The “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre in Lublin is a local government cultural institution. It works towards the preservation of cultural heritage and education. Its function is tied to the symbolic and historical meaning of the Centre’s location in the Grodzka Gate, which used to divide Lublin into its respective Christian and Jewish quarters, as well as to Lublin as a meeting place of cultures, traditions and religions.

Part of the Centre are the House of Words and the Lublin Underground Trail.

The “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre in Lublin is a local government cultural institution. It works towards the preservation of cultural heritage and education. Its function is tied to the symbolic and historical meaning of the Centre’s location in the Grodzka Gate, which used to divide Lublin into its respective Christian and Jewish quarters, as well as to Lublin as a meeting place of cultures, traditions and religions.

Part of the Centre are the House of Words and the Lublin Underground Trail.

Old Town Market Square in Lublin

The Market Square was marked out after Lublin had obtained its town privileges. It was laid out in roughly square shape. The irregular form is a consequence of its location on the curve of the former fortified walls. Hence the western frontage bears a concave form, while the eastern (adjacent to the former walls) is convex. Originally, a pair of streets ran from each corner of the square. Nevertheless, as the time went on and buildings in the area were frequently rearranged, some of the streets became built-up. Lay of the land and layout of the old settlement located on the Old Town’s hill hindered any attempt to design regular-shaped lots. In the 16th century the process of consolidating the parcels had been initiated, causing alterations in the form of buildings in the vicinity of the square.


Photography of the Old Town Market Square with the Royal Tribunal building

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Lublin’s Market Square forms the centre of the Old Town. Main streets of the Old Town diverge from here. Those are, looking from the Krakowska Gate (the Cracow Gate), as follows: Bramowa, Olejna, Rybna, Grodzka, Złota and Gruella. The Market Square does not bear a regular form. It resembles a trapezium, measuring 62 x 72 m.

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In a medieval town, there was a strict division of areas related to different aspects of citizens’ life. Area surrounding the church served sacral purposes, while a town hall and a castle - administrative and military ones. A market square, however, was used chiefly for commercial activity. The Lublin Market Square, in addition to its commercial role, served as a place for display of the law and for public executions. Prison cells were located in the basement of the Town Hall. There was also a room where interrogations were carried out by the chief executioner. Moreover, the erstwhile administration of justice was aimed at effectively deterring prospective criminals. Obviously, a punishment taking place on the Market Square was not necessary an execution. Most often flagellations were carried out. In Lublin, executions - with the exception of special occasions - took place outside the city walls. Location of a whipping post in front of the Town Hall - despite the lack of any material evidence - is presumed by the fact that in other Polish cities, such devices are located in front of town halls until  today.

However, the Old Town Market Square was commonly used as a venue for large fairs. Jadwiga Teodorowicz-Czerepińska summons up a view of the Town Tall, which, in the 16th century - while without a cloth hall - was used as a support for wooden stands and merchants’ tents. Not all products were traded here. Some of them were sold in other parts of the town. For instance, fish were traded on the Rybny Square (Fish Square), whereas stands selling meat were located near the so-called butcher’s wicket (Pol. ‘furta rzeźnicza’). At the Market Square one could also find apartment houses and wealthy merchants’ shops, selling cloth, jewellery, spices and all sorts of luxury goods. Trade was evolving and new commodities were being introduced. Finally, such were the crowds gathering on the Market Square, that it turned out too small. Moreover, debates of Trybunał Koronny (The Royal Tribunal), established in 1578, were attended by throngs of applicants. In 1611 the problem was partially solved. On the basis of an act issued that year, it was ordered that the whole cereal trade would be moved out of the Old Town. Nowadays, the Lublin Market Square does not serve any of the aforementioned purposes. Only during Jarmark Jagielloński (The Jagiellonian Fair) and on some other occasions it turns again into enormous, colorful marketplace, resembling its historic form and function.


Look at>>> the collection of drawings depicting houses on the Old Town Market Square, by Czesław Doria-Dernałowicz.

