Barbican is a fortified outpost once connected to the city walls. It is a historic gateway leading into the Old Town of Kraków.
The Kraków Barbican is the only remaining gatehouse of the Medieval complex network of fortifications and defensive barriers that once encircled the whole city of Krakow.
Considered a masterpiece of medieval military engineering, the circular fortress of Kraków’s Barbakan was added to the city’s fortifications along the coronation route in the late 15th century, based on Arabic rather than European defensive strategy.
The Poles built the Barbican fortified outpost around 1498, fearing an attack by the Ottoman Empire after the defeat of King John I Albert at the Battle of the Cosmin Forest.
The Gothic-style barbican is one of only three such fortified outposts still surviving in Europe, and the best preserved.
The Barbican is a moated cylindrical brick structure with an inner courtyard and seven turrets. Its 3-meter-thick walls hold 130 embrasures.
On its eastern wall, a tablet commemorates the feat of a Kraków burgher, Marcin Oracewicz, who, during the Bar Confederation, defended the town against the Russians and shot their Colonel Panin, according to a legend, using a coat button instead of a bullet.
The Barbican was originally a large, circular tower with an interior open space with a diameter of 25 m. It was built of brick and stone and stood four stories tall. It had seven watch towers. The walls were about 3 m at their base and 0.5 m at the top.
The Barbican’s exterior gate, the Kleparz Gate, was protected by a large, semi-circular moat 26 m wide and 6 m deep.
The Barbican was originally linked to the city walls by a covered passageway that led through St. Florian’s Gate and served as a checkpoint for all who entered the city of Krakow.
The Barbican participated in the defense of Kraków in 1587 against the Siege of Kraków (1587) by Maximilian III, Archduke of Austria, in the Siege of Kraków (1655) and the Siege of Kraków (1657), and Russian troops during the Polish–Russian War of 1792.
The building was threatened with demolition early in the 19th Century. However, in 1817 two senators of the Free City of Kraków, Feliks Radwanski and Jan Librowski convinced the Senate to preserve the Barbican and other parts of the old fortifications.
The Kraków Barbican currently serves as a tourist attraction and venue for a variety of exhibitions.
Today the Barbican is under the jurisdiction of The Historical Museum of the city of Kraków. Tourists may tour its interior with its displays outlining the historical development of fortifications in Kraków.
Today, occasional theatre productions and other art shows are hosted inside.