A crossroads between the East and the West, Lublin Poland is a city where different cultures and religions have coexisted for centuries. Warsaw is around 170 kilometers away. Less than 80 kilometers east stretches the Ukraine, less than 100 kilometers northeast, the state of Belarus. Today, in this place of hidden courtyards, art galleries and cultural centers, an artistic revolution is well underway.
Lublin centers on a cobbled Old Town (Stare Miasto) of strikingly restored facades, as pretty as Prague’s. A cache of pre-war photographic plates discovered at the Café Trybunalska are on display on buildings across the Old Town. They afford an evocative glimpse into its past. At the time of taking the pictures, Lublin was an important Jewish hub of trade and culture, as it had been since the 15th century.
The community, centered on a Jewish Quarter at the foot of Castle Hill, was destroyed during the Holocaust, a dark moment in the city’s history. The past is far from forgotten, but today the city is looking forwards, and to a future where culture will play a crucial role. With its five universities, Lublin is very much a student town, brimming with energy and life, and the entire city threw its heart and soul into a bid to become European Capital of Culture 2016. Although Wroclaw was the eventual winner, Lublin’s art scene still benefited enormously.
For many ages on the borders between Western and Eastern Europe Lublin played an important cultural role. Centuries ago, trade and diplomatic activity crossed here. Today the city is a meeting place of artists, scientists, students and business people. When in 1317 Lublin obtained civic rights, it strengthened its place among the important towns of Poland and Europe. The celebrated Lublin Fairs attracted merchants from the Caucasus and Black Sea regions, Lithuania and the interior of Russia.
In 1569 the Lublin Union treaty was signed, binding Poland and Lithuania into a one body state in existence until the end of the 18th century. During this time king Stefan Batory established in Lublin the Crown Tribunal, the gentry’s highest court. In 1918, after almost 130 years of occupation, the Temporary Government of the Republic of Poland was formed in Lublin.
It gave birth to the modern state, and establishment of the Lublin Catholic University (Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski ). One of the most significant social movements of the 20th century, ‘Solidarity’ („Solidarność”) began in Lublin and nearby Świdnik, where, a month before the strikes in Gdańsk and Szczecin, the workers of Lublin demonstrated against the Communist Party.
Under the one roof of the town
Lublin through centuries has given a noble example of tolerance. The town was home toy Jews, the Rusins from Belorussia, Ukraine, Lithuania, the native inhabitants of these lands, Protestants, Catholics and other nationalities. Podzamcze, a district in the Old Town, was the place of residence of the Jews and an international intellectual center of Jewish culture. From 1554 a Jewish printing-house functioned here. From 1567, the famous Wisemen Academy and from 1580 the Parliament of the Four Lands (Waad Arba Aracot), the main Jewish legation of the 1st Republic of Poland, and the rabbi called the Seer of Lublin, the originator of Hasidic mysticism, lived here. During the era of the Reformation (17th century) next to the Catholic parish, Calvinist and Arian temples existed.
The religious debates resolved in the spirit of tolerance and science, the religious wars, which haunted Europe, bypassed Lublin. The Russ community has written an interesting chapter in the town’s history. In 1588 the brotherhood of the Orthodox Church, to which the representatives of famous and influential magnate families belonged, was formed. The St Trinity Castle Chapel, decorated with Russian-Byzantine fresco's dating back to the beginning of the 15th century, is the visible symbol of their power, as well as the Orthodox Church (on Ruska Street) belonging to the community of the eastern church. In the biggest necropolis in Lublin, Roman-Catholic, Evangelical-Augsburg, and Orthodox cemeteries are next to each other. The old Jewish Cemetery is on Grodzisko Hill. In contemporary Lublin, the openness and friendliness, typical for towns where the elements of different cultures have merged together over the ages, you feel at every step.
Lublin Poland History inscribed in stone
It is worth starting a tour of Lublin at the Tower of the Trinity, with its view of the picturesque Old Town spread over four hills. Czwartek (Thursday), Grodzisko (Old settlement), Zamkowe (Castle) and Staromiejskie (Old-Town). Here you will find a stone defensive tower. It's the oldest historical site (dating back to the 13th century) and the symbol of the long history of the town. Lublin Castle, built in the Neo-Gothic style (1828) on the ruins of a former king’s castle, was a prison until 1954. This is a place where many thousands of Polish people were murdered during World War II and the years of Stalinist terror, 1948-1954. Currently the Castle is in use by the Lublin Museum. Lublin Old Town is the best preserved Medieval town in Poland.
