The Sukiennice, also known as Krakow’s Cloth Hall, has been a trading hall since the 13th century. At first, the Sukiennice was just a bunch of stone market stalls, but in the 14 century, King Kazimierz the Great approved to have it made into a market building. The term Sukiennice refers to the trade of textiles and fabric, which is why it is also called Krakow’s Cloth Hall. Today, the Sukiennice is one of the the biggest tourist attractions in Krakow’s city center where you can buy some of Krakow’s best souvenirs.
At the time when the Sukiennice was built the city was under the Magdeburg Law, when Prince Bolesław the Chaste promised to build stalls for the people to sell their goods – mostly types of cloth. In the 14th century, King Kazimierz the Great approved to make it into a real, Gothic market building made of red brick. However, two centuries later it was destroyed by fire and only a few parts survived. Although the fire nearly destroyed the whole Sukiennice, it was actually better for the building in the end. It was changed to the Renaissance style and the floor was raised. The building was crowned with a beautiful attic decorated with gargoyles and loggias were added. This way, the Cloth Hall lasted a couple centuries. However, in the 1870s the Sukiennice was in need of renovation. The architect in charge, Tomasz Pryliński, decided to destroy the stalls and replace them with elegant acaded arches as well as beautiful facades. Today, the first floor is still used as a market, selling Polish souvenirs. However, the second floor has been turned into a national art museum. After the end of the 19th century the Sukiennice was barely changed at all anymore. As we said before, the Sukiennice is now one of Krakow’s biggest tourist attractions. There are market stalls that sell stunning jewelry, artistic handicrafts, and fabulous souvenirs. They even built an underground museum under the Cloth Hall. The Sukiennice is a remarkable building with a remarkable history.
The Sukiennice is one of the most characteristic monuments in Krakow. Before the fire in the 16th century the Sukiennice was a small, stone, Gothic style trading hall, but after the fire it was rebuilt and made into a Renaissance style building. There are still some of the Gothic pieces of architecture from the 16th century. To see both styles together, go to either the north or south entrances to see pointed, gothic arches under the rounded, renaissance arches. The Sukiennice is surrounded by arcades on all sides. Inside the Sukiennice there is a vaulted ceiling and there are crests of Poland’s cities on the walls. At the western entrance, there are two columns that each have several carvings of people at their capitals. Each person has a year carved under them and represents a fashion trend from that time period.
There is one object in the Sukiennice that has many legends created about it. Going into the Sukiennice, through the east entrance, hanging high on the wall on the right side, you might notice there is a knife. There are three different explanations to this. The first one, which is not very interesting, says that it was just a putty knife and was used for baking and other boring things like that.
The second explanation, which is more interesting, is connected to the legend of St. Mary’s Church. The builders of the church were brothers, the older brother was ordered to build the Southern tower and the younger one the Northern tower. Although their works were similar, the older brother quickly built a taller tower. Jealous, the younger brother killed his brother with what is said to be the very knife hanging from the entrance!!! (Find out more on the St. Mary’s Church page.)
The third explanation, is about a pole that stood in the middle of the Cloth Hall with a hat hung on it. The pole symbolizes justice and the rule over the city. Unfortunately, it was stolen a lot and a knife was hung outside the Sukiennice to scare off thieves and used as a warning, reminding people that, according to Magdeburg Law, their ear would be cut off for thievery.