Cracow’s Kazimierz was founded in the 14th century. Until the 19th century, it was an independent city separated from Cracow by the Vistula River. For hundreds of years it was a place of intermingling with Jewish and Christian culture. In the past, the Jewish part of this district was separated by a wall from the rest. It covered several streets – Miodowa, Wąska, Starowiślna, St. Lawrence, Nowa and Józef.
The beginnings of the Kazimierz district
The first settlement in the lands of present Kazimierz was connected with the pagan temple, which, with the passing of time, was transformed into a Romanesque church. During the reign of Casimir the Restorer in the 11th century Cracow became the capital of Poland. On an island situated about 1,200 away from its walls, there was the settlement of Buffalo. A trade route ran through it, linking Hungary and Russia with salt mines in Bochnia and Wieliczka. In 1335, this settlement was granted the city law by Casimir the Great. It was in his honor that it was called Kazimierz.
The then city had an area of about 45 hectares and a trapezoidal shape. On today’s Szeroka Street the construction of the university was quickly started. Then, as a result of the opposition of Pope Benedict XII, the construction was discontinued and transferred to Krakow (Jagiellonian University) in 1364. In 13th century’s Kazimierz there were several churches- St. Lawrence’s, church of St. James or the famous church on Skałka.
The history of Kazimierz
In the second half of the 14th century, Kazimierz was one of the six cities operating on the basis of the Magdeburg law. The implementation of this law created a kind of free economic zone. It also excluded the inhabitants of Kazimierz from the king’s power. From 1497, the city was gradually settled by the Jewish population that arrived, among others, from Czech. With time, it gained numerical advantage and the city began to thrive. The synagogues were built – the Old Synagogue, the High Synagogue and the Remuh Synagogue. These are the places combining the socio-religious activity of the Jews.
The privilege from 1564 granted by King Zygmunt II August was an important event for the Jewish people. It guaranteed the Jews the exclusiveness for the purchase of real estate in a given area.
In 1800, Kazimierz and Cracow were merged into one city. Unfortunately, then Kazimierz fell
into ruin. The times of the Nazi occupation (1939-1945) were particularly tragic for it. This district was rebuilt only after the Second World War. Today, it is one of the most willingly visited places by tourists (and not only them) in Cracow. There are still many monuments related to Jewish culture. Social and cultural life is also blooming.