Wolnica Square – the Heart of Kazimierz

A story about the energy of a place

Town Hall in Kazimierz Town Hall in Kazimierz (2011) The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

This building, which looks like a ferry at sea, is the former Kazimierz Town Hall. Today, it is the seat of the Ethnographic Museum of Kraków.

The history of this building and the square over which it towers dates back to the 14th century.

Kazimierz Town Hall before reconstruction The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

Kazimierz

In 1335, King Casimir the Great decided to build a town near Kraków, right by the salt route leading from the south – Kazimierz. A sizeable (190 x 140 m) market square with a town hall was built in its heart. Cloth stalls, butcher's shops, a shearing house, and a weighing scales were erected next to it.

Former market square in Kazimierz The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

Wolnica

The free trade law allowed butchers from outside the guild to sell their goods in the Kazimierz market once a week – on Saturdays. Wolnica (derived from Polish wolny, meaning 'free'), the square's name – which survived to this day – comes from this privilege (forum liberum).

Map showing the distribution of shops, factories etc. in Kraków at the turn of the 19th century. The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

Over the centuries, Kazimierz has gone through various vicissitudes. Jews settled there from the 15th century onwards, including those cast out from Kraków. It was a time of rapid growth for the town. However, in the 18th century, after the Northern Wars, it declined sharply.

The extensive town square was gradually built up. In the end, barely a quarter of it was left with the town hall building flanking the square from the west. In the year 1800, Kazimierz was annexed to Kraków.

Old Town Hall in Kazimierz (before 1889) by Ignacy Krieger The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

In the second half of the 19th century, the town hall underwent an extension. The stalls were replaced by a new south wing, architecturally reminiscent of the building's Renaissance style.

Location of the school in Kazimierz – plan The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

The renovated building became home to schools for Jewish adolescents, both female and male. A school garden was even established on the eastern frontage – “for learning, respite, and refreshment”. The town hall served as a school until the outbreak of World War II.

The Old Kazimierz Town Hall at 1 Wolnica Square seen From the South (1948/1962) by unknown The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

The Ethnographic Museum became the post-war host of the site, locating its collection here in 1949 – the oldest and richest Polish ethnographic collection.

Wolnica Square 1, August 2017

Turkeys Turkeys (1919) by Warsztaty Krakowskie The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

We

Our Museum's collections are not only a vestige of the past, but – above all – a potential to be utilised today. We are constantly exploring them in new ways, seeking new means of expression and new paths of communication with the public.

“The museum does not have to be inside a museum” – outdoor exhibition. (2021) by design and painting by Olaf Cirut The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

That is why we engage passionately in activities going far beyond museum classics and the walls of our premises. We intervene in public space, striving – here and now – to shape the cultural landscape of the city.

Installation inspired by the products from Kraków Workshops (2018) by design and painting by Olaf Cirut The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

In this spirit, we carry out a variety of ethno-design projects, inviting museum professionals, designers, artists, and the local community to participate.

Installation inspired by the products from Kraków Workshops (2018) by design and painting by Olaf Cirut The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

We devote a great deal of energy to the Museum's immediate surroundings. Wolnica – the former market square – serves as an area of constant experimentation for us.

Natural playground (2010) by design: Pracownia K, Anna Komorowska The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

We give the square new features...

Colours (2021) by design and painting by Olaf Cirut The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

and new colours.

Pony (2021) by design and painting by Olaf Cirut The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

Apply forms…

Ethnobushes (2021) by design and painting by Olaf Cirut The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

and ornaments.

Carousel (2017) by design and painting by Olaf Cirut The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

We create a space for meetings…

Ponies (2017) by design and painting by Olaf Cirut The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

fun…

Let's make Wolnica green – community action at Wolnica Square (2016) The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

and action.

Let's make Wolnica green – community action at Wolnica Square (2016) The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków

We want Wolnica Square to be green, teeming with local life, and with the energy of our harvest.

Credits: Story

Text: Katarzyna Piszczkiewicz
Designed and created by: Natalia Ciemborowicz-Luber, Dorota Majkowska-Szajer, Katarzyna Piszczkiewicz

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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