For years, the history of the borderlands between Western and Eastern Europe has set Lublin up for an important cultural role. Centuries ago, trade and diplomatic activity was focused here and today Lublin is a meeting place of artists, scientists, students and business people.When Lublin was granted civic rights in 1317 it strengthened its position among the important cities of Poland and Europe. The celebrated Lublin Fairs attracted merchants from the Caucasus and Black Sea regions, Lithuania and the interior of Russia. In 1569 the Lublin Union treaty was signed, binding Poland and Lithuania into a one state which existed till the end of the 18th century. During this time King Stefan Batory established the Crown Tribunal in Lublin which was the gentry’s highest court.In 1918, after nearly 130 years of occupation, the Temporary Government of the Republic of Poland was formed in Lublin giving birth to the modern state and the Lublin Catholic University (Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski – KUL) was established. One of the most significant social movements of the 20th century, “Solidarity” (Solidarnosc) began in Lublin and the nearby Swidnik where, a month before the strikes in Gdansk and Szczecin, Lublin’s workers demonstrated against the Communist Party.
Under One Roof of the City
Lublin through the centuries has given a noble example of tolerance. The town has been inhabited by the Jews, the Rusins from Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania, the native inhabitants of these lands, Protestants, Catholics and the followers of other religions. Podzamcze, a district in the Old Town, was the place of residence of the Jews and an international intellectual centre of Jewish culture. Since 1554 a Jewish printing house functioned here and from 1567 the famous Wise Men’s Academy was opened. In 1580 the Parliament of the Four Lands (Waad Arba Aracot), the main Jewish legation of the 1st Republic of Poland was set up here and the Rabbi called the Seer of Lublin, the originator of Hasidic mysticism, also lived here. During the Era of Reformation (17th century) Calvinist and Arian temples were erected next to the Catholic parish church. The religious debates were resolved in the spirit of tolerance and science and the religious wars which haunted most of Europe seemed to bypass Lublin. The “Russ” community wrote an interesting chapter in the city’s history.
In 1588 the Brotherhood of the Orthodox Church, to which the representatives of famous and influential magnate families belonged, was formed. The St Trinity Castle Chapel, decorated with Russian-Byzantine frescos dating back to the beginning of the 15th century, is the visible symbol of their power, as well as the Orthodox Church (on Ruska Street) belonging to the community of the eastern church. In the largest necropolis in Lublin, Roman-Catholic, Evangelical-Augsburg, and Orthodox cemeteries were placed next to one other. The old Jewish cemetery is located on Grodzisko Hill. In contemporary Lublin, the openness and friendliness, typical of cities where the elements of different cultures have merged together over a long time, can be felt at every step.
History Inscribed in Stone
It is worth starting a tour of Lublin at the Tower of the Trinity with its views of the picturesque Old Town spread over four hills, Czwartek (Thursday), Grodzisko (old settlement), Zamkowe (Castle) and Staromiejskie (Old-Town). Here visitors will find a stone defensive tower, the oldest historical site dating back to the 13th century and the symbol of longevity of the city. Lublin Castle, built in a Neo-Gothic style in1828 on top of the ruins of the king’s former castle was a prison until 1954. It was here that many thousands of Polish people were murdered during World War II and also during the years of Stalinist terror between 1948 and 1954. Today the castle houses the Lublin Museum. Lublin Old Town is the one of the best preserved medieval towns in Poland. Within an area of 7 hectares on top of a hill, there are more than 100 historic mansions and other important buildings. They can be reached by going through the 14th century Krakowian Gate, the cultural symbol of Lublin and the home of the Museum of the History of the Town. The classical Old Town Hall stands in the Old Town Market which was once the seat of the Crown Tribunal and is surrounded by mansions that date back to the 15th century.