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The marking out of the Old Town Market Square at its current location dates not earlier than granting of the location privilege based on the Magdeburg Law by Polish king Władysław Łokietek in 1317. Initially, buildings around the square were entirely wooden or wooden with a stone foundation. Not until the second decade of the 16th century may we find sources mentioning brick houses. Originally, parcels had been rather narrow, which can be concluded from the forms of preserved houses, referring to the layout of prior gothic buildings. The no. 4 house is an especially good example.

Large rearrangement of the town was carried out after the great fire which had occurred in 1575. Many of the houses in the Old Town were partially or entirely damaged by the fire. It was then that members of the wealthy merchant families began consolidating small parcels and converting existing damaged houses into splendid mansions. The developing city soon reached the status of important judicial centre, thanks to the foundation of Royal Tribunal for Małopolska (Lesser Poland region) in 1578. The Town Hall was then restored, in order to accommodate the Tribunal’s proceedings. At the end of the 16th century new wells were constructed, in addition to two already existing in the corners of the square. Creating such convenience for the citizens was possible because a waterwork had been functioning in Lublin since as early as the 15th century. The wells, being made of bricks and covered with roofs, formed an important part of buildings of the Market Square. At the end of the 17th century there was another rearrangement of the Tribunal. Major changes were introduced. The new shape of the building is probably depicted in the painting exhibited in the church of the Dominican Order, titled Pożar Miasta (The Fire of the City), referring to the tragic fire that occurred on 2 June 1719. The tower was removed, a new front section and stairs were constructed, along with beginning of construction of the second floor.

In the 17th century most houses were already two-storey and with basement. However, they were subjected to gradual devastation. Fragmentation of the properties was among the key factors contributing to that process. In the 1780s the Tribunal undergone another rearrangement, getting its present, classicist shape, designed by Dominik Merlini. Construction of the second floor, which had started almost 100 years earlier, was completed.

The 19th century did not bring any major changes to the buildings surrounding the Market Square. Condition of the houses had deteriorated, therefore some of them undergone repairs.

In the interwar period, the look of the Old Town Market Square was far from what we imagine today. A small green square, with a monument of Jan Kochanowski, was arranged in front of the Royal Tribunal building. Big trees grew along the side walls of the edifice. The Second World War inflicted massive damage to the southern frontage of the Market Square. A row of apartment houses from no. 16 to no. 20 was completely destroyed. Other buildings on that side of the square were also substantially damaged, as well as nos.11 and 13, located along the eastern frontage. Destroyed buildings were rebuilt after the war, under the supervision of architects T. Ogórkiewicz and I. Kędzierski among others.1954 saw restoration of façades of some buildings in the Old Town, including apartment houses on the Market Square.

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Restoration works at the Old Town Market Square, 1938-1939Initially, apartment houses around the Market Square consisted of stately façades with passable vestibules and annexes at the back of each lot. Rooms were laid out symmetrically. Numerous rearrangements and reconstructions resulted in disappearance of the original structure of preserved buildings. First restoration works took place in the 2nd half of the 1930s, supervised by Józef Dutkiewicz. Another restoration was related to the post-war reconstruction of Lublin and took place between 1953 and 1954.


Look at>>> photographs depicting restoration works in the Old Town in 1938-39


In a row of apartment houses along the western frontage of the Market Square stands the house no. 2, called ‘The Klonowic family's house’ (Pol. Kamienica Klonowiców). The 3, Market Square house stands out because of its steep late-gothic portal, with a lintel in the form of an ogee arch, whereas the house no. 3 was once decorated with an interesting wall painting that illustrated the legend of the Chort’s paw (Chort is a demon of evil in Slavic mythology). The House no. 5 is the former seat of the alderman Maciej Zess. In the 17th century it was a property of the Konopnica family. It was then that it obtained a splendid attic, then dismantled along with the Rybna Gate.

The Rybna Gate (the Fish Gate) was built over the Rybna Street, in order to close street leading to the fish market with an arcade, and connected two apartment houses. The gate constructed in the mid-15th century was rearranged in the Renaissance period, however, its form was inconsistent, tailored to match both houses. Destroyed during the World War II, the gate was reconstructed in 1945. It is adjacent to the house no. 2 in Grodzka Street.

