Krakowskie Przedmieście from the beginning of its existence belonged to the most important streets of Warsaw. First as an access road to the city, then as its most representative street.
I invite you on a journey through the historical history of this wonderful street. Due to the extensive material, we will divide this story into several periods. The first of these is the time of the Duchy of Masovia, i.e. from the location of Warsaw, to the death of the last of the princes in 1526.
The beginnings of the road
When reading about the history of Warsaw, you often come across information that the city was founded on a "raw root". So they were planned and built from scratch, in a place where there was no settlement before. When planning a city in this way, there must have been some premises to choose this particular place on the map for the city to arise here. In the case of Warsaw, one of the factors was the location at the intersection of trade routes.
In addition, the road from north to south connected one of the largest urban centers of Mazovia at the time: Zakroczym and Czersk. After the location of Warsaw and surrounded it with a wall, this road became the main street of the city, called Grodzka (now Świętojańska), and to the south of Brama Grodzka (later Krakowska), behind the city walls, it was a road leading to Jazdów and Czersk. . On both sides there was a farm, owned by the Mazovian princes.
When Warsaw began to grow into the most important center of life in this part of Mazovia, craftsmen, merchants and many others came to the city. Due to the fact that the city gates were opened in a specific time period, a parking place was created in front of the southern gate (also before the northern one). With the further increase in the number of people coming to the city, the square also took over the role of a marketplace, and because it was the beginning of the road leading to Czersk, it gained the name of Przedmieście Czerskie.
Raising the rank of Warsaw, against the background of the whole of Mazovia, took place quickly, after the collegiate church from Czersk was moved here. This took place at the beginning of the 15th century thanks to the efforts of Janusz I the Elder, who was well-deserved for the city, the Mazovian prince. Around the same period the plot of land for the ducal farm began. On the west side of the road several long and narrow plots have been separated. They were given to townspeople who built their homes here. On the escarpment side, however, gardens stretched and several brickyards were built.
From the north, the square was limited by the defensive walls of Old Warsaw and built on the Gothic bridge, the aforementioned city gate complex, then known as the Grodzka Gate. Under the wall, huts, stalls, trade stands, etc. made of boards quickly piled up.
The suburban square ended then in the middle of Hoover Square, at the height of Bednarska Street. There, the road branched into two branches: the western, which is the right way to Czersk, and the eastern, leading to the property of the collegiate priest of St. John (today's architect's cathedral of St. John in the Old Town). The surrounding gardens were given to the canons of that collegiate church. Further plots of land were separated between both roads, and the southern side of the square was occupied by houses and slaughterhouses.
In the mid-15th century, the first of the monumental buildings at Krakowskie Przedmieście was built. On the eastern side of the square, not far from the city walls, a stone church and Bernardine monastery stood. Then the square began to be called the Bernardine Suburb. Both of these buildings have survived to this day and although after numerous reconstruction they are today a beautiful testimony to the architectural development of the city.
Road to Jazdów and Czersk
On the further section of the road, the prince's farm stretched along it, but these lands were later also divided up. The princes, probably caused by some interests with the clergy, which had an important position in society at that time, gave them subsequent plots. The townspeople also fought for their position, from which the wealthier ones also purchased such plots.
At Karowa street, then called the road to the Vistula or Hell, where the Bristol Hotel is, plot had, for example, the mayor and painter of Old Warsaw - Serafin. Where the Presidential Palace, lands were received by the hospital of St. The Spirit operated at ul. Piwna, managed by the Augustinians.
Area of present University of Warsaw remained the property of the Mazovian princes, who had their suburban court, farm, and below the escarpment the wild forest, where they went hunting.
The final fragment of the suburb (currently the beginning of the street), on the west side was occupied by a wooden chapel of St. Cross. It was erected at the beginning of the 16th century, which gave rise to one of the most beautiful churches in Warsaw, which still exists today. The land located in the vicinity of the square also found its way into the hands of the clergy: Manjans and collegiate vicars. Their squares stretched north as far as Royal st. Moving further towards the city, on this side of the street there was a salt mine and further bourgeois plots, parceled out at the beginning of the 16th century.
Thus, until the end of the Masovian Duchy (1526) the street was formed by: a spacious square called Bernardines Suburbs and a road to Czersk. The land was owned by Masovian princes, clergy and richer burghers of Old Warsaw.
What to see
Although the period in question ended nearly 500 years ago, and Warsaw at that time was destroyed twice, luckily something from that period has survived to this day.
Bernardine monastery and church
The former Bernardine church is known today as the church of St. Anna and is one of the most beautiful churches in Warsaw. Its appearance and decor is a tour of the leading architectural styles of different eras. In addition to the classical facade and the baroque interior, it also has gothic themes that remember the times of the Mazovian princes.
The temple was built in 1454 for Bernardines brought from Kraków to Warsaw by Anna Fiodorówna, the Duchess of Mazovia, and in its original shape it corresponded to today's presbytery and apse with massive scarps. The apse is nicely exposed and visible from the position below Krakowskie Przedmieście, i.e. from the W-Z Route. The tower flanking the original gable has survived from the original church, although it has a later covering.
In 1507 the church and monastery burned down, and in subsequent years the facilities were expanded. At that time, the church received a nave corps, and the former church has now become a presbytery. This arrangement of the temple has survived to this day.
In the same period two monastery wings were created. Only one of them has survived to this day - the eastern one. We can admire reconstructed Gothic threads in the part of its walls, but also original scarps. The most valuable, however, is the set of crystal vaults. The only one preserved in Warsaw, and at the same time one of the richest in Central Europe.
The wings of the monastery and the aforementioned church, as the only preserved buildings in Krakowskie Przedmieście, remind us of the southern suburbs of Warsaw, during the Duchy of Masovia.