UNESCO World Heritage Site #207: Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen

UNESCO World Heritage Site #207: Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen
UNESCO World Heritage Site #207: Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Bremen Town Hall and Roland are an outstanding ensemble representing civic autonomy and market freedom, as developed in the Holy Roman Empire. The town hall represents the medieval Saalgeschossbau-type of hall construction, as well as being an outstanding example of the so-called Weser Renaissance in northern Germany. The Bremen Roland is the most representative and one of the oldest of the Roland statues erected as a symbol of commercial rights and freedom.

The city of Bremen is situated in north-western Germany, on the river Weser. The site of the medieval town has an oblong form, limited by the river on the south side and by the Stadtgraben, the water moat of the ancient defence system, on the north side. The town hall is situated in the centre of the eastern part of the old city area, separating the market in the south from the Domshof, the cathedral square in the north. The statue of Roland is located in the centre of the market place. The town hall is placed between two churches: the Dom (cathedral church of St Peter) is located on the east side, and the Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) on the west. Across the market is the Schütting, the seat of the ancient merchant guilds. On the east side of the market is the Modernist building for the municipal institutions, the Haus der Bürgerschaft, built in the 1960s.

The World Heritage site consists of the town hall and the Roland statue; the buffer zone encloses the market and the cathedral square. The town hall has two parts: the Old Town Hall, on the north side of the market place, which was built in 1405-9, and renovated in 1595-1612, and the New Town Hall that was built in the early 20th century as an addition facing the cathedral square.

The town hall (rathaus in German) of Bremen is a very interesting world heritage site. Through sheer luck, the building was untouched in WWII. It was expanded significantly in 20th Century, so a large part of it is somewhat new. The old part of the building, however, is quite well preserved and is a great example of a medieval town hall.

The facade of the building is fine enough, but in many respects it is outshone by the merchants building across the square and it is dominated in size by the cathedral next door. The real treasure of the building can be found inside in the upstairs of the old part of the town hall.

The main meeting area is a fantastic display of old German art, woodworking and Hanseatic symbols. Many of the large pantings date back hundreds of years and all tell a part of the story of the city. One of the paintings is entirely text and is a mixture of Old German, Flemish and English. A sort of pidegon language used by Hanseatic traders in the region.

The ground floor of the old building is a museum and the cellar is now a restaurant. The new town hall is still used as such by the city of Bremen.

Part of this site, and it is included in its official name, is the statue of Roland in the front of the building. I knew very little of the story of Roland before I arrived, but you can find statues of Roland all over Europe. He became a symbol of independent cities of the Hanseatic League, which is why his statue is featured so prominently in Bremen.

Overview

Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen

The The Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Germany. It was inscribed in 2004 for its urban landscape that is distinctively Medieval European in heritage. This UNESCO site represents the civic autonomy and market freedom that persisted in the city of Bremen during the Holy Roman Empire.

The town hall and the Roland are both strategically and prominently located at the heart of the marketplace. The city hall is the seat of the President of the Senate and Mayor for the City of Bremen, which is also part of the Hanseatic League. This city hall is considered as one of the best preserved examples of European Gothic architecture. It is preserved via the monument protection act since 1973.

About the Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen

The The Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen consist of two iconic landmarks in the marketplace of Bremen. These two landmarks comprise this UNESCO protected site that aims to preserve the cultural heritage and history of this medieval European city.

Bremen Town Hall

The town hall forms one half of the UNESCO site The Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen. It is located northeast of the market square within the historic center of the city. On the opposite end of the square, you will find Schutting, which is an ancient guildhall. To this day, the town hall serves as the seat for the commerce board in the city.

In the 1400s, the idea to build a Gothic town hall was proposed. When the town hall was built, it dominated the market square. It was also a showcase of municipal power in order to defy the archbishop. Indeed, the town hall was the prominent structure in the marketplace of Bremen and no longer the cathedral and archbishops’ palace.

The Gothic style town hall is made up of 16 large sculptures. These sculptures depicted four ancient philosophers, along with emperors and prince-electors.

Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen

Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen

The Bremen Roland is the other component of the UNESCO site The Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen. It is a statue of Roland that was erected in the early 1400s. It is located in the market square and directly facing the Town Hall (facing sideward to the church). This statue was built for Roland as he is seen as a protector of the city. In his statue, he carries a sword that is unsheathed. Meanwhile, he also carries a shield that depicts a two-headed Imperial eagle.

