Sandomierz, a town whose roots reach back over ten centuries, is picturesquely situated on the edge of Kielecko - Sandomierska Upland, declining in the form of huge slopes into the Vistula valley. Formerly Sandomierz belonged to the biggest towns in Poland. As sedes regni principalis it used to be a duke's seat and a royal residence. Bound up with Christianity for ten ages, together with a nearby Zawichost it was also a communication link of international trade route, leading from Western Europe through Wroclaw, Cracow, Wislica and Sandomierz to Rus and further eastwards until the Mongolian Empire. Sandomierz and Zawichost guarded the main ford across the Vistula. Since the 12th century Sandomierz and the region were included into the scheme of christianisation of the East by St Bernard of Clairvaux, which was marked by the foundation of a Cistercian abbey in nearby Koprzywnica in 1185, followed in the early 13th century by a Dominican monastery in Sandomierz (1226) and a Clarist one in Zawichost (1245). The convent of Dominican friars in Sandomierz was the second convent in Malopolska (preceded by the Cracow one), and the Clarist Convent was one of the first in east-central Europe. Polish princes, bishops and feudal lords supported these foundations.
The status of Sandomierz was confirmed by the position of the Collegiate Church, which was the second in Poland after the Cracow one. The historic researches prove high and appreciated abroad teaching level in the collegiate school. The existence of four churches in Sandomierz in the 12th century, recorded in written sources, together with their parish schools, especially the collegiate one, was not only of local significance. The location of monasteries along the main route bound Sandomierz with Europe not only politically, but first of all economically and culturally. These associations were mutual, e.g. the architectural solutions of churches of Dominican and Clarist monasteries had a great influence on the monastery design in western Europe.
The high level of Sandomierz school education was preserved nearly until now. In the 16th century dozens of Sandomierz citizens studied in the Cracow Academy. The citizens of Sandomierz were: Sebastian Petrycy from Pilzno - a doctor and a famous translator and commentator of Aristotle's works, Jan Porebny, a doctor of medicine and philosophy, and the most famous among doctors - Stanislaw Bartolon the Elder. Marcin from Urzedow after studies in Padua and Cracow settled in Sandomierz, where he created the first Polish botanical dictionary.
Unquestionably, the most famous citizen of Sandomierz was Mikolaj Gomolka - a composer, the author of "the Melodies for the Polish Psalter "(1580) to the words by John Kochanowski. In the 17th century the Sandomierz Jesuits founded a secondary school of a new type (Collegium Gostomianum) and ran it until the order annulment in 1773.
Connected with Sandomierz Collegium were, among others, Alexander Rzaczynski, an outstanding physiographer and ornithologist and Joseph Karsznicki, an architect. In the interwar period the General Regional University was founded and led by a great educator and regionalist Alexander Patkowski. It was situated in the post-Jesuit edifice. Since 1636 there has been the Seminary College in Sandomierz. For over a dozen years there have been here as well: the Linguistic College, the Liturgical Institute of PAT (the Pope's Academy of Theology) and the University College of Arts and Natural Science. Together they can offer 15 faculties. The long-lasting bloom of Sandomierz has endowe the town with numerous municipal and sacral buildings, founded and erected by men of a great culture and tolerance. What is worth mentioning here is a special privilege from 1367 that guaranteed royal protection to the local Jewish community, which was, after the Cracow one, the largest in Poland, as well as the "Sandomierz Agreement" from 1570 between Calvinists, Lutherans and Hussites (Bohemian Brothers). From among over 120 monuments of architecture in Sandomierz the following are recognized as the most valuable: the architectural - landscape complex of the Old Town, preserving the lay-out from the second half of the 14th century and the Dominican monastery complex of St James's Church. There are also preserved remains of Gothic fortified walls with the Opatowska Gate and the Castle, as well as the Town Hall, the Cathedral, numerous churches, burghers' houses and suburban manor-houses. Sandomierz with its unique atmosphere preserves many priceless treasures of Polish and European culture, enriches the heritage and invites to taste it.
