From Kraków to Warsaw

Kraków - Former Capital City

Kraków – Former Capital City

Exactly 420 years has passed since the capital of Poland was moved from Kraków to Warsaw. In March 1596, the Polish king (of Swedish origin) Sigismund III Vasa moved his entire court to the region of Mazovia (Polish: Mazowsze), which in the late 16th century was already a centre of strategic importance and a rapidly developing area within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The decision to move the Polish capital was probably not only driven by the fact that the assembly of the Polish parliament (Polish: Sejm) was held that year in Warsaw, but also because of a fire that devastated Wawel Castle in Kraków. What is more, Warsaw is situated much closer to Sweden, the homeland of King Sigismund, who planned to retake the Swedish crown. “The year 1596 may well be considered the date of moving the capital of Poland from Kraków to Warsaw, but it in fact was a very long process, which lasted until 1609,” said Krzysztof Zwierz, of the Warsaw Research department of the Museum of Warsaw. “The king was simply going to participate in the Sejm and the fact that he remained with his court in Warsaw was due to certain political reason that took place at the time. Furthermore, the future capital of Poland was considered a thriving large city with more opportunities and well-developed trade routes,” he adds. Regardless of the potential that Warsaw had back then, it was Kraków that remained the official capital and the venue for the coronations of the majority of Poland’s kings, however, Warsaw gradually began to take over these diplomatic and political functions.


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