The statue measures 5.5 meters high. This is not the only Roland statue in Germany, however. They are built in several German towns as they represent market rights and freedom. However, the Roland statue in Bremen is the oldest surviving of these statues.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #206: Hanseatic City of Lubeck

UNESCO World Heritage Site #206: Hanseatic City of Lübeck
UNESCO World Heritage Site #206: Hanseatic City of Lübeck

From the World Heritage inscription:

Lübeck is the city which, more than any other, exemplifies the power and historic role of the Hanseatic League. Founded in 1143 by Heinrich der Löwe (Henry the Lion) on a small island of the Baltic coast, Lübeck was the former capital and Queen City of the Hanseatic League from 1230 to 1535. As such it was one of the principal cities of this league of merchant cities which monopolized the trade of the Baltic and the North Sea, just as Venice and Genoa exerted their control over the Mediterranean.

The plan of Lübeck, with its blade-like outline determined by two parallel traffic routes running along the crest of the island, dates to the beginnings of the site and testifies to the expansion of the commercial centre of Northern Europe. To the west lay the richest quarters with the trading houses and the homes of the rich merchants and to the east were small traders and artisans. The very strict socio-economic organization emerges through the singular disposition of the Buden (small workshops) set in the back courtyards of the rich homes, which were accessed through a narrow network of alleyways (Gänge); other lots on the courtyard (Stiftungshöfe) illustrated the charity of the merchants who housed there the impoverished widows of their colleagues.

Lübeck remained an urban monument characteristic of a significant historical structure, but the city was severely damaged during the Second World War, in which almost 20% of it, including the most famous monumental complexes, were destroyed – the cathedral, the churches of St Peter and St Mary and especially the Gründungsviertel, the hilltop quarter where the gabled houses of the rich merchants clustered. Selective reconstruction has permitted the replacement of the most important churches and monuments.

One of the benefits of visiting world heritage sites is that it often takes me to places that I might not otherwise have visited. Lübeck is one such city.

I knew nothing about Lübeck prior to my visits to Stralsund and Wismar, which were both Hanseatic cities. Lübeck was not only a Hanseatic city, but was where the Hanseatic League was founded in 1159. It was one of the largest cities in the alliance and served as its de facto capital for several hundred years.

Because of its prominence in the Hansa, many architectural features which originally appeared in Lübeck can be found in other cities around the Baltic.

The building in the photo is the Holsten Gate, which is probably the best known structure in Lübeck. If it looks like it is tilting inward it isn’t an optical illusion. It is titling inward…and forward….and sinking. It is literally twisting in all three dimensions due to the ground beneath it shifting.

There is an argument to be made that Lübeck should have been listed with Stralsund and Wismar as part of their serial site, however the historic importance of Lübeck as a city is enough to set it apart.

Overview

Hanseatic City of Lubeck

The Hanseatic City of Lubeck is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Germany. It was inscribed in 1987 and spans 214 million in square meters of land area. The historical city center, in particular, is the largest German monument that makes up the UNESCO site.

The site commemorates a historical point in the city’s history in the 13th century wherein it became the main port of departure for the colonies. The colonizers left the Baltic territories around the 1200s. By 1226, Emperor Frederick II appointed the status of Imperial Free City to Lubeck.

Hanseatic City of Lubeck

Hanseatic City of Lubeck

The Hanseatic City of Lubeck is part of the Hanseatic League. It consists of guilds and coastlines in Northern Europe (many of them from Germany) that formed the trading confederation of this part of Europe. The members of the Hanseatic League served to look after the politic and economic interests of each other. This agreement allowed the cities that were part of the Hanseatic league to prosper and become wealthy.

The Hanseatic City of Lubeck is the heart of the Hanseatic League, literally and figuratively. It is the capital of the organization. From the 12th to the 16th century, it was an influential trading center in Northern Europe. The city also enjoyed a lot of its wealth from trading activity.

The wealth of the city is clearly evident once you explore its streets. There were plenty of elaborate and grandiose buildings in Lubeck. This area, after all, was once home to the wealthy merchants and artisans in the region. In addition, there are also several religious monuments that dominate the city skyline. Many of the houses that were built during the height of the Hanseatic League’s success were gone, the churches are still standing today.

