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Krakow--World Treasure
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Photo: Joanna Andrzejewska
In 965, a Jewish merchant from Cordoba described Krakow, Poland, as an important trading center. It was the first written confirmation of the city whose historic center is among the inventory of priceless properties identified and protected by the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

The Convention was signed in 1972 and has been ratified by more than 167 nations. Properties that have cultural significance are protected so that future generations can better understand these world treasures.

Krakow was the capital of the small kingdom of Poland under the Piast Dynasty from the eleventh century. It was sacked by the Tatars in 1240, an event that is commemorated at the top of each hour when a trumpeter at the top of a church tower plays a song that signaled the opening or closing of the city gates. The song ends abruptly in memory of the trumpeter who was shot by the invaders while trying to warn the city residents.

A New Design

A new design for the city was implemented when reconstruction began in 1257, a footprint that remains today. Improvements included the largest market square in Europe, new fortifications, towers, and enlarged gates.

The Krakow Academy was built in the 1300s and contributed to the city’s reputation as a center of learning. It eventually became the Jagellonica University. As the centuries past, enlightened leaders strengthened the splendor of Krakow. The intellectual reputation of Krakow survived when the government moved the capital to Warsaw near the end of the 16th century.

Hiring of Italian artists and sculptors led to the amassing of Renaissance sculpture. In the late 1800s, a prince returned to Krakow with Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, “Woman with an ermine” which is still on display there today.

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