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A view of the northern section of Kraków's defensive walls with the Barbican, the neck connecting it with Florian Gate and the towers, from the left: Karczmarzy I, Pasamoników, Stolarska and Ciesielska. On the far right is the one-storey Kleparz building.
The ring of fortifications, with wall towers and gate towers, surrounding Kraków, was built during the Middle Ages and became a characteristic element of the city's panorama. A significant part of the defensive walls was built at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. In the southern part of the city, they were probably completed in the1st quarter of the 14th century. From the mid-14th century, the fortifications were maintained at the cost of the city and gradually expanded. o Craftspeople of various specialities were responsible for the direct care of their individual sections, from whom the names of the towers were derived. 

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A view of the northern section of Kraków's defensive walls with the Barbican, the neck connecting it with Florian Gate and the towers, from the left: Karczmarzy I, Pasamoników, Stolarska and Ciesielska. On the far right is the one-storey Kleparz building.
The ring of fortifications, with wall towers and gate towers, surrounding Kraków, was built during the Middle Ages and became a characteristic element of the city's panorama. A significant part of the defensive walls was built at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. In the southern part of the city, they were probably completed in the1st quarter of the 14th century. From the mid-14th century, the fortifications were maintained at the cost of the city and gradually expanded. o Craftspeople of various specialities were responsible for the direct care of their individual sections, from whom the names of the towers were derived. The towers, situated at intervals in the line of the curtain walls, strengthened the walls, constituted defence points, and, at the same time, were used as warehouses for weapons and gunpowder. Access to the city was possible thanks to the gates, mentioned already at the beginning of the 14th century. Those gates were gradually expanded by adding a gatehouse, the so-called “neck”. At the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries, a second circumference of the walls and a wide moat was constructed. The Barbican was the last element of the medieval fortifications, erected in the northern part in the years 1498–1499. In the 16th century, the city arsenal was built between the Ciesielska and Stolarska towers. The entrance to the city, from this side, led through the Barbican, a drawbridge over the moat, and the Kleparski gate (from the north-west side) invisible in sight. In the wall of the neck, we can see an arcade passage, constructed additionally for better communication. Next to the wall, there are added houses called “on-the-nearwal”, such as the ones visible near Pasamonikow Tower. The view at the front is dominated by the former embankments, which were used as a promenade by the residents of Kraków, at the beginning of the 19th century. The painting is enlivened by a staffage consisting of the representatives of all the classes inhabiting and visiting the city: aristocracy (carriage with a coat of arms), nobility (horse-drawn carriage with a coat of arms), burghers, peasants (wedding suite), and, moreover, two mounted members of the Free City of Kraków militia.
In the nineteenth century, the defence system of the city did not fulfil its function, and — by the decision of Emperor Francis II — the dismantling of the walls began in 1810. Eventually, only their northern fragment and the Barbican were preserved. The moats, which, at the time, were just an outlet for sewage, were dried, the shafts were levelled, and the Planty Park was founded around the city.
The signature on the margin at the bottom reads: “Painted by Józef Brodowski / 1823”; in the middle: “Fortification of Kraków”.

Elaborated by Marta Marek (Historical Museum of the City of Kraków), © all rights reserved

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Does “the city air make you free”?

What is the meaning of the well-known saying “the city air makes you free”? What is its origin? Freedom in the city? In this thicket of streets, in the ever-bustling crowd and within the space limited by the infinity of the buildings? Is freedom not associated with a rural landscape?
This saying was coined in the Middle Ages, in connection with the flourishing of cities as centres of trade exchange. Initially, people dealing with trade and handicraft did not differ from peasants in any way. They were equally subject to the feudal lord whose land they used.

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What is the meaning of the well-known saying “the city air makes you free”? What is its origin? Freedom in the city? In this thicket of streets, in the ever-bustling crowd and within the space limited by the infinity of the buildings? Is freedom not associated with a rural landscape?
This saying was coined in the Middle Ages, in connection with the flourishing of cities as centres of trade exchange. Initially, people dealing with trade and handicraft did not differ from peasants in any way. They were equally subject to the feudal lord whose land they used. Gradually, their occupation began to bring them income that often exceeded the income of the Lord to whom they were subjected. This dependency, in turn, limited their opportunities for development. Over time, the class of feudal lords began to realize the extent of benefits which the development of cities brought to them, including the collection of customs duties from the land on which towns and cities had been built. Those lands still belonged to them! However, they had to make some concessions in favour of the emerging townsfolk class. First, merchants achieved exemption from serfdom and subsequently the right to personal freedom for those who had spent at least a year in the city, which is the basis of the saying mentioned above.
Over time, this right gave leeway to all sort of criminals, who, in order to avoid punishment, hid in the city and obtained their personal freedom after one year.

Elaborated by Kinga Kołodziejska (Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See also manuscript of the “Letter granting freedom to the town of Tarnów by Emperor Francis”.

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Painting “View of Kraków's north fortification” by Józef Brodowski

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