The Barbican, Florian’s Gate & City Walls, Krakow, Poland

Krakow has always been an eminent city in Poland and for many centuries it was the political and royal centre of power and was an entirely walled city. The walls that surrounded the old town and Wawel Hill were two miles long and by the middle of the medieval era had 33 towers and 8 gates, only 3 towers, the walls that connect them and the barbican still exist.

After the almost complete destruction of Krakow in 1241 by a Tatar army Prince Leszek II the Black enacted a plan to fortify the city. The strategy was to surround Krakow with watchtowers, fortified gates and a moat. Florian’s Gate is the earliest remaining section built in the late 13th century it was the main entry point to the old Town. The gate is 33metres in height and is crowned with a beautiful Baroque metal top, today it houses a small chapel in the rooms where the Krakow Furriers Guild would have stood watch over the moat.

The Barbican was built in 1498 and was connected to Florian’s Gate by a bridge and covered passageway across the moat. The circular Barbican is considered a tour de force of medieval military engineering and was the start of the royal route through the old town to the base of Wawel Castle. Measuring 25 metres in diameter and with seven turrets, the barbican is a formidable structure, it is also endowed with 120 embrasures/arrow slits. The front gate protrudes over the entrance with holes for hot oil and also a portcullis.

After the partition on Poland the walls fell into disrepair and in 1817 Emperor Franz of Austro-Hungary ordered the dismantling of walls. The city had already outgrown its ramparts and it was decided to erect a green belt right around the city on the site of the old defensive walls and moat, this is now known as Planty Park. Fortunately a Professor Radwariski was able to convince the Senate to allow for the preservation of the three towers, connecting walls and barbican we can visit today. Please forgive the quality of the photos, it was a day of torrential downpours!

GPS: 50.06518, 19.94145

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