The Town Hall
The Town Hall. The former Gothic town hall was built soon after the Lithuanian raid in 1349. It was a building on a plan of square and topped with a high octagonal tower. The southern part of the present Town Hall dates from this period. In the 16th century it was developed into a form of an extended rectangle and topped with an attic. The tower was rebuilt in the 17th century. On the ground floor there is the section of the Regional Museum, in the basement there is the "Lapidarium"Club of Sandomierz Cultural Society. On the first floor there are presentable rooms of the Town Council and the Office of Civil State. Next to the Town Hall, from the east, there is a statue of Virgin Mary from 1776.
The Castle - erected on the place of the former fortress from the 10th century. This royal-founded brick and stone castle was built since the 14th century. In 1525 it was transformed into a Renaissance residence according to the project of Benedict called "Sandomierzanin". Originally it consisted of four wings embracing an arcaded courtyard. The castle was blown up by the Swedish army in 1656. Only the western wing was preserved and was used as a prison since 1821. The building was rebuilt in the years 1960-1986. Now it is the seat of the Regional Museum. The sightseeing hours: Tuesday - Saturday 9 am.-3 pm., Sunday 10 am.-2 pm.
The Opatowska Gate
The Opatowska Gate - a Gothic gate to the town founded in the 14th century by the King Casimir the Great. The original system of the Gothic walls consisted of four gates leading to: Opatow (the only preserved), Zawichost, Lublin, and Cracow, two wicket gates (of which one - the Dominican wicket gate, called "the Needle Eye" - has been preserved) as well as twenty-one defensive towers. On the northern facade of the gate there is an original guide bar which was used for lowering the portcullis. The Opatowska Gate is crowned with a Renaissance attic. There is a scenic terrace on the top. The sightseeing hours: 10 am.- 6 pm. From May 1st to September 30th and from October 1st to April 30th the key is available at the seat of PTTK (Polish Tourist Association), 12, Rynek.
The Collegium Gostomianum - one of the oldest secondary schools in Poland. There has been preserved the "school" wing of the former Jesuit college founded in 1602 by Hieronim Gostomski, the Poznan Voivode and Sandomierz Castellan. The complex was built in the years 1604 - 1615 by a Jesuit builder Michael Hintz. It was destroyed by fires in 1656 and 1813 r. In the second half of the 19th century the southern wing and St Peter's church (mentioned since 1166), which stood in the middle of the courtyard, were demolished. The six-storey building preserved the original lay-out, the vault decoration, the heating system and the original elliptic staircase (on two storeys), which is the first and unique construction of this kind in Poland. At present Collegium Gostomianum is the seat of the Comprehensive School No. 1.
The House of John Dlugosz
The House of John Dlugosz - an old mansion founded in 1476 by John Dlugosz (a diplomat and a historian, the author of the first history of Poland), The building has two and a half room lines and a spacious hall to which two late Gothic portals lead. In the south, over the vestibule, there is a foundation board with John Dlugosz' coat of arms "Wieniawa". In the 16th century the building was topped with an attic. In the years 1934-1936 it was overhauled and "regothicised". Since 1937 the collections of the Diocesan Museum have been situated here. The author of the museum exhibition was Charles Estraycher. The most interesting exhibits are: the Gothic painting "Three Saint Women", the painting "Virgin Mary with the Holy Infant" by Lucas Cranach, the sculpture "Virgin Mary on the Throne" from a church in Gozlice from the 13th century, a collection of liturgical garments (15th - 18th century) and miniature organs from the 17th century.
House No. 4 with a preserved late Renaissance portal and reconstructed frames of the Renaissance windows on the first floor.
House No. 5 called the Bobola's Boarding House in the 17th century was a boarding house for the students of Collegium Gostomianum. In one of the rooms on the ground floor there is a painting from 1600. It presents Christ the Judge and some figures surrounding him - probably the owners of the house. House No. 10 - called Olesnicki Family's House has preserved an original lay-out. Here in 1570 the representatives of Polish Lutherans, Calvinists and Hussites signed "the Agreement" and worked out a valid catechism. In the yard there is the entrance to the Underground Tourist Route. House No. 12 - an.old guardhouse, a classicistic building raised in the 19th century. At present it is the seat of the local section of the Polish Tourist Association (PTTK).