The Market Square no. 6 apartment house is a part of the eastern frontage, the so-called Lubomelski frontage (Pol. pierzeja Lubomelskich). Remnants of the late-gothic window-frames were discovered in that building. After 1630 it became property of the Chociszewski family - hence its popular name: kamienica Chociszewska (the Chociszewski house).

One of the most renowned houses around the Market Square is the no. 8 -  Lubomelski family’s house (Pol. kamienica Lubomelskich). It was a property of Lubomelski family since early years of the 16th century. The Zadora house mark with the date 1540, alongside the inscription “Jan Lubom” is preserved on the portal. The Lubomelski family’s house was rebuilt ca. 1580, after a fire of the city. First floor of the basement, intended for a wine bar, was decorated with wall paintings.

The adjacent house no. 2 in Złota Street belongs to the literary history of Lublin. Between 1899 and 1934 it was home of Franciszka Arnsztajnowa, de domo Meyerson, a poet of the Young Poland period and author of poems about Lublin (some of which were written in collaboration with Józef Czechowicz).

The house no. 9 is located in the eastern frontage of the Market Square, also called the Konopnica frontage (Pol. Pierzeja Konopniców). In the year 1600 a rearrangement was carried out in the Renaissance style. The house was decorated with an attic and three stone wrought lions - hence its name “Pod lwami” (“House Under the Lions”).

The magnificent no. 12 is the famous Konopnica family’s house, considered one of the most beautiful historic buildings in Lublin. The mannerist stonework is believed to originate from workshops in Pińczów.

First building in the western frontage of the Market Square (also called “strona Wieniawskiego” - “The Wieniawski’s Side”) is the gothic apartment house no. 14. Next one, no. 16, belonged to alderman Stanisław Mężyk. Due to the specific decorative motifs, namely a frieze with figures of buskers, it was named “The House of Musicians” (Pol. “Kamienica muzyków”). The building is dedicated to Jan of Lublin, author of the organ tablature - the biggest collection of songs and dances for organ created in 16th century Europe. A medallion dedicated to Henryk Wieniawski can also be found on one of the walls.

Next building is the no. 17 - the so-called Wieniawski house. Between 1834 and 1849 it was a property of Tadeusz Wieniawski, a doctor and a surgeon. It is the place where famous Polish violinist Henryk Wieniawski was born in 1835.

The adjacent house no. 18 initially consisted of two houses, aptly combined by single façade constructed by sons of Sebastian Konopnica: Aleksander and Andrzej. During the restoration works in 1965, fragments of gothic brick walls were uncovered, along with beautifully preserved mannerist portal from the early 17th century. Ornaments adjoin the house no. 12 (Konopnica’s house). Perhaps they were made by the very workshops in Pińczów, following the style of Italian Sculptor Santi Gucci.

The corner house no. 20, close to Bramowa Street, is known as the Confectioners’ House (Pol. “kamienica cukierników”), due to the ornaments of the frieze. After being burnt down during the World War II, it was rebuild in nearly the same style. Nowadays it accommodates, among others, the restaurant “Czarcia Łapa” (“The Chort’s Paw”).


Look at>> contemporary photographs of the Old Town Market Square


Compiled by Anna Szlązak, Anna Malik
Edited by Monika Śliwińska

Translated into English by Jarosław Kobyłko

LiteratureDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Ilustrowany przewodnik po Lublinie, Lublin 1931.

Nowak B. [red.], Lublin. Przewodnik, red. B. Nowak, Lublin 2000.

Teodorowicz-Czerepińska J., Przemiany zabudowy i funkcji rynku w Lublinie w XVI-XVIII w., „Kwartalnik Historii Kultury Materialnej”, R. 41/1993, z. 2, s. 249–255.

Toporow W., Miasto i mit, tłum. B. Żyłko, Gdańsk 2000.

Wyszkowski M, Rynek, „Gazeta Wyborcza. Weekend”, nr 16/1992, s. 5.

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