Must see in Poznań: St. Martin Street

Saint Martin street is one of the Old Town streets in Poznań. There are many venues worth seeing, such as the Imperial Castle, St. Martin's Church and the "June 1956" monument.

St. Martin Street

St. Martin Street

St. Martin Street owes its name to a 13th-century settlement, mentioned already in 1252, whose centre was the church dedicated to St. Martin. Until the end of the 18th century it was a separate town near Poznan and since 1792 it has functioned as its suburb. It was recognized as the town's main street in 18th century and thus adopted the name of the whole suburb. It lead all the way from the Berlin Gate (the intersection of St. Martin Street and Kościuszki Street at present), demolished in 1901 by the Prussian authorities which was then used to erect the castle district. At the end of the 19th century it became the very first street in Poznan to be asphalted.

Nowadays the street begins at Kaponiera Roundabout (Rondo Kaponiera) in the west, and ends at 1848 Spring of the Nations Square (Plac Wiosny Ludów). Between 1945 and 1989 it carried the name  Red Army Avenue. It has little communications importance, however it serves as a significant trade and services area.

A lot of institutions are located there, among which one can find the University of Adam Mickiewicz, Music Academy (previously Lutheran Seat of Associations) which is opposite the university building and consists of two wings, the first one primal, built while the castle area was being erected, and the second one contemporary, built in the 1990s, alluding with its architecture to its neighbour, Philharmonic Concert Hall, Emperor's Castle, two cinemas (Zamkowe and Muza), libraries and several banks. Along St. Martin's Street there are also preserved a number of Art Deco and Neo-Romanesque tenement houses where today some hotels and some libraries are located, for instance Haase and Wagner's tenement no. 69 designed by Oskar Hoffmann, built at the beginning of 20th century, originally the seat of Posener Neueste Nachrichten daily, and next to it the Association of People's Reading Rooms. Beside this there is a 7-storey hotel building, tenement no. 67 (today NH Reichshof, before World War II - Continental). On the opposite side of the street, no. 74 there is another pre-war building, Hotel Lech. Unfortunately, it was redesigned in 1970s which destroyed its layout completely.

On  St. Martin Street one can also find several monument, e.g. Adam Mickiewicz, university's patron. The most famous one, though, is the Monument of Poznan's June 1956.

Monument of Poznan's June 1956

Monument of Poznan's June 1956

The monument is located on Adam Mickiewicz Square, at St. Martin Street. The idea for this monument was suggested in autumn 1980. The project by sculptor Adam Graczyk and architect Włodzimierz Wojciechowski won the contest. It consists of two 21-metre tall steel crosses, joined with a knot-tied arm and a sculpture of an eagle's head. On the left-side cross there is the date of 1956, commemorating the protests, and on the right-side cross there are the dates of workers' later protests from other Polish cities: 1968, 1970, 1976, 1980 i 1981. On the left one can also read the main mottos of the Cegielski Factory workers of 1956: We want God, We demand freedom, law and bread.

The monument was erected in record time and was ready to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the events, unveiled two days before the anniversary, 26th June 1981. The monument memorializes the workers' protests which began with a strike in Cegielski Metallurgical Factory, later turning into a spontaneous protest of the Great Poland's people against the totalitarian system. About one hundred thousand people went out to the streets in a rally which took place on Mickiewicz Square. The demonstrations which spread around the city, were bloodily suppressed by the squads of the People's Regular Army and the corps of Internal Security. Several dozen were killed, among them a 13-year-old boy, Romek Strzałkowski, who has become a symbol of the Poznan 1956 events.

Imperial Castle

Imperial Castle

Emperor's William II Castle is the most magnificent building on St. Martin Street. It was supposed to be the last imperial residence in Europe and represents the 1000-year history of German presence in the land of Great Poland. Instead, it became a symbol of over 100-year Prussian domination over the city. A Neo-Romanesque irregularly shaped polygonal building was built in the place of the city's fortification between 1905 and 1910. The walls of the castle are faced with sandstone, stylistically alluding to Romanesque architecture of Southern and Western Europe. On the walls of the castle were placed the figures of characters from Grimm Brothers' Tales: on Independence Avenue (Aleje Niepodległości) side there are the Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood, on Kościuszki Street side there is Hansel and Gretel supporting a balcony. Originally the castle consisted of two wings: the western, the residential one, and the eastern, the state one, with the Throne Room alluding to Byzantine basilicas. The castle made the main accent of the castle district.

