Also known as the, ‘Pearl of the Renaissance,’ Poland’s unique town of Zamosc (Zamość), located near Warsaw and the border of Ukraine, is nearly picture perfect, and is a preserved example of Renaissance town planning. Is it any wonder that the pretty, planned town, founded in the 16th century by Chancellor Jan Zamoysky on the trade route linking western and northern Europe with the Black Sea, finds itself on the UNESCO World Heritage List? In addition to the colorful architecture, during the spring and summer, Zamosc hosts a number of cultural, sports and trade events, making it even more attractive to visitors.
Zamosc Old Town
Chancellor Jan Zamoysky founded Zamosc in the 16th century on the trade route linking western and northern Europe with the Black Sea. Modelled on Italian theories of the 'ideal city' and built by the architect Bernando Morando, a native of Padua, Zamosc is a perfect example of a late 16th century Renaissance town. It has retained its original layout and fortifications and many buildings that combine Italian and central European architectural traditions. Zamość is a unique example of a Renaissance town in Central Europe. It's consistently designed and built according with the Italian theories of the “ideal town,” on the basis of a plan which was the result of perfect coöperation between the open-minded founder, Jan Zamoyski, and the outstanding architect, Bernardo Morando.
Optimal Town Planning
Zamosc is an outstanding example of an innovative approach to town planning, combining the functions of an urban ensemble, a residence, and a fortress according with a consistently implemented Renaissance concept. The result of this is a stylistically homogeneous urban composition with a high level of architectural and landscape values. A real asset of this great construction was its creative enhancement with local artistic architectural achievements. Located on the trade route linking western and northern Europe with the Black Sea, the town was conceived from the beginning as an economic center based on trade. The town's community, which from the outset planned to be multinational from the start, had a high level of religious tolerance. Zamosc is the tangible reflection of the social and cultural ideas of the Renaissance, which were strongly accepted in Poland. This can be exemplified by the establishment of a university (Zamosc Academy) by the founder and owner of the town.
The town’s heart is the Great Market Square, one of Europe’s most splendid 16th century plazas. The two main axes intersect here. The fashionable Grodzka Street which connects Zamoyski Palace with Bastion no. 7, and the commercial Ratuszowa and Moranda Streets which link all three Old Town market squares. Arcaded houses surround the Great Market Square on four sides. The former inhabitants were merchants, Academy professors, and courtiers. The houses all had attics. Small decorative walls, balustrades or pinnacles that protected the roofs, now gone. They only remained in the Town Hall and the adjoining Armenian buildings.
Zamosc Town Hall
The Town Hall, Zamosc’s hallmark, looms large over the Market Square. Its 52 meter-high tower and monumental curved stairway were rebuilt in the second half of the 18th century. In the summer, a bugle plays at noon from the clock tower in three directions only. Legend has it that Jan Zamoyski disliked Krakow and forbade his trumpeters to play in that city's direction.
The attic-crowned Armenian houses are among the most splendid and best preserved burger houses in Zamosc. The Wilczek House, named after its former owner Jan Wilczek, a town councilor, is near the town hall. The bas-reliefs decorating its corner show the owner’s patron saints: John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, and St. Thomas the Apostle holding three spears (Zamosc’s coat-of-arms), the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as a cartouche initialed with the letters JWRZ which stand for Jan Wilczek Councillor Zamosc.
More Armenian Houses
The second building, the Rudomicz House, belonged to Bazyli Rudomicz. He was a lawyer, physician, writer, professor and rector of the Zamojski Academy. He kept a diary documenting the colorful life of 17th-century Zamosc. A bas-relief of Archangel Gabriel decorates the House Under the Angel. Among the grapevines above, is an image of a dragon, the symbol of evil, and two lions, whose role it is to protect the house against it. The House Under the Marriage features a bas-relief of a woman and a man on the façade. Legend has it that the house’s owner wanted to get rid of his quarrelsome wife and accused her of witchcraft, for which she burned at the stake. The façade of the last of the five Armenian houses, Under the Madonna, is decorated with an image of the Virgin and Child Trampling on a Dragon. Your attention is drawn to richly sculptured lintels on the first-floor windows and to the marks and initials “SS” belonging to Sołtan Sachwelowicz, an Armenian merchant and founder of the house.