text by Natalia Semczuk/www.journala.pl
Over the ages, Polish rulers changed repeatedly their headquarters. The effect of this is a common misconception about the number of real capitals of the country on the Vistula river. Despite many controversion historians solved the problem by picking 3 cities and dubbing them “capitals”. Thanks to them, we know that the first capital was Gniezno, second Cracov, third and present one – Warsaw. The most amazing thing is that underneath those names lie distinct history which is worthy of a closer look.
Legend says, that Gniezno was founded by Lech. He saw vast valley surrounded by hills and set his heart to live in there. On one of the hills grew a great oak, where white eagle nestled himself. Lech took it as a fortunate sign and decided to settle there, name his stronghold “Gniezno” and use an eagle in his coat of arms (The idea of this name came from polish word “gniazdo” which means “nest”). History textbooks claim that it was Mieszko I and his baptism of Poland in 966. and Bolesław Chrobrys coronation in 1025. that made Gniezno first polish capital.
Cracov became polish capital after series of tragic events, which ended in destroying polish voivodeship Greater Poland (Wielkopolska) by hands of Brzetysław I. Thanks to Casimir I the Restorer it has gained its capital status until the third partition of Poland. Cracov had a great reputation, it was nowhere else but in its castle – Wawel that the 32 coronations took place.
Zygmunt III Waza in 1596. initiated the tradition of royal voyages from Cracow to Warsaw. He took much liking in this. In 1609. he settled and Warsaw for good and made it a capital. Till this day there are many theories whether the capital was really relocated. The decision was never followed by any legal act, and the regalias stayed in Cracow.
What is it to live in a country with three capitals? Gorgeous! Wherever you go, you can be sure you’ll spot a castle, trade route or aged church. That’s the essence of Poland – a country that is rich in vestiges of history.