Wawel is an architectural complex erected over many centuries atop a limestone outcrop on the left bank of the Vistula
River in Kraków, Poland
, at an altitude of 228 metres above the sea level. It is a place of great significance to the Polish people. The Royal
Castle with an armoury and the Cathedral are situated on the hill. Polish Royalty and many distinguished Poles are interred in the Wawel Cathedral
. Royal coronations took place there also.
Wawel began to play the role of a centre of political power at the end of the first millennium AD. In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vistulans tribe (Polish: Wiślanie). The first historical ruler Mieszko I of Poland (c.965-992) of the Piast
dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslaw I the Brave (Polish: Bolesław I Chrobry; 992-1025) and Mieszko II (1025–1034) chose Wawel as one of their residences. At that time Wawel became one of the Polish main centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque buildings were erected there including a stone cathedral serving the bishopric of Kraków in the year 1000. Since the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034–1058) Wawel became the leading political and administrative centre for the Polish State.
The Wawel Cathedral is Poland's national sanctuary. It was the coronation site of nearly all Polish monarchs. The Sigismund's Chapel (Kaplica Zygmuntowska) is one of the most notable examples of architecture in Kraków. Built as a tomb chapel of the last Jagiellons, it was hailed by many historians of art as the most beautiful example of Tuscan renaissance north of the Alps. Financed by king Sigismund I of Poland, the chapel was built between 1519 and 1533 by Bartolomeo Berrecci. A square-based chapel with a golden dome houses the tombs of its founder king Sigismund, as well as king Sigismund Augustus of Poland and Anna Jagiellonka. The design of the internal sculptures, stuccoes and paintings was carried out by some of the most renowned artists of the era, including Santi Gucci, Hermann Vischer, and the architect himself, Georg Pencz.
The Wawel Castle (Zamek wawelski) served as a royal residence and the site where the country's rulers governed Poland for five centuries from 1038 until 1596.
The Wawel Dragon
Smok Wawelski, also known as The Dragon of Wawel Hill or simply The Wawel Dragon, is a famous dragon in Polish folklore. He laired in a cave under the Wawel Hill on the banks of the Vistula river, although some legends place him in the Wawel mountains. In some stories the dragon lived before the founding of the city, when the area was inhabited by farmers. The Wawel Cathedral features a statue of the Wawel Dragon and a plaque commemorating his defeat by Krakus
, a Polish prince who, according to the plaque, founded the city and his palace on the slain dragon's lair. The dragon's cave under the castle is now a popular tourist stop.