House No. 14 - called the House of Nicolaus Gomolka, who was a prominent Polish composer of the Renaissance period.
House No. 23 - one of more precious houses. In the 16th century it belonged to a Greek Kojszor. The original lay-out of the ground floor has been maintained.
House No. 27 - called "Pod Cizemka/' belonged to a Hungarian brewer Lazarczyk in the 16th century. There is an original lay-out and, in the restaurant hall on the first floor, a wooden ceiling and a Renaissance biforium.
House No. 31 - in the 19th century belonged to the Dutreppi family. There is an original lay-out of the ground floor preserved.
- Staromiejska Street - Skorupski's manor-house erected in the 30s of the 19th century, at present it belongs to the Association of Retired Priests.
- Zawichojska Street - Strozynski's manor-house -a brick manor from 1861 r. with a columnar portal and an annexe from the early 19th century.
- Krolowej Jadwigi Street - a wooden manor-house from the turn of the 18 th century.
- Browarna Street - an aspen Karpinski's manor-house from the turn of the 18th century.
St James's Church
St James's Church together with the Dominican monastery is one of the oldest brick churches in Poland. It was founded by Ivon Odrowąż in 1226-1250 as the second Dominican convent in Poland, after the Cracov one. The church was built as a three-aisled basilica with an extended three-arched presbytery. The church is adjoined by the wings of monastery, partly preserved, a belfry from 1314 and a chapel from the mid 17th century, devoted to the Sandomierz martyrs. The late-Romanesque ceramic decoration of the facade attracts the attention, especially the northern portal, one of the most beautiful Romanesque ceramic portals in the world. The interior of the church is decorated with valuable stained-glass windows from the years 1910-1918, designed by Charles Frycz, the wings of the former high altar from 1599 and the stucco work of the vault in the presbytery and the Chapel of Martyrs from the 17th century. The sightseeing hours: 9 am.-l pm. and 3-5 pm.
St Paul's Churc
St Paul's Church - the parish of Saint Paul was established in 1226 by a Cracow bishop Ivon Odrow^z. The present church was erected on the place of the original wooden one in the 15th century. This one-nave church, enlarged in the 17th and the 18 th centuries, attracts attention with furnishings from the mid 17th century and the stucco work of the vault. The church cemetery is surrounded by a stone wall with a belfry from the 19th century.
The Cathedral - erected on the place of the original Romanesque collegiate church (mentioned since 1148), which was destroyed during the Mongolian invasions in the 13 th century and the Lithuanian raid in 1349. In 1360 the King Casimir the Great founded a new collegiate church, which received the dignity of the Cathedral in 1818 when the Sandomierz Diocese was established, and then, in 1960, the dignity of the Cathedral Basilica. It is a Gothic building of a hall type with a trilaterally closed and extended presbytery, ceiled with a cross - ribbed vault. The polychromies preserved on the walls of presbytery were made by the Ruthenian workshop of master Hayla from Przemysl in 1421. The frescoes were uncovered and restored in the years 1934-1936. The altars and portals of the Cathedral are made of black marble and decorated with pink marble. They are representative examples of stone wares from the workshops in Czerna near Cracow in the 17th and the 18 th century. The interior of the church is decorated with a complex of magnificent rococo altars (from the second half of 18th century) at aisle piers. They were made by a prominent craftsman Maciej Polejowski from Lvov. On the walls of the aisles there is a set of 16 paintings, of which twelve constitute the "Calendarium" cycle, whereas four paintings under the gallery present scenes from the history of Sandomierz, painted by Charles de Prevot between 1708 and 1737. In the treasury of the Cathedral there are: the privilege document of the town's second location from 1286, numerous incunabula and the Reliquary of the Holy Cross Tree offered to Sandomierz Collegiate church by the King Ladislaus Jagiello who thus acknowledged the merits of the Sandomierz knighthood in the Grunwald battle. The admission hours:
high seasonTuesday-Saturday 10am.-2pm.,3-5pm., Sunday 3-5 pm., low season 10 am.- 2 pm.
The Granary - raised in 1696 for the Sandomierz Collegiate church, it is the only remained witness of the past of Sandomierz as a harbour on the Vistula river.
