Town Hall Tower
Rynek Główny 1
70 metres (230 ft), 110 stone steps, the executioner’s dungeons, and 700 years on the Main Market Square: this is the Town Hall Tower, the only remnant of the original seat of the city authorities.
The Town Hall Tower is the only remnant of the Town Hall built here around 1300. In the 15th century, the seat of Kraków authorities extended as far as the mouth of Szewska Street, being, together with the adjacent tower, a symbol of the city’s power and prestige. This was where the mayor held his office, councillors met, and the bench, court, chancellery, archive, and also granary operated. The ground floor of the Gothic tower was adapted into the city treasury.
The underground section of the tower concealed two institutions of utterly different use: one was the famous Świdnicka Cellar offering plenty of varieties of beer and wine. It owed its name to the delicious beer popular among the burghers and was brought from Świdnica. In time, the venue became a meeting place for unsavoury creatures and the “unholy wenches” came here hunting for patrons, often in too high spirits due to the consumption of highly potent spirits, eager to offer their company and charms. Little wonder that for centuries the cellar was known as the Rogues’ Den.
Immediately adjacent to it, separated by but a partition, was the most horrible place in the entire city: the prison and the tortornia, that is the torture chamber, where the executioner and his sidekicks helped criminals and wrongdoers to refresh their memories. Their horrifying tools of torture can be seen today in the House of Jan Matejko (a branch of the National Museum in Kraków). A convict who survived the meeting with the torturer was taken to the Wretches’ Chapel at St Mary’s, where he spent a night becoming reconciled with God. Executions by beheading took place in the Main Market Square, between St Mary’s and the Szara Mansion (the Grey, No. 6). Those sentenced to death by hanging were marched along the streets of Kraków to Pędzichów, where the gallows awaited.
The tower is accessible to visitors (a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków, with the exception of winter months). The dungeons are accessible too, as they house a café and a stage of the Ludowy Theatre.
Tickets: regular PLN 9, concessions PLN 7, family PLN 18 (2 adults and 2 children up to 16 years of age or 1 adult and 3 children up to 16 years of age)
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