Hanseatic City of Lubeck

The St. Mary’s Church is one of them. This is the oldest church in the city of Lubeck. It features Gothic style architecture and is constructed with German bricks. This church also earns the distinction for having the world’s tallest brick vault. Hence, it inspired the construction of many other churches in Europe.

In the old town of the Hanseatic City of Lubeck, there are four principal churches. There are a total of 7 spires that dominate the city skyline, as if they were reaching out to the heaven. Walking around the old town therefore feels like walking back in time with its Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic buildings. There were also old merchant houses, together with fortifications. Even though Lubeck is no longer the capital of the Hanseatic League, the reminders of its glory days remain evident today.

If you are visiting the Hanseatic City of Lubeck, there are a few main attractions to look out for. These attractions include but are not limited to: Lubeck Cathedral, St. Mary’s Church, St. Catherine’s Church, and the Town Hall.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #205: Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar

UNESCO World Heritage Site #205: Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar
UNESCO World Heritage Site #205: Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar

From the World Heritage inscription:

Wismar and Stralsund, leading centres of the Wendish section of the Hanseatic League from the 13th to the 15th centuries and major administrative and defence centres in the Swedish kingdom in the 17th and 18th centuries, contributed to the development and diffusion of brick construction techniques and building types, characteristic features of Hanseatic towns in the Baltic region, as well as the development of defence systems in the Swedish period.

The historic towns of Wismar and Stralsund are situated in north-eastern Germany on the Baltic Sea coast. The cities were founded as part of the German colonization of the Slav territories in the late 12th or early 13th centuries. Both cities emerged as important trading places in the 14th century as part of the Hanseatic League. After the Thirty Years’ War, the towns came under Swedish rule from the 17th to the early 19th centuries. Under the subsequent changing political situations there was a period of stagnation, but from the second half of the 19th century a gradual economic improvement began. The historic centres survived the Second World War bombardments and were part of the German Democratic Republic until unification.

The two towns demonstrate features that are often similar, although there are also differences that make them complementary. The town of Wismar was originally surrounded by moats, but these were filled on the landward side. The medieval port on the north side has been largely preserved. The so-called Grube is today testimony of the old man-made canal that used to link the harbour area in the north with ponds in the south-east. The almost circular old town is now surrounded by urban development that began in the second half of the 19th century. The streets of the old town retain their medieval form; the main east-west street is the Lübsche Strasse, tracing the ancient trade route of the Via Regia, which passes through the central market place with the town hall. The overall form and the silhouette of the town have retained their historic aspect.

The town of Stralsund was built on an island slightly oval in shape. The overall form and silhouette of the town have been particularly well preserved for this reason. The two focal points in the town are the old market in the north and the new market in the south. The old market is delimited by the rather exceptional ensemble of the Church of St Nicholas and the town hall. Both towns were subject to the Lübeck Building Code, which regulated the size and form of each lot. The cities differed somewhat in their economic structures. Stralsund was oriented towards the long-distance and intermediate trade of the Hanseatic League, requiring more warehouse space, whereas Wismar laid emphasis on production and so housed large numbers of craftsmen and agriculturalists. As a result the houses of Stralsund are larger than those of Wismar, where the total number of gabled houses is more numerous.

I had the pleasure of visiting both Stralsund and Wismar during my 2013 German World Heritage trip.

Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar

Both cities were former members of the Hanseatic League, were controlled by Sweden for significant periods of time and were very rich by the standards of the 12-15th centuries.

Stralsund
Formerly known as the “Pearl of the Hanesa”, Stralsund is home to several architecturally significant buildings. The town hall (Rathaus) is best known for its facade and is one of the best examples of a mideval German town hall in existence. The opulence of the facade is evidence of the wealth the city as is the sheer size of St. James church, which is the size of most cathedrals in Europe. There are also many excellent examples of step-gabled gothic merchant houses in the city.

