Kazimierz and the “Jewish city”


no information found

Once independent, the city situated south of Wawel was the hub of Jewish life in Kraków for centuries, and today it is one of the greatest tourist attractions of the city.

The city of Kazimierz was founded by King Casimir the Great (Kazimierz Wielki) in the 14th century to protect the southern approaches to the royal city and capital of Poland. Its main artery was ulica Krakowska, which continued into a trade route connecting Kraków with Hungary. Soon monumental churches rose up across the city, one of them being the main parish Church of Corpus Christi situated by the new city’s Market Square (today’s Wolnica Square). The Market Square also featured the Town Hall, today housing the Seweryn Udziela Museum of Ethnography, and stalls needed for trade. Kazimierz continued to develop quickly, and in the Middle Ages it was considered the second most important city in Poland. It was the Swedish Deluge of 1655–57 that put an end to its splendour and greatness. Finally, in 1800, the city lost its independence and became a district of Kraków.

For centuries, the history of Kraków’s Kazimierz was that of a Christian-Jewish neighbourhood. Late in the 15th century an autonomous walled city was created here for the Jews resettled from Kraków (oppidum iudaeorum). Its centre was today’s Szeroka Street. Rising up around it was a plethora of synagogues, Jewish schools, academies, and institutions. For centuries, it was one of the most important Jewish cultural and spiritual centres in Europe. This is where the famous scholar and rector of the Talmudic Academy, Moses Isserles known as Remuh, lived in the 16th century. Jews from all over the world come on pilgrimages to his grave, a site that abounds in legends. In the following century, the learned Rabbi Natan Spira studied the Kabbalah in the attic of the synagogue at 22 Szeroka Street by a small candle. The candle burnt out in 1633 and the famous Kabbalist died, of exhaustion as rumour had it. Incorporated into

Kraków in the 19th century, Kazimierz became a centre of orthodoxy and a destination of pilgrimages of Jews from the entire territory of the former Commonwealth of Poland–Lithuania. In 1822, the walls surrounding the Jewish district were demolished, which made it possible for Jews to settle all over Kazimierz: in the 1930s they constituted a quarter of the population of Kraków. The Second World War brought the destruction of the city’s Jewish community.

After the political changes that took place in Poland in 1989, the rebirth of the district began. Its unique atmosphere is created by galleries and workshops, restaurants, pubs and clubs, little hotels, bed & breakfasts and hostels, and also the popular flea market on Nowy Square (i.e. “new square”, yet known among locals as Żydowski – Jewish). Traces of bygone history cast their spell amidst the old walls, lanes and alleyways, synagogues and churches, cemeteries, and history is continuously discovered anew. Remembrance of times past is cultivated by cultural institutions and associations operating here, and also by the resurgent Jewish community.

OK We use cookies to facilitate the use of our services. If you do not want cookies to be saved on your hard drive, change the settings of your browser.