It's a double treat to visit this museum which was an old mansion built in 1416. First because of the age of the building...rare to find a house of this date. Secondly..because of the charming collections held by the Diocese, which currently owns and operates the little museum.
The highlight for Gosia was to see Queen Jadwiga's gloves which are displayed in a glass case and protected as one of the town's proud possessions. There is a legend...as always in Poland... that the Queen's carriage was stuck in the ravine and the men of the town came to rescue her and her royal carriage. In return, she presented her gloves to them as a token of her appreciation for their gallantry. The gloves are tiny white leather...without thumbs! I thought that was rather unusual. She must have been quite petite to have gloves of this size.
Other collections are jewel encrusted priests' garments, wood carvings, tiles, furniture... a nice assortment. In fact such a good collection, that one has a tendency to overlook the fact that you are in an ancient building!
This is fun. You can go on a 45 minutes' guided tour in the maze of brick-laid narrow tunnels, of which some are 12 m (38 ft) below the ground level. The route is 470 m long and easy, you will be going up and down the stairs several times though. It is a system of corridors that connect the old basements and tradesmen's cellars. Along the way you will see a few exhibitions (archeological artifacts, china, wine cellar) as well as the Executioner's Chamber with the axe although no one was ever beheaded there. You shouldn't expect anything scary - the Underground is just a type of museum. Click for additional pictures or see my travelogue for more.
The cellars are pretty old, some of them originated in the 13th c. But the connecting corridors are a new system that had to be made in order to save the Old Town. How come? The loess layers of the Sandomierz hill started to absorb water, and that's when loess weakens and begins to slide down. So a huge project was initiated in the 1960's to support all of the Old Town from downunder, and a lot of corridors and tunnels had to be made. Some of them were left and turned into this nice tourist route :-)
Opening hours: summer season 10:00-18:00; other months 10:00-16:00
Antoni Rzasa's exhibit was a temporary exhibit at the House of Dlugosz museum operated by the Diocese. The artist's work is unique and, as the curator priest pointed out, he seemed to be making some point in his symbolism. His creations are made of one piece of wood and sculpted with an axe. The intricacy of some of the work is astounding, considering his tools. Often the work shows people with only 3 fingers, or an exaggeratedly large hand, long arm, or other similar oddities.
You can see more of his work (and read the unusual story surrounding our discovering it) in my Travelogue: Antoni Rzasa ~ Coincidence or karma?
These historic towns are made for walking the cobblestoned streets, and resting a while in a cafe to take in the ambiance of the place. There are stories connected to nearly all of the buidings here. As I mentioned, the town dates to 800 but the buildings here are restored or rebuilt from the 1300's to 1700's.
Their gothic town hall dates to around 1349 with other later additions. It is still used for the town council, as well as a museum and spaces for local societies. There is a wonderful sun dial on the south side of the building. Still more restoration was being done to the facade, so I didn't photograph that portion.
The building with the sign, POCZTA POLSKA belonged to the Olesnicki family and was used for an important meeting amongst various protestant groups in 1570 to sign a document known as the Sandomierz Agreement. The building was altered in the 1700's and is currently used as the local post office.
And so the stories go for each of the beautiful buildings. It would be worth taking a few days here to do tours of each of the ancient buildings and study all of this sweet little town's history.
The banner spanning the quaint little street was to announce the Sea Chanty Festival taking place on the weekend. There was a play on words there....as Sandomierz was altered for the sake of sea chanties to sound like SHant omierz. The Polish pronunciation for SZ would be SH. cute. At any rate, everyone was busy with preparations and excitement growing for the big concert to take place later in the weekend. It would have been nice to enjoy the music while sitting in the square on a summer evening....but we were on our way south and didn't have an opportunity to hear them.
They placed a huge tented stage in the main square (my 2nd pic) which looked rather out of sinc with the age of the buildings surrounding it...but it was festive and gave everyone good reason to gather and enjoy the merriment.
This plaque on House No. 14 commemorates one of Poland's...and Sandomierz's famous citizens. . Composer Mikolaj Gomalka, who lived here. He is best known for his melody to the psalms written in 1580.
You can always find artists sketching scenes around the square. Look over their shoulders to see how they are doing. These students were probably here for a summer program at the university in Sandomierz.