The Church of the Holy Spirit
The Church of the Holy Spirit - together with the adjoining buildings of the old hospital created a monastery complex administrated by the Convent of the Hospital order called "Duchacy". The original wooden complex, founded by Cracow Castellan Zegota in 1303, burnt during the Lithuanian raid in 1349. It was rebuilt in the late 14th century. The Gothic Church of the Holy Spirit originally belonged to a group of pseudo-double-aisle churches. The nave vaults were triple-stellar, supported by a middle pillar. The present vault dates from the 18th century. In the Chapel of Our Lord Jesus there is a statue of the Sorrowful Christ, which, according to a tradition, comes from the Castle chapel.
St Michael's Church and the old Benedictine nuns monastery
St Michael's Church and the old Benedictine nuns monastery were founded in the 17th century by Zofia Sieniawska, according to a project by Michal Linka. The church has one nave, ceiled with a barvel-crossed vault supported by double Ionic piers. A few furnishings draw a special attention: the pulpit in the form of genealogical tree of Benedictine order growing from a lying figure of St Benedict made by Mateusz Roskwitowicz in the 17th century, two side altars coming from the same period two as well as some stalls and benches made in Marcin Czarny's workshop. In front of the church there is a small garden, separated from the street by a wall and a pulpit. The eastern side of the garden is limited with a little chaplain's house and a belfry and in the west there is a building of the former monastery wicket. The church is adjoined by the buildings of the old monastery from the west. The Baroque buildings have an interesting basilica-like construction what makes the post Benedictine complex an excellent example of the Baroque monastery architecture in Poland. Since 1903 it has been the seat of the Seminary College.
St Joseph's Church and the old monastery of Reformati Order
St Joseph's Church and the old monastery of Reformati Order is the youngest of the historical churches in Sandomierz. In the Baroque church, consecrated in 1697, there is an interesting interior furnishing in the "Reformati" brown colour. The high altar and six side altars, from about 1820, were painted in the illusionistic manner. The altar antepedia made of dyed straw date from this period as well. The church is surrounded by a wall with the Stations of the Cross. The monastery buildings on the southern side of the church have been preserved. The peculiarity of St Joseph's Church is the corpse of Teresa Izabela Morsztynowna, placed in a glass coffin in the basement of the church. Next to St Joseph's Church there is a municipal park set up in 1872.
The Synagogue - the Jewish community in Sandomierz was one of the largest and the most important in Malopolska (the southern part of Poland). Together with the Cracovian Quarter Kazimierz it received the privileges of royal protection from the King Casimir the Great. The synagogue was erected in the 17th century. In the 18th century a kahal building was adjoined from the north. At present it is the seat of the section of the State Archives.
The Underground Tourist Route
The Underground Tourist Route - the entry from Olesnickich Street - leads through underground merchant stores from the 15th - 17th centuries running under the burghers' houses in the Market Square for about 500 m. The deepest level is 12 m beneath the ground floor. There are original casings, interesting exhibitions, mysterious corners. Some amazing legends are connected with the place. The additional attraction is the possibility of tasting warmed wine or meeting "a ghost".
The Pepper Mountains
Gory Pieprzowe (the Pepper Mountains), called also "Pieprzowki", is not very tall, but beautiful and unique in Europe outcrop of very old Cambrian rocks (500 million years old). Within about one kilometer, in the steep, occasionally high (60 m) edge of Vistula valley there are numerous bassets of Cambrian shale, cut through with a net of rifts and set-offs. The whole area is covered with a loess layer
The slopes of the Pepper Mountains are part of a geological-floristic reserve (18 ha). Also some groups of steppe plants are protected here, e.g. a scrub cherry-tree, a needlegrass, a silver speedwell ted yarrow. The peculiarities are the clumps of 15 species of wild rose with a rare endemic Rosa Wagae. You can easily reach the Pepper Mountains going along the Vistula bank (the red route) or Blonie street.
Queen Jadwiga's ravine
Queen Jadwiga's ravine - a natural loess ravine about 500 m long and up to 10 m deep. The ravine divides St Jacob's and St Paul's hills. It is the most beautiful ravine among loess ravines in the vicinity of Sandomierz.