What to see in Wroclaw Ostrow Tumski

The Botanical Garden in Wroclaw

The Botanical Garden was established in 1811 as a research institute of Wroclaw University. It ranks among the oldest university institutions of that type in Poland. Located in the area of the city’s fortifications and its oldest district, i.e. Ostrow Tumski, nearby monumental Gothic churches, the Garden is a centre of recreation for the inhabitants of Wroclaw and an attraction for the visitors to the city.

The vegetation growing here ravishes the eye with its seasonally changing beauty. At present the Garden’s surface totals 19.4 ha, which includes 7.4 ha of the Wroclaw Botanical Garden and 12 ha of its branch, i.e. Arboretum Wojslawice. The Garden’s directors were represented by many distinguished botanists, to mention only palaeobotanist Prof. H. R Goeppert or A. Engler, the author of a novel system of plant taxonomy. World War II did not spare the Garden, which was severely bombed during the warfare: 50% of the tree stand and almost 100% of the herbaceous and glasshouse plants got damaged. It was as late as 1948 that reconstruction was undertaken thanks to the initiative and personal commitment of many people, Prof. H. Telezynski and Prof. S. Macko among others. The gardens’ central area contains ponds fashioned from what was an arm of the River Odra when Ostrow Tumski was still an island. The gardens contain palms, an alpine garden, cactuses and a 19th – century model of the geology of the Silesian town of Walbrzych. On a walk through the gardens 7000 plant species can be seen and a bust of the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, dating from 1871, stands among the greenery.

Mill Bridge – Mlynski Bridge in Wroclaw

Like the Sand Bridge, the Mill Bridge was first mentioned in 1149. It linked Olbin with Cathedral Island and was once much wider than it is today. At first it was called St. Vincent’s, being situated near the abbey in Olbin. In the 16th century, what today is one bridge actually consisted of three bridges collectively known as the ‘Long Bridges’.

Two fortified towers with gates were built along this stretch. These had rooms on the upper floors above the gateways. Sand Island was connected with Mill Island by the third section of this bridge. It was often called the ‘Corpus Christi Bridge’, like the nearby flour mill (the present-day Maria Mill). Other names used in the 18th and the early 19th centuries included ‘Przedtumski’ and ‘Fortuna’, while the steel bridge constructed on this site in 1885 was named after the Prussian field marshal A. Gneisenau. The two-span steel bridge with a stone terrace designed as a vista-point in the centre still stands. The present-day name ‘Mill Bridge’ was adopted on 19 October 1945.

Sand Bridge in Wroclaw

Sand Bridge (Piaskowy Bridge) first mentioned in 1149, is considered to be the oldest in Wroclaw. Its construction is probably related to the existence of the ‘amber trail’ running from the Adriatic, through Sand Island, to the Baltic. A landing-place used for rafting timber, originally situated on Cathedral Island, was moved to the left bank of the river Odra, right next to the bridge.

In the 15th century, the bridge had a fortified wooden tower in the middle, the span adjacent to the island was designed as a drawbridge, and a gate plastered with clay stood at this end. When the city was fortified in the 17th century, the tower was removed. Only the drawbridge remained. Over the years the bridge had various names, including, ‘the bridge by the Blessed Virgin Mary’ and ‘St. Mary’s’. The present-day iron bridge dates back to 1861 and is the oldest iron bridge in the city.

Tumski Bridge in Wroclaw

Tumski Bridge is a steel bridge over the north branch of the Oder river in Wroclaw. Constructed in 1889 it replaced an old wooden bridge to connect Ostrow Tumski and Wyspa Piaskowa. Until 1945, its name was Dombrucke.

It is an old road bridge now open to pedestrians only. Tumski Bridge is also called Cathedral or Green Bridge. It’s a place of enamoured traditionally sigh out of love. The bridge is full of padlocks which lovers leave to cherish their feelings. An important part of the ceremony is to though out the key to the Odra river.

Archbishop’s Palace in Wroclaw

Archbishop’s Palace is located at Katedralna Street. At the beginning of the 12th century, this was a two-storey late-Romanesque bishop’s residence with a rectangular base and two rooms separated by a vestibule. Upstairs there was a larger hall (‘sala episcopalis’) and a chapel, one element of which has been preserved to this day: a granite portal in the shape of a pointed arch characteristic of the 1250s and 1260s. Over the years, the palace was expanded and reconstructed. What remains of it is a basement with a low ceiling supported by one pillar, probably dating back to the 14th century.

Several additions were made in the times of Bishop John IV Roth, including a north wing facing Katedralna Street and a gateway into a square courtyard surrounded by various ancillary buildings. A passageway at the north-east end of the palace led to the south-west tower of the Cathedral. A fire destroyed the palace in the 18th century. Its reconstruction was supervised by K. G. Langhans, an outstanding architect who designed the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and later by K. G. Geissler, who was involved in the reconstruction and renovation of many buildings located on Cathedral Island and Sand Island. While Langhans intended to pull down the north wing, Geissler not only rebuilt it but made it the centerpiece of the palace, graced by a monumental portico with a niche and Ionic columns. He also widened the passageway between the Cathedral and the palace. After World War II, this was one of the most heavily damaged buildings in Wroclaw. Its reconstruction lasted, with brief intervals, from 1954 to 1969, and was supervised by a succession of experts. Certain alterations were introduced in the process: the building line was moved back and the south-east corner was cut in to broaden the passageway. Since 1991 the building has housed the Papal Faculty of Theology.

Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Wroclaw

St John the Baptist Cathedral is one of the most valuable monuments of Wroclaw’s church architecture. This was probably the first cathedral erected in the times of King Boleslaus the Brave, when a bishopric was established in Wroclaw in the year 1000. It was built of stone laid in lime mortar. The second cathedral, partly destroyed after the death of Mieszko II in 1034, was rebuilt under Bishop Jerome (1051–1062). Bishop Walter of Malonne began the construction of a new cathedral (1149–1169), which was completed by his successor, Bishop Zyroslaus II (1170–1198).

This was the first building constructed according to the uniform Gothic system, which is reflected in the structure, its aesthetic, and functionalism. Many borrowings are apparent in the construction. For instance, the sculptured decorations of the choir were directly influenced by the Gothic column ornaments in Magdeburg and Naumburg. The fourth cathedral, begun in 1244, still stands today. It was constructed in the Gothic style. Over the centuries, new elements were added to the original basilica, central nave, two aisles, and four towers. St. Mary’s Chapel, also known as the small chancel, and the side chapels were built in the 14th century. The first clock, ordered by the Council and manufactured by Master Swelbelin, was installed on the west wall in 1373. At the end of the 17th century, under Bishop Francis Louis of Neuburg, the interior was redesigned in the Baroque style: new altars were built, as well as a pulpit, balustrades, and four new chapels. A fire which broke out in 1759 caused serious damage to the cathedral. Its reconstruction continued until the early 20th century. At the end of World War II, the damage to the cathedral was estimated at 70 per cent, and it was uncertain whether the building could be restored to its former glory. The reconstruction proceeded in several stages, initially under the supervision of Marcin Bukowski, then, after 1968, under Edmund Malachowicz. Excavation works were simultaneously conducted, leading to the discovery of the relics of a Romanesque crypt that was part of Walter’s cathedral, as well as the tombs and remains of many bishops. Today the magnificently rebuilt Gothic cathedral is again open to the public. Since a lift was installed in the north tower in 1995, visitors can also enjoy a view from the terrace of the city and its surroundings.

Church of the Holy Cross in Wroclaw

Church of the Holy Cross was the first two-storey church built in Silesia and one of only a handful in Europe. It was founded by Duke Henry the Righteous to commemorate the end of his long dispute with Bishop Thomas II (1270–1292) and was to serve as a sanctuary where masses would be said for the souls of the deceased members of the dynasty.

Construction work on the chancel began in 1288. It was completed in 1295 and consecrated by Bishop Romek of Krakow. The large crypt constructed below the choir was an architectural novelty, splitting the church into two levels, each with its own row of windows: long windows on the upper level and small ones below. Although the section to the west of the chancel is also two-storey, this was added twenty years later. At one time, an excellent piece of sculpture – the sarcophagus of Henry the Righteous – was housed in the presbytery of the upper church. It can now be viewed at the National Museum. The fact that the Church of the Holy Cross was raised to the rank of a collegiate church testifies to its importance

Church of St Martin in Wroclaw

The small Gothic saint Martin church is the only remaining part of the oldest Piast’s castle in Wroclaw (The Silesian Piasts were the oldest line of the Piast dynasty that gave Poland its first kings). It was created in 80’s of the XIII century surely as a church of the monastic foundation of Henry Probus (that is Right, the same who financed saint Cross and saint Bartholomew collegiate church) under the call of the Holiest Virgin Maria, and also a funeral chapel.

During the time of the World War II it was severely (in approx. 80%) destroyed. The outlines of walls of the Piast’s castle can be seen around and nearby stands at present a monument of pope John XXIII. The present building consists of an octagonal nave and an unfinished presbytery.

Ostrow Tumski in Wroclaw

Ostrow Tumski is the oldest part of the city of Wroclaw. It was formerly an island between branches of the Oder River. Archaeological excavations have shown that the western part of Ostrow Tumski, between the Church of St. Martin and the Holy Cross, was the first to be inhabited. The first, wooden church (St. Martin), dating from the 9th century, was surrounded by defensive walls built on the banks of the river. The island had approximately 1,500 inhabitants at that time.

The first constructions on Ostrow Tumski were built in the 10th century by the Piast dynasty, and were made from wood. The first building from solid material was St. Martin’s chapel, built probably at the beginning of the eleventh century by Benedictine monks. Not long after the first cathedral was raised, in place of the small church. In 1315 Ostrow Tumski was sold to the church authorities. Since the island ceased to be under secular jurisdiction, it was often used by those who had broken the law in Wroclaw, as a place of sanctuary. An interesting indication of the special status of the island was a ban on wearing anything on the head, effective even on Tumski Bridge beyond the border pole of this small “ecclesiastical nation”.