A brief outline of the history of Warsaw.
Although the beginnings of Warsaw go as far back as the 12th and 13th century Warsaw was forced to completely rebuild after the near-total destruction of the city during World War II. The symbol of the capital’s rebirth was an unprecedented post-war re-creation of the Old Town, which in 1980 was put on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, as an example of a nearly complete reconstruction of the original settlement using original town plans and architecture.
On the other hand, the Palace of Culture and Science, which overlooks the city, is just the opposite in terms of ensuring historical continuity of the city. This unparalleled building, which is an example of socialist realist architecture, represents an icon of communism and enslavement. Today, it is one of Warsaw’s youngest monuments, and like the Old Town, is a tourist attraction.
Throughout history Warsaw has always been a centre of important events and activities. Its exceptional vitality and capital status has always been the driving force to strive for and develop new aspirations and where new concepts and ideas are born. Warsaw is testimony to remarkable heroism, commitment and national pride.
Warsaw has existed for several hundred years. Once called “the Paris of the North”, like the mythical Phoenix, it rose from the ashes after total devastation.
First centuries of the existence of Warsaw did not indicate its latter unique political, cultural and economic role.
Established relatively late in Polish history, initially for many years Warsaw was not part of Poland’s most important cities.
Poland’s capital moved to Warsaw. It was the beginning of the city’s dynamic development.
The turning point in the history of the city is marked by Queen Bona’s move from Krakow to Warsaw after being widowed by King Zygmunt Stary. It was decided to centralise parliament and move it from Krakow to Warsaw after the amalgamation of Poland and Lithuania in 1569 and to hold coronations there. Finally, when King Zygmunt III Wasa moved his seat to Warsaw the city became the capital of the newly formed commonwealth.
King Zygmunt III Waza’s Column towering over the Castle Square is one of the most distinctive symbols of the city. Development of Warsaw was disrupted by the Swedish invasion.
The 17th century was a period of great prosperity for Warsaw. The Royal Court attracted many new citizens, including members of the clergy and the gentry. Population was constantly growing. King Władysław IV Waza initiated the building of the King Zygmunt III Waza Column in the centre of the Castle Square to honour the king, who had moved Poland’s capital to Warsaw.
The period of prosperity was disrupted by the Swedish invasion in 1655. The city lay in ruins, ransacked and plundered. Palaces and wealthy magnates’ residences were reduced to rubble, while furniture, works of art, libraries and archives were removed to Sweden. Swedish occupation, referred to as “the Swedish deluge”, lasted until 1660.