In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Kraków

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Guidebooks
  • Images
  • Sources
  • Archaeology and Prehistory
  • Early Medieval Period (c. 990–1257)
  • Late Medieval Period (1257–c. 1500)
  • Government
  • Society
  • Ethnic Composition
  • Economy
  • Education and Intellectual Culture
  • Typography
  • Art
  • Daily Life

Medieval Studies Kraków
Pawel Kras
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 December 2010
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0026


In the early Middle Ages the rise of Kraków paralleled the growth of the military role of the Wawel stronghold. In the 9th century the Wawel Hill became a crucial stronghold of the Vistulans, a Western Slavonic tribe who formed their state organization in southern territories of present-day Poland. At the end of the 9th century the duke of the Vistulans was converted to Christianity and his state was subjugated to the Great Moravian Empire. Some historians have argued that at that time Byzantine missionaries, followers of St. Methodius, operated in the Duchy of the Vistulans spreading Christianity, and Kraków became the center of the Old Church-Slavonic liturgy. In the first half of the 10th century Kraków was annexed to the Duchy of Bohemia. Under the Bohemian rule the first stone buildings were constructed at the Wawel Hill (churches of St. Michael and St. Wenceslas and a palatium). The expansion of the early Piast state from Great Poland to the south provoked a military conflict with Bohemia. Probably, in c. 990 Mieszko I, Duke of the Polans, extended his rule to Little Poland and made Kraków his crucial stronghold and administration center in that province. In 1000 Kraków became the seat of a new bishopric, which spread over the vast territory of southern Poland. After the pagan rebellion in 1034–1038, which overthrew the administrative structure of the early Piast monarchy state, Kraków became the main residence of Polish monarchs. See also the bibliography Medieval Poland. The fragmentation of Poland, which followed the death of Duke Boleslas III the Wrymouthed in 1138, made Kraków the residence of the senior duke and the symbol of the Polish unity. The privileged position of Kraków in the disintegrated Polish state contributed to its growing political role. The favorable location of Kraków at the crossroads of international routes made it a leading center of trade and commerce in the region. In 1257 Duke Boleslas V the Chaste granted Kraków a municipal charter, giving way to the formation of the new urban settlement north from the Wawel Hill. Since the privilege of 1257, the population of Kraków started to enjoy liberties and autonomy modeled upon the city code of Magdeburg. The space of the new town of Kraków was organized around a vast quadrangle market-square and took the form of a chessboard. By the end of the 13th century the town was surrounded by the city walls. In the process of restoring a united Polish state Kraków took a leading position. In 1320 the cathedral of Kraków became the coronation place of the Polish kings and their burial place as well. In 1364 King Casimir II the Great founded the University of Kraków. Under his rule in the direct vicinity of Kraków, the new towns of Kazimierz and Kleparz were established, in 1335 and 1366, respectively. In the middle of the 14th century, the population of Kraków within the city walls, estimated at eighteen thousand, grew to approximately twenty-eight thousand by the middle of the 16th century. Late medieval Kraków was inhabited by many ethnic groups, among which the most numerous were Poles, Germans, and Jews (see the bibliography Ethnic and Religious Groups in Medieval Poland).

General Overviews

The medieval history of Kraków is discussed in any textbook of Kraków’s history. The first extensive study on Kraków was produced by Bąkowski 1911. It offered a thorough analysis of Kraków’s historical growth and gave stimulus to the later intensive research. Dąbrowski 1957 and Bieniarzówna 1968 are the collective works on Kraków history written by historians from the Jagiellonian University. The chapters on the medieval history give comprehensive overviews of the political, socioeconomic, and cultural growth of the town in that period. The best work on medieval Kraków produced by a single author is Wyrozumski 1992, published within the prestigous series of the History of Kraków. It is based on a well-balanced examination of available primary sources, both written and material, and the vast secondary literature. The studies on medieval Kraków were inspired by the 750th anniversary of the town’s reception of the municipal charter. Rajman 2007 and Wyrozumski 2008 are collections of conference papers that reexamine recent research on the history of Kraków, including updated overviews of the medieval period. Małecki and Czwartos 2008 is the best English textbook of Kraków’s history, produced by the leading Polish expert in the field.

  • Bąkowski, Klemens. Dzieje Krakowa. Kraków: Spółka Wydawnicza Polska, 1911.

    History of Kraków written by the leading expert in the field. Offers a thorough treatment of Kraków’s growth from obscurity in the prehistorical period to the great splendor of the late Middle Ages.

  • Bieniarzówna, Janina, ed. Szkice z dziejów Krakowa od czasów najdawniejszych do pierwszej wojny światowej. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1968.

    A collection of popular studies on Kraków’s history modeled on Dąbrowski 1957; offers articles on prehistory and the settlement in the Kraków area, the early medieval history of the town (Józef Mitkowski), the late medieval town (Krystyna Pieradzka), and the foundation of the University of Kraków (Anna Strzelecka).

  • Dąbrowski, Jan ed. Kraków: Studia nad rozwojem miasta. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1957.

    Collection of studies on the urban development of Kraków; chapters on the medieval history were written by the best Polish experts at that time (Rudolf Jamka, Józef Mitkowski, Renata Żurkowa, and Krystyna Pieradzka); maps demonstrate the growth of settlement, territorial expansion, and organization of the urban space of medieval Kraków.

  • Małecki, Jan M., and Ignacy Czwartos. A History of Kraków for Everyone. Translated by Jessica Taylor-Kucia. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2008.

    Recent English book on Kraków’s history, written by the leading Polish expert in the field. Offers a popular overview of Kraków’s past from prehistory to present.

  • Rajman, Jerzy, ed. Kraków. Studia z dziejów miasta w 750 rocznicę lokacji. Prace Monograficze. Kraków: Naukowe Akademii Pedagogicznej, 2007.

    A collection of studies published to celebrate the 750th anniversary of Kraków’s receiving the municipal charter; reexamines recent research on medieval Kraków: its emergence in the early Middle Ages, the process of establishing a new urban community, and economic activity of Kraków inhabitants.

  • Wyrozumski, Jerzy. Dzieje Krakowa. Vol. 1. Do schyłku wieków średnich. Kraków: Wydawn Literackie, 1992.

    A complete study on the medieval history of Kraków published within a multivolume series on the history of Kraków; well-structured narrative supplied with numerous maps and illustrations; includes a selected bibliography of Polish works on medieval Kraków.

  • Wyrozumski, Jerzy, ed. Kraków: Nowe studia nad rozwojem miasta. Biblioteka Krakowska, 150. Kraków: Towarzystwo Miłośników Historii i Zabytków Krakowa, 2008.

    A vast collection of studies on the history of Kraków published on the 750th anniversary of the municipal charter of Kraków. A dozen articles reexamine various aspects of the medieval history of Kraków, including the role of geography in the oldest settlement of Kraków, organization of urban space, construction of the oldest buildings on the Wawel Hill, and the establishment of city institutions.

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