You might shrug off seeing another late Gothic church, but how many Gothic houses have you seen in which people actually lived? Founded by Jan Dlugosz, this brick house is a fine example of Polish secular Gothic architecture. It changed with the epochs that came but in the 1930's it was stripped of all non-Gothic features and restored to its original design to house the Diocese Museum. Located in a beautiful garden, it looks as if the time has stopped in the 15th century! One of the oldest exhibits in the museum are Queen Jadwiga's gloves (14th century) which she gave to the local peasants as a thank-you for pulling her sled out of high snow. The gloves were kept in the Cathedral's Treasury for 6 centuries before they got to be exposed in the museum. Check my travelogue for more info and pictures.
By the way, Jan Dlugosz (15th century) is famous for his chronicles that tell the Polish history from the earliest legends to the year 1480 (when he died).
You might be surprised at the grandeur of the Cathedral in this small town but, again, it was a royal city once. It dates back to the 12th century and always benefited from the generosity of Polish kings. One of its most precious features are the Byzanthene-Ruthenian frescoes funded by king Jagiello in 1420. The Cathedral is also known for its gigantic, realistic paintings of which one shows the martyrs' death of 49 Dominican monks tortured by the Tatar invaders in 1259. Another of the giant paintings is controversial: it shows an alleged Jewish Blood Libel from 1720. It's been disputed for years whether it should be removed. On my recent visit (July 2006) I saw this huge painting was covered with boards; apparently the new bishop is having hard time trying to decide what to do about it...
Perhaps it's worth noting that the first church ever errected on this site was a wooden one, and that was as early as in the 10th century.
This huge palace-like mansion in a park is one of the oldest secondary schools in Poland, one of its wings dates back to 1602! It was an ecclesial school run by the Jesuits, but it was secularised in 1773. Now it's one of the best schools too!
The Latin name Gostomianum takes from the name of one of the most notable figures in Sandomierz, Heronim Gostomski, who founded the school.
I never reached the Dominican Priory but I did reach the Dominican gate into the Old Town :-) Enlarge the picture for a full view of the Needle's Eye, that's what it's commonly called! This is the only survivor of the 9 "ordinary" gates that the Old Sandomierz had (in addition to the 4 fortified tower gates, of which only the Opatowska survived). Had I more time, I would have continued through the Neddle's Eye into the loess gorge that leads to the Dominican Priory...
The church is the reason why I will go to Sandomierz again some day (didn't manage to visit it in my half-day trip). This is the oldest church in town, dates back to the 13th century and is famous for many reasons. I particularly want to see the the Heaven's Gate double portal with its unique ornaments of brick formed into floral shapes. I also find it fascinating that two of the church's ancient bells survived to the present day, one of them (from 1314) is among the oldest surviving bells in Poland.
The priory and the church mark the area where the "first old town" of Sandomierz was before it was burned and its people slaughtered in the Tatar raid of 1259. The horrific murder of the 49 Dominican brothers is perpetuated in a giant painting which is exhibited in the Cathedral.
In a royal city there is a Royal Castle: errected by one king (Casimirus the Great in 14th c.), expanded into a Renaissance residence by another king (Sigismond the Old in 16th c.), and finally turned into more of a palace by yet another king (Jan III Sobieski in the 17th c.). Ah yes, the palace was made of only one wing of the castle because some 30 years before the Swedes came and blew it. Oh well, swimming across the Baltic to blow castles in Poland was a common habit with the Swedes in the 17th century! ;-) A different habit the Austrians had in the 19th century: they turned castles into prisons and so they did in Sandomierz. When the commies came after WWII, they liked the prison so much that they kept it until 1959. In the 1960's the castle was restored and turned into a branch of the Regional Museum. The Castle Hill offers a nice panorama view of the town, the Vistula and the Old Port.
Opening hours 10:00-17:00, closed on Mondays.
Entry at 6 zloty (less than $2)
While by the Cathedral, don't miss the belfry. It looks clearly like from a different epoch, and it is. I find it quite cute with each floor marked with a mould. This Baroque belfry was errected in the 18th century exactly on the spot where the previous Gothic tower was. One of its three bells dates back to 1667.
The Town Hall looks like two different structres glued together, doesn't it? I don't know why the tower has been plastered and whitewashed but I like this eye-catching effect! The first floor chambers are used by the municipality for formal occasions, and the groundfloor houses a branch of the Regional Museum. Among the museum's most interesting exhibit are the 12th century's chess pieces. There's also some entertainment going on in the basement at the Lapidarium club.
The first town hall in this place was built in the 13th century, but the current brick structure dates back to the 14th c. It suffered a few fires but it was re-built each time.
The museum's opening hours from May to October: 10:00-17:00 (closed on Tuesdays)
Other months 9:00-15:00 (closed on Mondays)
Ticket price 4 zloty ($1)