Wismar
One of the first cities in the Hanseatic League, Wismar was home to over 180 breweries for a population of 5,000. Beer production and trading make Wismar a wealthy city. St. Gregory’s church and St. Mary’s church in Wismar are both cathedral size buildings, standing only a few blocks from each other, which were built by the merchants and tradesmen of the city. Damaged during WWII and during the communist era, both churches are no longer used for their intended purpose. St. Gregory’s was rebuilt and is used for concerts and events, where as St. Mary’s was mostly destroyed by the GDR and now only the clock tower stands. Both churches were some of the largest brick buildings in the world at the time of their construction.

Neither Wismar nor Stralsund get the same level of attention as larger cities in Germany, but I found both to be highly educational and provided a unique insite into the period of time of the Hanseatic League. The cities are a 90 minute drive from each other and can be visited as part of a larger trip visiting other former Hanseatic League cities such as Lübeck.

Overview

Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar

The Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar is a cultural site inscribed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany. It was added on the UNESCO list in 2002. This UNESCO site is focused on two historical and coastal cities in the northeastern part of Germany. These two cities are recognized for its cultural significance in the Hanseatic League that flourished from 13th to the 15th centuries. In addition, these Hanseatic cities also had linked to the Swedish heritage from the 17th to the 18th centuries.

Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar are both rich in architecture with 6 major churches in between them. All of these churches feature the ‘Gothic Brick’ architectural style. In addition to these churches, they also feature medieval ground plans and city centers that were mostly unscathed even after the Second World War.

About Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar

The Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar has a rich cultural and architectural heritage between them. It is also considered similar in value with another World Heritage Site in Germany: the Hanseatic City of Lubeck. Both of these cities are located along the Mecklenburg-Western Pomeranian coast. The 6 brick parish churches alone are enough for these two cities to earn the UNESCO nod as they represent the cross-section of Gothic architecture during the time of the late Middle Ages.

Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar

The Wismar’s Church of St. Mary is a good place to start to explore the medieval and Gothic brick building techniques in the region. There is a permanent exhibition held at the church that you can visit to learn more about this part of the town’s history. These buildings are also noted as part of the European Route of Brick Gothic Architecture.

Wismar is known as one of the best preserved Hanseatic town on the southern Baltic Coast, especially for its size. It is similar to Stralsund, the other half of this UNESCO site, for its picturesque spots and the sprinkling of harbor side pubs. The historical harbor of Wismar is the last remaining emblem of a once mighty trading town. In addition, you will also find several baroque buildings that date from the 17th to the 18th centuries.

As for Stralsund, the other component of the UNESCO site Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar, its island location has remained intact since the 13th century. Like Wismar, it is also filled with several Brick Gothic architectural buildings. This forms the identity of the town, along with the other historic center in Wismar. For example, the Town Hall of Stralsund, along with the nearby houses and commercial buildings, represent the architectural identity of these two Hanseatic towns.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #204: Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany

UNESCO World Heritage Site #204: Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany
UNESCO World Heritage Site #204: Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany are a serial property comprising fifteen components. They represent an outstanding example of undisturbed, complex temperate forests and exhibit the most complete and comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure stands of European beech across a variety of environmental conditions. They contain an invaluable genetic reservoir of beech and many species associated and dependent on these forest habitats.

The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany are indispensable to understanding the history and evolution of the genus Fagus, which, given its wide distribution in the Northern Hemisphere and its ecological importance, is globally significant. These undisturbed, complex temperate forests exhibit the most complete and comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure stands of European beech across a variety of environmental conditions and represent all altitudinal zones from seashore up to the forest line in the mountains. Beech is one of the most important elements of forests in the Temperate Broad-leaf Forest Biome and represents an outstanding example of the re-colonization and development of terrestrial ecosystems and communities after the last ice age, a process which is still ongoing. They represent key aspects of processes essential for the long term conservation of natural beech forests and illustrate how one single tree species came to absolute dominance across a variety of environmental parameters.

This world heritage site is serial site comprised of 15 locations spread across three different countries (Germany, Ukraine and Slovakia).

The site I visited was Jasmund National Park in Germany.

Jasmund is the smallest national park in Germany and is only a 45 minute drive from the city of Stralsund. Oddly enough, although Jasmund is on the world heritage list because of its beech forests, its main attraction is its chalk cliffs which overlook the Baltic Sea.

