Zamkowy Square in Lublin
History of Zamkowy Square (Castle Square) is related to the Jewish settlement in Lublin. Until 1942, Szeroka Street ran across the site of today’s square. It was the main street of the Jewish Quarter that was nearly completely destroyed by Germans during the World War II. After the war, the authorities decided that a ceremonial square would be created at the site, together with monumental stairs leading to the Lublin Castle.
Space of the square
Zamkowy Square, situated at the foot of the castle hill and banked from the west by the buildings of 'Podzamcze' housing complex, came into existence in the course of tidying carried out in 1954, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of People’s Republic of Poland. As People’s Gatherings Square, it was meant to perform ceremonial functions, so its layout and configuration refer to the elliptic shapes of Baroque squares. Its design shows features of an ‘open composition’, as the outline is partially formed by green on the slope of the castle hill.
The area where Zamkowy Square is located once belonged to the Jewish Quarter, also known as Podzamcze. It was the part of the former Czwartek suburb that was closest to the castle hill. Podzamcze occupied the valley of Czechówka river, and one slope of the castle hill, between today’s Kowalska, Lubartowska, Ruska, Podzamcze streets and Tysiąclecia Avenue. Before the Second World War, the area around the castle hill, at the back of today’s Zamkowy Square, was also a part of Podzamcze. Life of the Jewish community thrived here until 1942. First mentions of Lublin Jews originate from the second half of the fifteenth century. The separate Jewish Quarter began to develop owing to the privilege issued by king Sigismund the Old. The Jewish community began to concentrate at Podzamcze, which eventually came to be called ‘the Jewish town’. Junction of today’s Kowalska Street and Zamkowy Square is the place where once Szeroka Street was beginning, as designed at the turn of the 18th century. Until 1942, it was the main artery in the Jewish Quarter and, since the beginning of the 19th century, the extension of the trade route which ran through Lublin towards Ruthenia and Lithuania.
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On 21 march 1940, Germans established the ghetto - a closed Jewish district. After it was liquidated in 1942, they began to raze Podzamcze by the labour of Jewish prisoners from the ghetto in Majdan Tatarski and the concentration camp in Majdanek. Plate that shows the scheme of the layout of the streets in the nonextant town is located on the right side of the stairs that lead onto the castle hill.
In 1950s, People’s Gatherings Square (Pol. Plac Zebrań Ludowych) - today’s Zamkowy Square - was built on the ruins of the houses that had stood in the Jewish Quarter. The design, executed in 1954 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of People’s Republic of Poland, was meant to hark back to the olden concept of the Popular Festivals Square, devised by Vasili Bazhenov in the last quarter of the 18th century and intended to be carried out at the Kremlin. Housing complex of the Union of Worker Settlements (Pol. Zjednoczenie Osiedli Robotniczych), named ‘Podzamcze’, was built around the square.
Design of the entire complex together with the square was prepared by company called ‘Miastoprojekt - Warszawa’ and executed by the workers of the Union of Urban Construction Industry (Pol. Zjednoczenie Budownictwa Miejskiego) in Szczecin and the Union for Stonemasonry Works (Pol. Zjednoczenie Robót Kamieniarskich) in Warsaw. Photographic documentation by Edward Hartwig, depicting construction works carried out in 1953 and 1954, has been preserved.
Apart from a row of apartment houses built along a curved line, stylized lamps and benches whose form was intended to correspond with the style of the nearby Old Town appeared on the square. Houses were not equipped with central heating, so the inhabitants (among them, for some time, was actor Stanisław Mikulski) quickly began to leave them, moving to the LSM and other housing complexes built in the 1960s. Distinctive feature of People’s Gatherings Square was its coloring: red ceramic roof tiles, facades painted in blue, green, yellow and two shades of pink, as well as plaster figures of knights that adorned the base balusters, set up in the course of the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the People’s Republic of Poland. Nowadays, the complex is recognized as one of the most interesting accomplishments of socialist realism in Poland.
Changes that occurred in the 1950s affected Lublin Castle itself. The former prison was now turned into the seat of the Municipal Community Center. The castle hill was terraced and monumental stairs leading to the entrance to the castle, devised by Bolesław Bierut, were constructed. The main landing of those stairs was located exactly at the site of the former prison gate. Wooden display halls were built in the vicinity of the castle and later the bus station began to operate next to one of them. In 1957 first visitors entered the museum at the castle. Plates commemorating the victims of the Second World War, the prisoners from the Communist Union of Polish Youth (Pol. Komunistyczny Związek Młodzieży Polskiej) and communist activist Marian Buczek were hung inside the castle portal.
The renovated square, which soon gained the name of ‘the Mariensztat of Lublin’, underwent further transformations in the subsequent years. In 1950s, it was planned to erect a bust of Stalin and later a monument of gratitude to the Red Army on the square, however, those projects were not carried out.
After 1973, construction of two roads commenced: Tysiąclecia Avenue and Władysław Gomułka Street (today’s Unii Lubelskiej St.). Then the bus station was moved away from the square. The ‘Transped’ transport company’s station functioned near the castle for a few more years.
In 1995, on the initiative of the Fellowship of the Enthusiasts of Lviv and the Southeastern Borderlands (Pol. Towarzystwo Miłośników Lwowa i Kresów Południowo-Wschodnich), a sculpture of lion that symbolizes the feat of Polish defenders of Lviv in 1918 was erected atop an artificial hill that overlooks the square. The last repairs at Podzamcze, carried out in the 21st century, consisted in replacing the old surface with sett and installing new lamps. In 2003, the monument of the soldiers of major Hieronim Dekutowski, nom de guerre Zapora, was embedded into a wall under the slope of the castle hill. Today Zamkowy Square is used mainly as a parking. Concerts and other festivals also take place there.
Apart from the material layer, Lublin also has spiritual and symbolic one. In the essay titled Oko cadyka (Tzadik’s Eye) Władysław Panas writes about Zamkowy Square and symbolism hidden in its space.
Surroundings of the square
Longer sides of the square border on a semicircular row of ten socialist realist apartment houses on one side and the slope of the castle hill on the other. Tysiąclecia Avenue separates the square from the bus station, and the footbridge that leads through Grodzka Gate towards the streets of the same name forms the border with the Old Town.
Compiled by Emilia Śliwczyńska
Editing and additional information by Joanna Zętar
Translated by Jarosław Kobyłko
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