The Barbican, also known as the saucepan, was the northernmost part of Kraków’s fortifications, built with the aim of defending the city from Turk and Tartar attacks, which reached as far as the region around Kraków (Małopolska, or Little Poland). It is a gothic structure, built in 1499 in the shape of an incomplete circle, and originally surrounded by a 30-metre wide (!) moat. The Florian Gate and the walls adjoining it were also part of the northern fortifications. This was where the Royal Route ran, used by the rulers’ processions, in the presence of thousands of citizens and guests. It was deservedly known as the Gate of Glory (Porta Gloriae). The building performed wonderfully when repelling an attack by the armies of Maximilian Habsburg in 1587. It was only surrendered once, during the Swedish Deluge, when supplies of ammunition and food ran out.
The Barbican’s uniqueness lies above all in the excellent arrangement of defensive features. Dozens of meurtrieres, or slits for archers, were skillfully situated and camouflaged. The corridors seem narrow at first glance, but after a while, many nooks and hiding places can be noted, and it becomes clear that they were wide enough to allow soldiers to pass each other comfortably, to supply ammunition, for example. From the outside, the building appears much smaller than it actually is, which doubtless made it harder for the attacker to assess the strength of the army within. Of course, the seven tall, majestic towers which enabled the defenders to observe their enemy also deserve a mention.
Currently, The Barbican is an exceptional tourist attraction, which hosts jousting tournaments, feasts and displays of period dancing. School groups and student groups, dressed in period costume, armed with plastic swords and enacting great battles in front of crowds of frequently bemused tourists, are another common sight. The old wooden benches and tables are a good place to have a rest from sightseeing and reflect on the unique nature of this place.
A standard ticket for The Barbican and The Florian Gate – 8 zloty.