Even though the park is small, there is enough to do to make for an interesting visit. There are many kilomters of hiking trails and the visitor center is located at the chalk cliffs. There are also local municipal buses which run regularly from the nearby city of Sassnitz. Jasmund also has one of the best interpretative centers I have ever seen. A significant amount of time, money and effort went into it. Audio tours of the center are available in German and English.

Overview

Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany

The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany is a transnational UNESCO World Heritage Site encompassing 12 countries in Europe. It is a natural site that was inscribed during the 41st session in 2007. The 12 countries that are comprised in this UNESCO site are as follows: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Ukraine.

This site aims to protect and preserve the largest ‘virgin’ forest consisting of the European beech. This is also home to the world’s largest and tallest beech specimens.

About Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany

Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany

The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany is made up of 10 massifs that are spread 185 kilometers along the Ukraine’s Rakhiv mountains and Chornohora Ridge and ends in Slovakia’s Vihorlat Mountains. It also encompasses five different locations within Germany.

The entire land area which is part of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is 77,916 hectares. However, only 29,278 hectares of that is actually a protected area. The rest are part of the ‘buffer zone’. The two major regions that comprise the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany are the Presov and Zakarpattia regions. Meanwhile, 70% of this UNESCO site belongs to Ukraine.

The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany UNESCO site is made up of various landscapes. The features include a biosphere reserve, two national parks, and habitat controlled areas (most of this belongs to Slovakia). The two national parks that are included in this protected area consists a biosphere reserve of its own: East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve.

The five German forests that are included in this UNESCO site span 4,391 hectares in land area. These forests were added as extensions to the original site inscribed by UNESCO in 2011. Meanwhile, the Poloniny National Park is where majority of the Slovak components of this UNESCO site is located at. This park was established in 1997 and covers nearly 300 square kilometers of land area.

Below are some of the other components of this UNESCO site:

Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany

Jasmund National Park: The modern-day Jasmund National Park is the famous subject for many artists in Europe. It is made up of chalk cliffs, beech forests, and seascapes. It is located on the island of Rugen in Germany. The clifftop on this park is inaccessible, which has greatly contributed to its preservation, and especially of the woodland areas and forest that surround it.

Muritz National Park: This section of the UNESCO site is located within the Mecklenburg Lakes region. This is where the grand dukes in Mecklenburg-Strelitz would do most of their hunting in. Therefore, any other use of this forest is prohibited. The area is therefore filled with wooden landscape made out of fens and lakes.

Hainich National Park: This is another beech forest in Europe that is part of the UNESCO site Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany. It is located in Thuringia region and is part of a military area. This has therefore contributed to preserving the flora and fauna in the area.

Kellerwald-Edersee National Park: This is another vital component of the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany. It is made up of steep and rocky slopes and is located in Hessen. It is open to hikers wherein you can explore gnarled trees and other unique forest formations. The bays of the Lake Edersee also twist throughout this park resulting in fjord-like formations.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Gary’s Big German World Heritage Adventure

The route of my road trip
Starting Monday, March 11 I will spend 2-weeks driving around Germany with the goal of exploring 28 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 27 of which I have not previously visited.*

I am excited to be doing this trip for several reasons. I love road trips because there is a freedom you have when driving that doesn’t exist when you are traveling by train or plane. I love visiting UNESCO sites and Germany has the 5th highest number of them in the world (37). My ancestors also came from Germany in the 19th Century. Outside of a great aunt who spoke German, I didn’t experience much in the way of German culture growing up. (Being German became highly unfashionable in the United States with its entry into WWI.)

The sites are a mix of 19th century industrial sites, forests, cathedrals, monasteries, Roman ruins, paleontology digs and gardens.
Continue reading “Gary’s Big German World Heritage Adventure”

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park

UNESCO World Heritage Site #203: Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park
UNESCO World Heritage Site #203: Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park

From the World Heritage inscription:

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is an exceptional cultural monument in which the natural landscape was used as the setting for a symbolic representation in the form of chapels and avenues of the events of the Passion of Christ. The result is a cultural landscape of great beauty and spiritual quality in which natural and man-made elements combine in a harmonious manner. The Counter Reformation in the late 16th century led to a flowering in the creation of Calvaries in Europe. Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is an outstanding example of this type of large-scale landscape design, which incorporates natural beauty with spiritual objectives and the principles of Baroque park design.