Across an area of 7 ha on a hill, there are 100 historic mansions and other important buildings. The way to them is through the Krakovian Gate (14th century). This is the cultural symbol of Lublin and the seat of the Museum of the History of the Town. In the Old Town Market stands the classical Old Town Hall, once the seat of the Crown Tribunal, surrounded by mansions dating back to the 15th century. Each one of them is a separate history book written on facades, gates, windows, yards and basements. Underneath the Old Town, there is an underground tourist trail, leading through the basements of former merchants’ stores, wine cellars during the various epochs in the history of the town.
Prayer and art in Lublin
St Stanislavus B.M. Dominican Basilica is one of the most important and beautiful sacral historical monuments in Poland. Inside the Firlej Family Chapel with its artistically sculpted tomb and the Tyszkiewicz Family Chapel with the Last Judgment fresco painted on its dome are quite extraordinary. In the Baroque Lublin Archcathedral (17th century) the monumental fresco by Józef Mayer (1757) and one of the high main altars, sculpted from the wood of the black Libyan Pear Tree, are equally remarkable things to see. The treasury of the Cathedral has high quality goldsmith work. Buried in the crypt are church dignitaries and citizens of merit from the town.
The main street of Lublin Poland
Krakowskie Przedmieście is the representative street of Lublin. It's the favorite place for social gatherings and entertainment for the town’s inhabitants and visitors. There are many coffee shops, artistic basement bars and restaurants to choose from. You will find the famous Semadeni sweet shop as well, in business now for over 160 years. Nearby, at Łokietek Square, stands the Classical New Town Hall. It's the seat of the local authorities. The trumpeter, playing the town’s bugle-call at noon, are on display on the balcony of the Town Hall tower.
Litewski (Lithuanian) Square is the blending of the modern history of the town. In the beginning of the 19th century the square served as an army parade ground. Today it's in use for celebrating national and religious holidays. Three monuments symbolize historical events here. The Constitution of May 3, Józef Piłsudski, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In the neighborhood, there are the historical hotels, ‘Europe’ and ‘Lublinianka’. There also are aristocratic palaces and many beautiful mansions from the beginning of the 20th century.
Lublin Poland A Town of Science
The Jewish Talmudic Academy opened in 1567. In the 20th century the name changed to the Wisemen Academy. It's the oldest university in the city. In 1918 the Lublin Catholic University (Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski) opened. It has great merit and is part of the humanities teaching tradition. Pope John Paul II was a student and professor here. For over 50 years Lublin has been the site of other important schools.
The Maria Curie Skłodowska University, The Medical Academy and Agricultural Academy. The first phase of the Polish-Ukrainian University, the European College of Polish and Ukrainian Universities, has been in place since 2001. Student organizations and cultural centers organize meetings, conferences, concerts and festivals all year-round. Its culmination are the student celebrations: Kulturalia, Kozienalia and Feliniady.
Lublin Poland Theater City
Over many ages Lublin has been a theater city. Lublin is the city of cultural and artistic encounters: of perceptive people searching for the meaning of life. It has a multicultural genius loci and the revolutionary energy of contemporary artists. NN Theater in the Grodzka Gate, places Jewish culture into the contemporary town to discover its roots. The International Festival, ‘Theater Confrontations’, presents outstanding performances created on different continents each year.
The Andersen Puppet Theater, creating performances in an original form with a meaningful message, is at the old Dominican monastery. The Theatrical Research Center, ‘Gardzienice’ – the theater of ethnical sources of culture is also connected with the city. With original dramas produced the theater of Leszek Mądzik is among the most outstanding phenomena of theater. Using universal visual signs Mądzik creates performances without words. They substitute them with light, movement, a black and white shades composition and music.
The Gardens and the Lublin Poland Countryside
The Maria Curie Skłodowska University Botanic Garden is quite enchanting with the beauty of its landscape and the wealth of its botanic specimens. It hosts over 6,000 species of plants from all the climatic zones of the world. The old-Polish residence of the Kościuszko family is in a unique and charming flower filled landscape. The Museum of the Lublin Region preserves and presents unique examples of historical wooden buildings from the ethnical sub-regions within the Lublin lands. Thatched roof huts, a Baroque gentry’s residence, a pub, a village church, and a Greek-Catholic Orthodox church with a shingled roof, an original ‘Dutch’ windmill and workshops. An Oiling house and a smithy are also on display.