life take place there.
The place where a system of three Pomorski Bridge exists (Northern, Central and Southern), linking the northern and the southern banks of Oder River, with Kępa Mieszczańska island between them, was used already in the 14th century. It was made use of so frequently due to numerous granaries, workshops and others situated nearby, using the energy of the river. It lasted so until the 19th century when time for change came. In 1879 a short Pomorski Central Bridge was built over the lock, then between 1904 and 1905 exactly on the axis of Central Bridge, Pomorski Southern Bridge was built in Neo-Romanesque and Art Deco styles with two interesting stone pavilions resembling towers. Unfortunately, after World War II the other ornaments disappeared - 3 pairs of pinnacles with lamp posts standing on 60m long balustrades. What is worse, on the pilasters on the east side two heating system pipes were installed. Eventually in 1930 over the weir of hydroelectric power station Wroclaw II the last bridge, Pomorski Northern Bridge, linking Kępa Mieszczańska island with the northern bank of Oder River. This steel structure is 85m long and 20m wide. What is interesting, Pomorski Bridges survived World War II without any major damage. Only the northern one was slightly damaged, it got renovated in 1953, though, and 30 years later its sidewalks and the balustrade were restored.
Arsenal of Wrocław
This Gothic building in the Old City has been famous as a military ware house, though in the beginning it stored minor arms. There is a mention from 1459 which states it housed municipal granary in case of a siege. It was partly built on the basis of old 14th century city walls near Mikołajewska Gate. This is why it is also called Mikołajewski Arsenal. Since the second part of 16th century it was used as an armoury and it was then when it got enlarged and altered. In the area of the courtyard there are: a coach house, a blacksmith's and a gunsmith's workshop. It received its present decoration in 1620s. A rhombus-shaped brick building is covered with a gable roof and it has a medieval courtyard with a well. Its roof structure is unique. It is one of very few medieval European arsenals. Today it is a branch of Wroclaw's Municipal Museum and a collection of militaria can be seen there as well as a collection of Archeological Museum and Construction Archive of Architecture Museum. A square-shaped tower houses the Marksmen's Fraternity of Wroclaw. Arsenal is also a place where many cultural events are organized e.g. yearly festival of chamber music "Wieczory" ("Evenings").
National Museum of Wrocław
It has existed since 1948 and has one of Poland's and Europe's most important Collections of Medieval Art. There is a collection of Polish Art of 17th to 10th Centuries, part of which are the works of art handed over from the museum of Kiev and Lviv after World War II. There is also Polish Modern Art Collection including over 20,000 artifacts. The National Museum of Wroclaw promotes Polish modern art not just organizing exhibitions in the building, but also abroad (at international festivals in Cagnes-sur-Mer, Sao Paulo, New Delhi and Faenzie). The collections are not the only delight - it is also the building itself. During World War II Wroclaw's museum building were practically totally destroyed, the spacious building of the Board of Silesian Region was chosen for the seat of the new museum. It was built between 1883 and 1886 as the first government building in Germany, in Dutch Neo-Renaissance style. The author of the design was Berlin architect Karl Friedrich Endell, working for the Ministry of Public Works.
Its current slogan is "145 years of success". It was opened on 10 July 1865 and soon started to flourish, in 1880 it was considered one of the best zoos worldwide. Good luck lasted for over 50 years but the crisis of the first years after World War I was too severe and the zoo was closed down in 1921, for 6 years. It was re-opened on 1st May 1927. It survived World War II, it did not the liberation. In May 1945 it was destroyed by the Red Army but it rose from the ashes 3 years later. In 1957 its area doubled absorbing the lot of Recovered Territories Fair. Good luck continued, in the 1970s the animals collection was considered one of the biggest in Europe. It was also popularized thanks to a TV program named "With A Camera Among Animals" hosted by Hanna and Antoni Gucwiński. Since 2007 Radosław Ratajszczak has been the manager who has pioneered transforming Wroclaw Zoo into a limited liability company. It continues to use 19th century pavilions though they are adjusted to contemporary needs. On the area of 33ha there are theme exhibitions of the fauna of each continent (Madagascar Pavilion, Sahara, brown bears pen, pool of the finned etc.). The construction of Africanarium is planned which will be a unique complex displaying the African water environment. In the zoo currently there are 4500 animals, representing 800 species, among them a large number of those in danger of extinction which do not appear in their natural habitat any more. The zoo is involved in protection of vanishing species, participates in over 80 EEP, ESB and ISB programs as well as organizes environmental education.
It is 62 m long and 21.80 m wide which does not make it a major one. However, its beauty makes it stand out from the others. It was built and designed by Karl Klimm between 1895 and 1897 in place of a wooden bridge from 1655. Until 1945 there even was a bronze plaque with a German inscription saying: "Wooden I reposed for centuries over indolent waters. Now I am made from steel and stone gracing the navigable track". Communist authorities removed the plaque, though. The construction of the bridge is one-span, steel and truss, with two parallel steel arches leaning on granite abutments. It is decorated by four magnificent Art Deco red sandstone obelisks and looks really splendid illuminated by lamp at dusk. The bridge survived World War II as the Nazis planned to blow it up expecting a strike from this side, but the Soviet Army attacked from another and they had either no time or purpose to destroy it. At present Zwierzyniecki Bridge is an important link in the eastern part of the city, connecting the city centre with the districts of Dąbie, Biskupin, Sępolno and Bartoszowice. It is close from there to the Zoo and Centennial Hall. There is also a passenger boat stop Zwierzynieca where you take a tourist boat to sail down Oder River.