The official name of this site is: Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park. I think that just might be the longest name of any World Heritage site on Earth.

That aside, is the one of the more questionable world heritage sites I’ve visited. I don’t really think that the architecture is that much different than you will see in hundreds of other churches around Europe. I’m also not sure that a glorified stations of the cross is really worth of world heritage status.

Nonetheless, this is a popular pilgrimage site for Polish people and there is quite a bit both inside and outside the main cathedral devoted to the visits of Pope John Paul II, both as a boy, a bishop and pope. You can see a statue of him in the photo above.

I went in early March, but I got the strong impression that the site is much busier in the summer. There were very few people there when I visited, yet there parking spaces for large coach buses, a restaurant and large bookstore. Almost nothing here was in English, which indicates that the site is primarily of interest to Poles.

Overview

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is a landscaped park and pilgrimage site that was inscribed as a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Poland. It was inscribed in 1999 as a cultural landscape and religious structure. The layout for this pilgrimage park was designed by Feliks Zebrowski during the early 17th century. The landscape of this pilgrimage park in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska was meant to represent Jerusalem during the time of Christ.

It is also recognized by UNESCO as it is a good example of a Calvary. This is a man-made landscape that symbolizes the various stages that led to Christ’s crucifixion. Many of these were built in Europe in the 17th century.

About Kalwaria Zebrzydowska

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park

The Kalwaria Zebrzydowska architectural complex and pilgrimage park consists of 44 buildings within its protected area. It was built in the 17th century soon after the Counter Reformation during the late 16th century paved the way for the creation of Calvaries in the Catholic parts of Europe. The town itself is located in the town of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska; hence, the name of the park. Aside from being recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the pilgrimage park is also a national Historic Monument in Poland (added in 2000).

As mentioned above, there are up to 44 buildings that make up the Kalwaria Zebrzydowska landscape complex and pilgrimage park. However, there are 4 of the most notable structures that form the foundation for this pilgrimage site:

Basilica of St. Mary: This basilica was established for the Order of the Friars Minor. The design of the church is a work of Giovanni Maria Bernardoni following the model of a 1584 map of Jerusalem.

Ecce Homo Chapel: This chapel was built along with a plan for a Greek cross during the early 17th century. The vault is the most notable feature in this chapel. It is adorned with profuse stucco decorations. It follows the style of the Dutch mannerism design.

Chapel of the Crucifixion: This chapel is not only part of the Kalwaria Zebrzydowska pilgrimage site but also known as the first structure that Mikolaj Zebrzydowski built in Kilwaria. It was the first structure to be built as part of the complex of landscape in the town of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. The construction for this chapel was during the first few years of the 17th century.

Heart of Mary Chapel: This chapel was built as modeled on a heart. It was a creation of Paul Baudarth in 1615. This chapel aims to commemorate Jesus’ encounter with Mary on his way to the Calvary.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Poland.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #202: Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland

UNESCO World Heritage Site #202: Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland
UNESCO World Heritage Site #202: Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland

From the World Heritage inscription:

The wooden churches of southern Little Poland bear exceptional testimony to the tradition of church building from the Middle Ages. They have also been preserved in the context of the vernacular village and landscape setting, and related to the liturgical and cult functions of the Roman Catholic Church in a relatively closed region in central Europe. They are exceptionally well-preserved and representative examples of the medieval Gothic church, built using the horizontal log technique, particularly impressive in their artistic and technical execution, and sponsored by noble families and rulers as symbols of prestige.

The history of Poland goes back to the unification of the Christian lands and the constitution of the kingdom in the 10th and 11th centuries. Churches have been of particular significance in the development of Polish wooden architecture, and an essential element of settlement structures, both as landmarks and as ideological symbols. They were an outward sign of the cultural identity of communities, reflecting the artistic and social aspirations of their patrons and creators. The nine sites in southern Little Poland represent different aspects of these developments.

This is a serial site of churches in nine different villages which compromise the world heritage site. They are:

  1. Archangel Michael (Binarowa)
  2. All Saints (Blizne)
  3. Archangel Michael (Debno)
  4. Blessed Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael (Haczow)
  5. St. Peter and St. Paul (Lachowice)
  6. St. Leonard (Lipnica Murowana)
  7. St. John the Baptist (Orawka)
  8. St. Philip and St. James the Apostles (Sekowa)
  9. Archangel Michael (Szalowa)

I visited St. Leonard’s in the village of Lipnica Murowana, which is the closest church in the world heritage site to Krakow.

