Old Market Square

18The City of Poznań was born on today’s Cathedral Island, located between the branches of Warta and Cybina rivers. As the centuries passed, generations of Poles grew up on the Island. In 1253 prince Przemysł I resolved to revive this secluded piece of land, inaccessible and surrounded by swamps, where life was arduous and opportunities few, and he founded a new city on the left river bank. Grounds were exchanged with the archbishop to achieve this.
The new city was surrounded by high walls and had four main gates. Atop the Przemysł Hill, a castle was built. It was in this castle that king Przemysł II established the white eagle as the national emblem of the Kingdom of Poland. Many important marriages were contracted here and one of the historic homages of the Teutonic Knights was paid on the Przemysł Hill.Resize of POZNAN_bankimydlane (4)

At the centre of the fortified city was a Market Square; which to this day remains the third largest in Poland. Poznań has a long mercantile history – it was founded under Magdeburg Law and some of the most important trade routes crossed here. Due to Poznan’s unique position king Władysław Jagiełło granted the town in 1394 the ‘storage law’, which meant that all the merchants passing through it were obliged to stop for some time and engage in trade. As a result, the city began to thrive and quickly grew in wealth and splendour. It is doubtlessly to these early circumstances that Poznan and its inhabitants owe their reputation as particularly enterprising and resourceful, and the events and decisions of that period shaped Poznan’s future for centuries to come.

The town hall, rebuilt after the great fire of 1535, is today considered a pearl od Polish Renaissance architecture. Every day at noon one can watch Poznan’s famous billy goats butt their heads atop the old town’s clock tower.
Resize of POZNAN_bankimydlane (1)At its southern wall there is a line of narrow and distinctly coloured historic townhouses, which make for a unique and very picturesque scene. In yet earlier times, the square was occupied by equally vibrant and colourful merchant stalls, were freshly baked bread, meat, fish, leather goods and woolen cloths were sold. On one of the houses the insignia of the fraternity of those merchants can still be seen. The square is bordered by houses from different centuries, some of them could tell very interesting stories – of a merchant turned into a wolf, a private palace with a rooftop goldfish pond, a piece of roof that saved a king’s life…
In the four corners of the square stand four fountains – once simple horse-watering wells, now richly decorated, with classic statues of mythical gods: Pluto kidnapping Proserpina (the only one dating back to 18th century), Apollo, Neptune and Mars. Another small fountain has become one of the symbols of the city – the Bamberka, located at the back of the town hall, is a woman dressed in a traditional folk dress and holding two water jugs. Her story is linked to the German settlers who came to the area in 18th century. The Old Market Square still holds many secrets, waiting to be discovered…