German urban planner, professor Joseph Stübben, marked out a stylish street which was to circle the city centre of Poznan - at present Independence Avenue (Aleje Niepodległości) and Queen Jadwiga Avenue (Królowej Jadwigi). Making a reference to Vienna and Cracow, this street along with the parks and green squares adjacent, was to serve as a promenade. In the place of the former Tietzen Fort, situated between the no longer existing Royal Gate and Berlin Gate, a large public park was planted (today - Mickiewicz Park), surrounded by magnificent buildings.

The emperor stayed at the castle only twice. After World War I and Poland's regaining of independence in 1918 it became the seat of Poznan University. During World War II the castle was redesigned and became Adolf Hitler's residence. His study has been preserved until today, being a copy of Führer's Berlin study, with a balcony built on the tower especially for him. At that time a fine entrance from St. Martin Street was added as well. The castle avoided being destroyed during or after World War II. German symbols and inscriptions were removed only, the castle's tower has not been restored to its original state either (today it is lower).

Nowadays the castle is the seat of "Zamek" Community Centre, Animation Theatre and Museum of Poznan's June 1956. In the castle's courtyards during the summer many culture events take place such as concerts and film screening.

St. Martin's Church in Poznan

St. Martin's Church in Poznan

It is located at St. Martin Street. The first, probably wooden church, stood in this place as early as the 13th century, and the settlement of St. Martin adopted its name as well as the street in the 18th century. In the middle of the 16th century a brick church in late Gothic style was erected in this place, without any towers, with a stellar vault. It was pulled down in the 17th century. Later constructions and alterations were demolished by continuous wars sweeping through this area of fights and battles. At the end of the 19th century and during the first three decades of the 20th century the church was still going through some redesigning and modernization and eventually in 1939 it was 35m long and 30m wide. Inside there were 7 altars. The main one, representing St. Martin, was a 16th-century work of art. The stained glass window above the organ represented St. Martin on horseback, giving away his coat to a poor man. The church was closed in 1941 and turned into a storehouse.

During the war it was almost completely demolished. Reconstructed between 1950-1954, it regained its late Gothic shape of a nave and 2 aisles, and a Gothic stellar vault. Inside, one can admire its lancet arch windows and portal, and some arcaded friezes. In 1957 polychrome frescos were painted directly on the bricks, a design by Wacław Taranczewski. In the main altar a late Gothic triptych of Swierzawa, made in 1498 by an anonymous Silesian artist, can be seen. In the central part of the triptych there are the figures of the Holy Virgin with the Child, St. John the Baptist and St. Catherine. In the altar finial, beneath the openwork baldachin, there are two small figures of St. Roch and St. Sebastian and a figure of an unknown bishop as well. In the lower part, called predella, there are 19th-century figures of St. Peter and St. Paul. On the sides of the altar there are scenes of the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist (St. John's Beheading, Salome standing in front of Herod and Herodias with St. John's head in a bowl) and St. Catharine (St. Catherine's beheading and St. Catherine's entombing). The outer parts of the sides of the triptych are covered with paintings representing scenes from the life of St. Catherine. The tabernacle in thealter was made in 1954. The stained glass windows were designed in 1960 by Jan Piasecki. Above the entrance to the church there is a low relief from 1953 representing St. Martin on horseback.

In 1911 the Holy Virgin of Lourdes grotto was built and it was enlarged to its present state in 1932. One year later a plaque memorializing the 15th anniversary of the beginning of Great Poland's uprising was placed there. In a wooden bell tower there are 3 bells: a Renaissance St. Martin from 1563, St. Andrew from 1718 and the most splendid - Holy Virgin from 1747. On a square at the presbytery there is a pedestal with an inscription reminding us that in 1859 a monument to Adam Mickiewicz was erected there. In 1965 the church had a new 34-register organ installed and in 1966 it got a new marble floor.

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