Lublin - city of many inspirations

For many ages on the borders between Western and Eastern Europe Lublin played an important cultural role. Centuries ago, trade and diplomatic activity crossed here; today Lublin is a meeting place of artists, scientists, students and businesspeople. When in 1317 Lublin was granted civic rights, it strengthened its position among the important towns of Poland and Europe. The celebrated Lublin Fairs attracted merchants from the Caucasus and Black Sea regions, Lithuania and the interior of Russia. In 1569 the Lublin Union treaty was signed – binding Poland and Lithuania into a one body state in existence until the end of the 18th century. During this time king Stefan Batory established in Lublin the Crown Tribunal – the gentry’s highest court. In 1918, after almost 130 years of occupation, the Temporary Government of the Republic of Poland was formed in Lublin, giving birth to the modern state, and the Lublin Catholic University (Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski – KUL) was established. One of the most significant social movements of the 20th century – ‘Solidarity’ („Solidarność”) began in Lublin and nearby Świdnik, where, a month before the strikes in Gdańsk and Szczecin, the Lublinian workers demonstrated against the Communist Party.

Under the one roof of the town

Lublin through centuries has given a noble example of tolerance; the town has been inhabited by Jews, the Rusins from Belarusia, Ukraine, Lithuania, the native inhabitants of these lands, Protestants, Catholics and other nationalities. Podzamcze – a district in the Old Town – was the place of residence of the Jews and an international intellectual center of Jewish culture. From 1554 a Jewish printing house functioned here; from 1567, the famous Wisemen Academy; from 1580 the Parliament of the Four Lands (Waad Arba Aracot) – the main Jewish legation of the 1st Republic of Poland, and the rabbi called the Seer of Lublin, the originator of Hasidic mysticism, lived here. During the era of the Reformation (17th century) next to the Catholic parish, Calvinist and Arian temples existed. The religious debates were resolved in the spirit of tolerance and science, the religious wars, which haunted Europe, bypassed Lublin. The Russ community has written an interesting chapter in the town’s history. In 1588 the brotherhood of the Orthodox Church, to which the representatives of famous and influential magnate families belonged, was formed. The St Trinity Castle Chapel, decorated with Russian-Byzantine frescos dating back to the beginning of the 15th century, is the visible symbol of their power, as well as the Orthodox Church (on Ruska Street) belonging to the community of the eastern church. In the biggest necropolis in Lublin, Roman-Catholic, Evangelical-Augsburg, and Orthodox cemeteries are placed next to each other. The old Jewish Cemetery is located on Grodzisko Hill. In contemporary Lublin, the openness and friendliness, typical for towns where the elements of different cultures have merged together over the ages, can be felt at every step.

History inscribed in stone

It is worth starting a tour of Lublin at the Tower of the Trinity, with its view of the picturesque Old Town spread over four hills: Czwartek (Thursday), Grodzisko (Old settlement), Zamkowe (Castle) and Staromiejskie (Old-Town). Here you will find a stone defensive tower, the oldest historical site (dating back to the 13th century) and the symbol of the longevity of the town. Lublin Castle, built in the Neogothic style (1828) on the ruins of a former king’s castle, was a prison until 1954 – the place where many thousands of Polish people were murdered during World War II and the years of Stalinist terror - 1948-54. Currently the Castle is occupied by the Lublin Museum. Lublin Old Town is the best preserved Medieval town in Poland. Across an area of 7ha on a hill, there are 100 historic mansions and other important buildings. The way to them is through the Krakovian Gate (14th century), the cultural symbol of Lublin and the seat of the Museum of the History of the Town. In the Old Town Market stands the classical Old Town Hall – once the seat of the Crown Tribunal, surrounded by mansions dating back to the 15th century. Each one of them is a separate history book written on facades, gates, windows, yards and basements. Underneath the Old Town, there is an underground tourist trail, leading through the basements of former merchants’ stores, wine cellars during the various epochs in the development of the town.

