Krakow's Nowa Huta - where communist utopia borders on
Nowa Huta was conceived in the late 1940s, under the ruthless
communist rule of Poland, as an ideal 'proletarian city' tied to a
brand-new giant steelworks next to
Krakow. Now it constitutes Krakow's easternmost 18th
district – XVIII Dzielnica – the city’s largest, with
area of 7,226 hectares and some 55,000 inhabitants. Besides relics
of the Soviet-era architecture Nowa Huta can boasts a number of
worthwhile sites, from the
prehistoric Mound of Wanda (Kopiec Wandy) to the
13th-century Cistercian Monastery of Mogila to futuristic
of the late 20th century.
Nowa Huta translates as New Steelworks or New Foundry.
Traces of communist utopia in Nowa Huta
Plac Centralny /Central Square/ was meant as the hub of the
visionary socialist city of Nowa Huta where wide radial avenues
meet, with concentric layers of public spaces and
estates called osiedle. The project has remained half-finished,
construction of the eastern half of the town canceled in the mid
1950s, so to the south Plac Centralny square still opens to vast
green fields. Otherwise it’s semi-circled by massive buildings in
the style of Socialist Realism. Their architects declared
inspiration from Poland’s monumental architecture of the Renaissance
(a deviation from the Soviet neoclassical orthodoxy) but it doesn’t
show much. The former prominent feature of Plac Centralny, a giant
bronze statue of Lenin (he had lived in Krakow from 1912 to 1914)
that used to dominate the square’s northern side in the years 1973
through 1989, has been removed and sold to Sweden.
Wide Aleja Solidarnosci – Solidarity Avenue, formerly Lenin Avenue –
links Plac Centralny with the vast industrial wasteland of mammoth
steelworks complex, now ArcelorMittal Poland, named after Lenin in
1954 and in 1990 renamed after Tadeusz Sendzimir, a Polish-American
successful inventor and industrialist. The street, intended as ‘the
axis of labor’ in Nowa Huta’s original town planning, ends at a
building of the management called Centrum Administracyjne
(Administration Center). An unintentional parody of the Renaissance
palatial architecture, the massive structure nicknamed ‘Vatican’ and
‘Palace of Doges’ was completed in 1955.
Nowa Huta’s other Soviet-era landmarks
Osiedle Wandy and Osiedle Willowe.
Nowa Huta’s oldest districts were built between 1949 and 1951 on
both sides of today’s Mierzwy Street, two blocks east of Plac
Centralny square, as residential areas in a vein of a garden city,
Soviet style. The new town’s very first building, a block of flats
at 14 Os. Wandy, was completed on June 23, 1949.
Teatr Ludowy theater at 34 Osiedle Teatralne
Theater building of 1955 is one of less disagreeable examples of the
pseudo-classicism typical for the Soviet architecture of the mid
Stefan Zeromski Hospital at Sieroszewskiego street
Nowa Huta’s Municipal Hospital was built between 1951 and 1954 as a
complex of 17 buildings. Its main edifice represents Socialist
Realism mimicking Baroque palatial architecture.
Swit Cinema at 10 Osiedle Teatralne and Swiatowid Cinema
The twins of former movie houses, opened in 1956 and 1958
respectively, exemplify the standard Stalinist architectural
preference for classicism.
Historic monuments in Nowa Huta
Wanda Mound (Kopiec Wandy)
The ancient earthwork, 14 meters high and about 50 meters in
diameter, is one of Krakow’s two
prehistoric barrows. Its origins remain a mystery but
most historians date it to the 8th century. Legend has it that the
mound was erected over the grave of a mythical Krakow princess,
Wanda, who threw herself to Wisla river to avoid marriage with a
German prince. The Mound of Wanda is situated on the edge of the
Nowa Huta steelworks, some three kilometers east of Plac Centralny
Cistercian Monastery in Mogila.
The monastery is one Poland’s most valued. It dates back to 1222
when the then Krakow bishop gave the village of Mogila (now part of
Nowa Huta) to the Cistercian monks. The originally Gothic complex,
with the Renaissance additions, was given a baroque facelift in the
18th century (fortunately its Gothic cloister has survived). The
monastery’s church of St. Venceslas and the Assumption of Our Lady (Kosciol
Sw. Waclawa i Wniebowziecia NMP) was built between 1266 and 1350 as
a hybrid of the Romanesque and Gothic architecture. In 1780 it
acquired a baroque facade and then baroque interior in 1790. The
church can boast outstanding works of art. – the Renaissance frescos
of circa 1530, plus the Gothic polyptych of 1514 and the15th-century
Gothic crucifix. The Renaissance Palace of Abbots dates from 1569.
The Cistercian Monastery of Mogila is situated at Klasztorna street,
some two kilometers southeast of Nowa Huta’s Plac Centralny square.
Church of St Bartholomew (Kosciol Sw. Bartlomieja)
The Mogila village parish church was built of timber in 1466. It
stands at Klasztorna street, close to the Cistercian Monastery. The
church boasts three aisles, a rare feature for the Polish
wooden architecture. Its side chapels date from the late
18th century together with the Baroque interior decoration of the
Krakow's municipality promotes a thematic route that links most of
Nowa Huta's places of interest.
tours and day trips
Krakow and its vicinity.
Suggested itineraries in Krakow
Walk Krakow's Royal Road
Go round Krakow's Rynek Glowny central square
Krakow's Kazimierz District
In the footsteps of Pope John Paul
Getting about Krakow
How to move
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