These churches are only for hard core world heritage site enthusiasts. They are very small. St. Leonard’s was small enough that you could easily walk around the entire building in under a minute. Lipnica Murowana was about an hour’s drive from Krakow and the church wasn’t even open. It wasn’t hard to find, but it did take some effort. Once you get to the village, just look for the big white church and park near there. The smaller, darker church is very close by and walking distance.

This might just hold the record for the most obscure world heritage site that I have visited.

Overview

Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland

The Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Poland. It is a Christian religious structure various counties such as Nowy Targ, Gorlice, Bochnia, Brzozow County, Debno, Binarowa, Lipnica Dolna, Sekowa, and Haczow. It was inscribed in 2003 and the name on the UNESCO listing was named from Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland to Wooden Churches of Southern Malopolska in 2013.

This site is a collection of Roman Catholic Gothic churches that were built during the medieval period. All of these churches are notable for its use of horizontal log building technique. According to UNESCO, the reason for its inscription lies in its ability to exemplify medieval church-building traditions that were common in Eastern and Northern Europe during the time of the Middle Ages.

About the Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland

Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland

There are 6 churches that are listed by UNESCO as part of the protected area for Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland. These churches are as follows:

The church of the Archangel Michael (Binarowa): This is a Gothic, wooden church located in the village of Binarowa. It was built and has been around since the 15th century. A nave tower was added in 1596 and the interior of the church is fully decorated with polychrome. A bell tower was added in 1602 and was completed in 1608. Throughout the years, the church underwent extensive reconstruction and renovation. In 1890, the weak structure was secured by adding planks and columns in the naive. During the 1990s, the roof tin on the church was replaced with a wooden shingle. A flood in 2010 also caused damage to the structure that required another round of renovation. To this day, this church is still in use.

The church of All Saints (Blizne): This is another one of the churches included in the UNESCO site Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland. It is located in the village of Blizne and was also built in the 15th century. It is one of Poland’s most notable wooden sacramental architecture to ever exist. It was also part of the Trail of Wooden Architecture in Subcarpathian Voivodeship. The church is part of a parish complex located on a hilltop and surrounded by ancient woodland. It also has fortification features that were estimated to have been built in the 16th century.

The church of Archangel Michael (Debno): This 15th century Gothic Roman Catholic Church is part of the UNESCO site Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland. Located in the village of Debno, the location of this church was believed to have been the same location of the village’s first church that was built in the 13th century. It has become a landmark in Poland as one of the best kept wooden Gothic churches in the country. The current structure of the church is also its original with polychrome interior.

The church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael (Haczow): This Gothic Roman Catholic church is located in the village of Haczow in Poland. This, along with the 5 other churches included in the Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland UNESCO site, was built in the 15th century. It is also Europe’s largest wooden Gothic church, on top of being the oldest wooden framework churches in the country. It was completed in 1459.

Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland

The church of St. Leonard (Lipnica Murowana): This church in Lipnica Murowana is one of the 6 churches collectively known as the Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland. Built at the end of the 15th century, the church sits on the former location of a former pagan chram. The church was built on a wooden framework known as bipartite. It also comes with a wider nave (almost shaped like a square). Meanwhile, the roof is made of wooden shingle and only the south side of the church has windows. The doors to this church are located on the southern and western sides.

The church of St. Philip and St. James the Apostles (Sekowa): This is the final church that was recognized into the collective site in Poland recognized by UNESCO for the wooden architecture. This church consists of one nave, three-sided chancel, and a wooden framework on gravel foundation. It undergone expansion in the 17th century (while the church itself was completed in 1520). The church suffered tremendous damage in the years of World War I. Hence, the interior of the church is poorly damaged.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Poland.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #201: Wieliczka Salt Mine

UNESCO World Heritage Site #201: Wieliczka Salt Mine
UNESCO World Heritage Site #201: Wieliczka Salt Mine

From the World Heritage inscription:

The salt mines of Cracow exemplify a large industrial establishment, administratively and technically well organized, the continued existence of which has been ensured by the process of adaptation since the Middle Ages. The progressive development of mining processes over the centuries is perfectly illustrated there, in all its stages, owing to the consolidation and conservation of the old galleries, each with the installations of their time. A comprehensive collection of mining tools displayed inside the mine constitutes valuable material evidence of the evolution of mining technology over a long period of European history.