Prayer and art

St Stanislavus B.M. Dominican Basilica is one of the most important and beautiful sacral historical monuments in Poland. Inside the Firlej Family Chapel with its artistically sculpted tomb and the Tyszkiewicz Family Chapel with the Last Judgment fresco painted on its dome are quite extraordinary. In the Baroque Lublin Archcathedral (17th century) the monumental fresco by Józef Mayer (1757) and one of the high main altars, sculpted from the wood of the black Libyan Pear Tree, are equally remarkable things to see. The treasury of the Cathedral contains high quality goldsmith work. Church dignitaries and citizens of merit from the town are buried in its crypt.

The main street of the town

Krakowskie Przedmieście, the representative street of Lublin, is the favourite place for social gatherings and entertainment for the town’s inhabitants and visitors. There are many coffee shops, artistic basement bars and restaurants to choose from, as well as the famous Semadeni sweet shop in business now for over 160 years. Nearby, at Łokietek Square, stands the Classical New Town Hall – the seat of the local authorities. The trumpeter, playing the town’s bugle-call at noon, can be seen on the balcony of the Town Hall tower.Litewski (Lithuanian) Square is the blending, as if in an album, of the modern history of the town. In the beginning of the 19th century the square served as an army parade ground, and today for the celebration of national and religious holidays. Historical events are symbolised by the three monuments placed here: the Constitution of May 3, Józef Piłsudski, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In the neighbourhood, there are the historical hotels: ‘Europe’ and ‘Lublinianka’, aristocratic palaces and many beautiful mansions from the beginning of the 20th century.

A Town of Science

The Jewish Talmudic Academy opened in 1567; in the 20th century the name was changed to the Wisemen Academy; it is the oldest university in Lublin. In 1918 the Lublin Catholic University (Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski – KUL) was opened; it has great merit and is part of the tradition of the teaching of the humanities. Karol Wojtyła – Pope John Paul II, was a student and professor here. For over fifty years Lublin has been the location of other important schools: The Maria Curie Skłodowska University, The Medical Academy and Agricultural Academy. The first phase of the Polish-Ukrainian University, the European College of Polish and Ukrainian Universities – has been in place since 2001 Student organisations and cultural centers organise meetings, conferences, concerts and festivals all year-round. Its culmination are the student celebrations: Kulturalia, Kozienalia and Feliniady.

Theatrum Mundi

Over many ages Lublin has been a theatrum mundi - the town of cultural and artistic encounters: of perceptive people searching for the meaning of life. It has a multicultural genius loci and the revolutionary energy of contemporary artists. Teatr Provisorium - Kompania Teatr – „ Ferdydurke” performances, with awards at many theatre festivals - based on the text by Witold Gombrowicz, is a unique phenomenon in the international culture of independent ‘off’ theatres. NN Theatre situated in the Grodzka Gate, places Jewish culture into the contemporary town to discover its roots. The International Festival, ‘Theatre Confrontations’, presents outstanding performances created on different continents each year. The Andersen Puppet Theatre, creating performances in an original form with a meaningful message, is hosted at the old Dominican monastery. The Theatrical Research Center, ‘Gardzienice’ – the theatre of ethnical sources of culture is also connected with Lublin. With original dramas produced the theatre of Leszek Mądzik is among the most outstanding phenomena of theatre and the visual arts in the world. Using universal visual signs Mądzik creates performances without words and substitutes them with light, movement, the composition of black and white shades and music.

The Gardens and the Lublinian Countryside

The Maria Curie Skłodowska University Botanic Garden is quite enchanting with the beauty of its landscape and the wealth of its botanic specimens – over 6 000 species of plants from all the climatic zones of the world. The old-Polish residence of the Kościuszko family is set in a unique and charming flower filled landscape. The Museum of the Lublinian Region (skansen) – preserves and presents unique examples of historical wooden buildings from the ethnical sub-regions within the Lublinian lands. Thatched roof huts, a Baroque gentry’s residence, a pub, a village church, and a Greek-Catholic Orthodox church with a shingled roof, an original ‘Dutch’ windmill and workshops: oiling house and smithy, can all be seen here.

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