July 25, 2013
0169, 0646, 0647, 0766 POLAND (Mazovia) - Historic Centre of Warsaw (UNESCO WHS)
Posted on 11.04.2012, 14.05.2013, 25.07.2013
The legend attributes the Warsaw name to a fisherman Wars and his wife Sawa, a mermaid who lived in the Vistula River and who Wars fell in love with. Nice legend, but actually Warsz was a 12th/13th century nobleman who owned a village located at the site of today's Mariensztat neighbourhood. Unlike other old cities of Poland, such Krakow or Poznan, Warsaw is a relatively young city, which really became important in 1596, when King Sigismund III Vasa moved the court from Kraków to Warsaw. So the capital of Mazovia became the capital of the Polish Crown, and of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, primarly due to its central location between the Commonwealth's capitals of Kraków and Vilnius. This location was the city's luck, but, given the troubled history of Poland, it has also brought it a lot of misfortune, being pillaged and burned several times.
The largest catastrophe suffered by the city was also the latest, during the WWII. Germans planned destruction of the Polish capital before the start of war, what they did after the Warsaw Uprising (1 August – 2 October 1944), under express orders of Hitler. Monuments and government buildings were blown up by Verbrennungs und Vernichtungskommando (Burning and Destruction Detachments), so that about 85% of the city had been destroyed, including the historic Old Town and the Royal Castle. By January 1945, about 85% of the buildings had been destroyed: 10% as a result of the September 1939 campaign and other combat, 15% during the earlier Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (1943), 25% during the Warsaw Uprising, and 35% due to systematic German actions after the Uprising.
In terms of population, the situation was even more terrible. In the Uprising, ca. 170,000 people died, from among which only 16,000 were insurgents, and after that all the civilians (ca. 650,000) were deported to the transit camp in Pruszków (Durchgangslager Pruszków). In general, during the German occupation (1939–1945) ca. 700,000 people died in Warsaw, i.e. more than all Americans and British. Thus, if the city had reached 1,300,000 inhabitants in 1939, at the end of 1945 had only 422,000 inhabitants.
After WWII, the Warsaw's Old Town (Stare Miasto), bounded by Wybrzeże Gdańskie, along the bank of the Vistula, and by Grodzka, Mostowa and Podwale Streets, was meticulously rebuilt. As many of the original bricks were reused as possible. The rubble was sifted for reusable decorative elements, which were reinserted into their original places. Bernardo Bellotto's 18th-century vedute, as well as pre-WWII architecture students' drawings, were used as essential sources in the reconstruction effort. The heart of the area is the Old Town Market Place (Rynek Starego Miasta), which dates back to the end of the 13th century. The houses around it represented the Gothic style until the great fire of 1607, after which they were rebuilt in late-Renaissance style and eventually in late-Baroque style by Tylman Gamerski in 1701.
Besides the market itself, with its restaurants, cafés and shops, in the first postcard also appear (at the bottom, from left to right):
● Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and of St. Joseph, commonly known as the Carmelite Church (Kościół Karmelitów) - a Roman Catholic church built in 1692-1701 to the plan of Józef Szymon Bellotti, best known for its Neoclassical-style façade, erected by Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł, who commissioned the Hungarian architect Efraim Szreger. It was one of the few buildings only slightly damaged during the WWII.
● Church of Our Lady Queen of the Polish Crown (Katedra Polowa Wojska Polskiego) - built in the early 17th century, completely destroyed during the war with Sweden (1655-1660), and reconstructed in baroque style between 1660 and 1681. Restored in the years 1923-1933, destroyed again in 1944, and rebuilt after WWII, since 1991 was officially commissioned as the Polish Army field cathedral.
● Castle Square (Plac Zamkowy) - On the square is a column of King Sigismund III Vasa from 1644, the oldest and symbolic monument of the city (a work of Clemente Molli). On the right you can see the Royal Castle, the official residence of the Polish monarchs from 1526 to 1795, burned by the Germans in 1939 and then completely destroyed. The rebuilding of the Royal Castle complex will have been finalized in 1995. It can be also seen in the third and fourth postcard.
