Cloth Hall, Krakow, Poland
One of the most important architectural symbols of Krakow – The Cloth Hall (Sukiennice), is located on the Market Square - in the heart of Poland’s former capital’s Old Town. Krakow's Cloth Hall, as well as the entire Old City, is in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Already in the middle of 13th century on the site of the contemporary building were located retail shops. During the past seven centuries this shops were rebuilt for multiple times. Initially, the Cloth Hall was a structure, including two rows of shops, which were later taken under a roof. Later, as a result of numerous reconstructions, the building has significantly changed, and has become a beautiful landmark. In 1555, the Cloth Hall was heavily damaged by fire, and later was completely rebuilt in Renaissance style. After reconstructions of 1556-59’s and also - 1875-79's, the building received its present marvelous look.
Now it is a two-story building. On the ground floor - along the walls, small shops are located. The first floor is wider than the second one. It is decorated with arcades. The exterior of the building is decorated with avant-corps. Later mascarones were added as a decoration on the avant-corps. The mascarones are representing caricatures of Krakow’s previous rulers. This cream-colored building has a dark red line on the second floor’s wall - in the central part of the building. This contrast makes the building’s exterior more aristocratic and conspicuous.
Today the shops on the first floor are serving as souvenir shops, where you can buy handicrafts made in Poland. The second floor is used as a gallery of the Polish paintings. The gallery is the part of Polish National Museum: it exhibits paintings and sculptures of such renowned Polish artists as Jan Matejko and Henryk Siemiradzki.
In the past centuries Cloth Hall was used as a place for balls and celebrations. During the several centuries of its existence the building has hosted many nobles under its roof. Today, this tradition is being continued. In the past few years Prince of Wales - Charles and Emperor of Japan - Akihito visited the site.
Up to the 20th century the Cloth Hall was a major trading center in Krakow. According to the residents of the city, the Cloth Hall is the oldest building in the world used as a shopping center.
By Anna Pambukhchyan, www.building.am