The Wieliczka Salt Mine, located in southern Poland near the city of Cracow, has been worked as a source of rock salt since the late 13th century. The total length of the galleries, in which are to be found wells, corridors, labyrinths, excavations of all sorts, rooms, and even chapels cut out of the salt, with altars, pulpits and statues, is some 300 km, connecting more than 2,000 excavation chambers on nine underground levels. It extends 5 km to the east and west and 1 km to the north and south, reaching a maximum depth of 327 m below the surface. Over the centuries, miners have established a tradition of carving sculptures out of the native rock salt. As a result, the mine contains entire underground churches, altars, bas-reliefs, and dozens of life-size or larger statues. It also houses an underground museum and has a number of special-purpose chambers such as a sanatorium for people suffering from respiratory ailments. The largest of the chapels, the Chapel of the Blessed King, is located 101 m below the surface; it is over 50 m long, 15 m wide and 12 m high, with a volume of 10,000 cm3 . The subterranean lake, open to tourists since the 15th century, completes this curious complex.

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of the top attractions for anyone visiting Krakow.

The salt mine is most famous for the chapels and sculptures which miners have been carving for hundreds of years. I have long heard about the salt mines but I wasn’t really expecting to be as large as it was. Some of the caverns are enormous and what tourists can see is only a fraction of the mine.

There are numerous tours available throughout Krakow and you should budget at least two hours to explore the mine. Lighting conditions in the mine are poor at best, so either bring a tripod or lower your expectations.

The salt mine also has the distinction of being one of the 12 inaugural world heritage sites listed in 1978.

Overview

Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of the most important cultural monuments in Poland. As a testament to this, the site gets about 1 million tourist visits per year. It is a cultural site that consists of a mine, chapel and various statues. It is located in Wieliczka, Poland and was inscribed in the year 1978. However, it was added to the endangered list in 1989 but was lifted from the list in 1998. The mine was opened in the 13th century and produced table salt until 2007.

Therefore, it earns the recognition as one of the oldest salt mines that was in operation (until it ceased to operate). The threat of mine flooding and low salt prices was critical in the discontinued operation of the salt mine.

About Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine has been around for about 700 years. It therefore symbolizes one of the oldest business ventures in Poland. Since it was opened, the mine was operated by ?upy krakowskie Salt Mines company. The history of this salt mine dates back to about 13.6 million years ago when the salt deposits begin to form during the Middle Miocene period. About 6,000 years ago, there was Neolothic salt evaporation that took place at the current site of the Wieliczka Salt Mine.

In the early medieval stage, settlements started to form in the area. There were stone churches, inhabited settlements, tools, trade, and crafts that were being made. Also, the salt manufacturing was also getting started. By the 13th century, rock salt was discovered in Wieliczka. This prompted the first shafts to be dug in the area. By the year 1290, Wieliczka was established as a town. The manufacturing of salt snowmen continued during this time.

It was in the late 13th and early 14th century when the construction of the Saltworks castle was started in Wieliczka. Today, it is known as the Krakow Saltworks Museum. In the 14th century, there was a lot of work done to deepen the shaft in the Wieliczka Salt Mine. The mining laws were established in 1368 to regulate the mining operations in the town. During the 15th century, the Wieliczka Salt Mine has employed about 350 people and it has produced up to 8,000 tonnes of salt.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

The digging of shafts at the Wieliczka Salt Mine was continued until the 16th century. The 16th century to the 17th century was recognized as the period of glory for the Wieliczka Salt Mine. The mining crew had grown to 2,000 and the total output of salt reached 30,000 tonnes. It was not until the 19th century when the mechanization of the underground mining works were introduced.

Today, there are guided tours available at the Wieliczka Salt Mine. It consists of a labyrinth of tunnels with the deepest level at 327 meters beneath the ground. However, only a section of the mine is open for tourists. Only 22 chambers and up to 135 meters below the ground is where the tourists are allowed to explore.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Poland.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.