● Barbican (Barbacan) - a semicircular fortified outpost erected in 1540 and designed by Jan Baptist the Venetian, one of few remaining relics of the complex network of historic fortifications that once encircled Warsaw. During WWII, the barbican was largely destroyed, but was rebuilt during 1952–1954.
Warsaw's Old Town has been placed on the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites as "an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century", under the name Historic Centre of Warsaw.
About Warsaw as a whole, but also about others landmarks of the city, you can read in another post, here.
About the stamps
On the first postcard
The stamp is part of Polish Mansion Houses set, designed by Andrzej Gosik and issued on February 28, 2001. Over the years, Poczta Polska issued many stamps renders mansion houses, whose interiors are transformed in museums:
1997.04.30 The mansion house in Lopuszna (0.50 PLN)
1997.04.30 The mansion house in Zyrzna (0.60 PLN)
1997.05.23 The mansion house in Ozarowo (1.10 PLN)
1997.05.23 The mansion house in Tulowice (1.70 PLN)
1997.05.23 The mansion house in Kuznocin (2.20 PLN)
1997.05.23 The mansion house in Koszuty (10.00 PLN)
1998.01.15 The mansion house in Gluchach (B)
1998.01.15 The mansion house in Czarnolesie (A) - it's on fourth postcard
1998.03.03 The mansion house in Oblegorku (0.55 PLN)
1998.03.03 The mansion house in Bronowice (0.65 PLN)
1998.03.03 The mansion house in Oborach (0.90 PLN)
1998.03.03 The mansion house in Romanowie (1.20 PLN)
1999.06.15 The mansion house in Modlnica (0.70 PLN)
1999.06.15 The mansion house in Krzeslawice (1.00 PLN)
1999.06.15 The mansion house in Winna Gora (1.40 PLN)
1999.06.15 The mansion house in Potok Zloty (1.60 PLN)
1999.06.15 The mansion house in Krasna Dolna (1.85 PLN)
2000.04.14 The mansion house in Grabonog (0.80 PLN)
2000.04.14 The mansion house in Zelazowa Wola (1.55 PLN)
2000.04.14 The mansion house in Sucha, Wegrow (1.65 PLN)
2000.04.14 The mansion house in Liwia, Wegrow (2.65 PLN)
2001.02.28 The mansion house in Petrykozy (1.90 PLN)
2001.02.28 The mansion house in Janowiec (3.00 PLN) - it's on first postcard
2001.06.20 The mansion house in Lipkow (10.00 PLN)
2001.06.20 The mansion house in Sulejowka (1.50 PLN)
On the second postcard
The first two stamps (depicting buildings in Katowice, respectively All Saints Collegate Church in Sieradz) are part of the definitive series Polish Cities, about which I wrote here.
The last stamp is part of a series of four, Economic and Priority Post Stamp, designed by Marzanna Dąbrowska and issued on March 29, 2013:
• Stamp economic circulation 1000 g gauge A (3,70 PLN)
• Stamp economic circulation 1000g gauge B (4,75 PLN) - it's on the third postcard
• Stamp priority circulation 1000 g gauge A (4,50 PLN) - it's on this postcard
• Stamp priority circulation 1000 g gauge B (7,10 PLN)
On the third postcard
The stamp is part of a series of four, Economic and Priority Post Stamp, about which I wrote above. Note that the first postcard was sent on a special day, February 29 (you remember? 2012 was a leap year), and the postmark is very clear. Thank you very much, Adam.
On the fourth postcard
The first stamp is part of Polish Mansion Houses set, about which I wrote above. The second, depicting Romanian Athenaeum in Bucharest, is part of the series Capital Cities of EU States, issued on October 24, 2010:
• Bucharest - Romanian Athenaeum (3.00 PLN) - it's on this postcard
• Sofia - Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (1.95 PLN)
sender 1: Adam / Fazji (postcrossing)
1: sent from Warsaw (Masovia / Poland), on 29.02.2012
photo: Dariusz Krakowiak; proj. Krzysztof Gaszewski
sender 2, 3, 4: Kazimierz Roman Leszczynski (direct swap)
2: sent from Tarnobrzeg (Subcarpathia / Poland), on 09.05.2013
3: sent from Tarnobrzeg (Subcarpathia / Poland), on 09.05.2013
4: sent from Warsaw (Masovia / Poland), on 21.07.2013