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Tarnow Poland Travel Guide

Tarnow Poland

Tarnow Poland

History of Tarnow Poland

On March 7th, 1330, the royal chamber of king Wladyslaw Lokietek granted Spicymir, Krakow's governor, a document allowing him the right to develop the city of Tarnow. The reason: there was both a trade route connecting Germany to Russia and a crossing route from Hungary to the Baltic Sea that ran through the lands of Tarnow.

He chose to find the city on a hill, which set Tarnow high above its surrounding landscape. The Medieval layout of the city that was characteristic of the time of its founding, is still preserved today.

The greatest period of development for Tarnow occurred in the 16th century when Jan Tarnowski the nobleman, or hetman, and famous entrepreneur was the heir of Tarnow.

In 1536 there lived 200 tenement houses and 2000 inhabitants within the city walls. Unfortunately, from the years 1567 up to 1787 (the year it became a private city) many fires, diseases, wars, and most of all the greed of local authorities ravaged the city and ended the period of prosperity.

Tarnow in the 19th century and beyond

In 1870, Tarnow had 21,779 inhabitants and was the third-largest city in Galicia, after Lvov and Krakow. When WWI broke out in August 1914, Tarnovians joined the Polish Legions and at the end of October 1918, Tarnow was the first city in Poland to gain its independence. During the period of the Republic of Poland in the years from 1918-1939, Tarnow was developing into an industrial city.

This was all ended when on August 28, 1939, a time bomb left by a German saboteur exploded in the Tarnow railway station. Twenty people died and it's argued that World War II started here as a result. On June 14, 1940, was the first transport of 728 prisoners from the Jewish bath to the concentration camp in Auschwitz.

After the war, Tarnow was the district capital within the province of Krakow. In 1975, as a result of the administrative reform of the country, it became the provincial capital. The city then took the role of an important administrative, economic, and cultural center of the region.

At the same time, the number of inhabitants exceeded 120 thousand, yet on January 1, 1999, the city lost its provincial capital title. Currently, it's the seat of two districts, both of the city and the district lands.

Tarnow Train Station

Tarnow Train Station

Tarnow Train Station

Trying to return itself to a thriving existence, Tarnow started to increase development again at the end of the 18th century. In 1782 it became the seat of the district and in 1786 it was also bishopric.

Additionally, a large garrison had its headquarters for the division and brigade here.

Tarnow Town Square

Tarnow Town Square

Town Square of Tarnow

The shape and size of the Town Square remain unchanged since 1330 although the buildings date to the 16th to 18th century. Situated in the center of the town, the Town Square has always been a place where social life and trade concentrated. Its location in the central part of the hill, on the ground lowering towards the south, was helpful for the drainage of rainwater.

The dimensions of the square compared with other towns are rather typical and its sixty-six-acre area places it among smaller ones. Brick structures replaced the original wooden buildings from the beginning of the 15th century, starting with masonry cellars built under a wooden house. Fires that broke in Tarnow at the end of the 15th century destroyed merchants' buildings within the Town Square.

With the support of Jan Amor Tarnowski, the then owner of Tarnow, the houses were rebuilt in a new attractive form. In the 16th century, the buildings turned into typical middle-class tenement houses with arcades. Soon after, due to several wars, the town was decaying.

The slow process of recovery and development begins in the second half of the 18th century, especially during the Austro-Hungarian reign. Nowadays the building surrounding the Town Square are two-story tenement houses.

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They represent various architectonic styles and features. The most characteristic houses are number 20 and 21 in the northern frontage. Another unique structure is an early 20th-century passage in the western frontage and connecting the Town Square with Plac Kazimierza Wielkiego (King Kazimierz the Great Square).

Tarnow Cathedral

Tarnow Cathedral

Cathedral of Tarnow

The Cathedral, raised to the status of Minor Basilica in 1972, is the most impressive monument in Tarnow. The original 14th-century Gothic building was presumably made of brick and stone, with one nave and a rectangular apse. It was a large structure even though had no tower.

Written information on the church dates back to 1346. In 1400 the church became a collegiate. So, between the end of the 14th century and the 19th century, the original building of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish church had some chapels added. The tower was adjusted to the nave at the end of the 15th century, after the fire of 1494.

Nowadays the tower reaches 72 meters high, but its original size remains unknown. In 1810 the tower diminished to the roof level for the reconstruction works that lasted until 1891. The collegiate church became a Cathedral in 1786 when Tarnow gained a diocese. Even though Pope Pius VII repealed the decision in 1805, restoration happened 21 years later.

After 1826 the church was again rebuilt. The northern and southern chapels connecting with the nave by arcades, creating two aisles. St Benedict's chapel (its name changed to Blessed Sacrament chapel) was built on the south side next to the apse. Plaster covered the external walls. The northern side of the basilica gained treasury and vestry rooms.

The present style of the Cathedral

The Cathedral was got its present Neo-Gothic style following the thorough renovation works and a partial reconstruction in the years 1889-1900. The interior of the Basilica is impressive with well-preserved pieces of stonework and woodwork.

Gothic-Renaissance tombstones of the Tarnowski family and Baroque ones of the Ostrogski family considered the most remarkable works of art in Poland by masters such as Bartolomeo Berecci, Giovanni Maria Padovano, and Jan Pfister.

Berecci's tombstone of Barbara Tarnowska is one of the most beautiful Renaissance sculptures of a woman in Poland. The tombstone of the Tarnowski family, created by Padovano, is the most monumental Renaissance monument in Poland - over 13.8 meters high and 5.6 meters wide. Superior furnishings with ornamented canonic stalls, altars, sculptures, epitaphs, paintings, and stained glass place Tarnow Cathedral among the greatest temples in Poland.

Etnographic Museum in Tarnow

Etnographic Museum in Tarnow

Tarnow Ethnographic Museum

The Tarnow Ethnographic Museum, in a former suburban inn, which is now in the very center of the city, displays the only permanent exhibition of Gypsy history and culture in Europe. A large collection of clothes, tools, and other utilities are on display. But the most impressive units are five original horse carriages parked in the backyard.

AddressKrakowska 10, 33-100 Tarnow

Telephone+48 14 622 06 25

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Jeremy East


Liz Westwood from UK on April 18, 2021:

I had not heard of Tarnow before. Your article gives an interesting introduction to the area.

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