Some five hundred years ago the Barbakan was an important part of Krakow's fortifications, and deadly projectiles were cast at anyone who dared to threaten the Polish capital.
The three rows of the Barbican's loopholes were filled with archers or riflemen whose shots wrecked havoc amongst the enemy lines. Along with the City Walls, the Barbican made Krakow an impregnable fortress.
Defending Krakow from the Barbican
It's not hard to imagine how it was on the inside: the defenders were stuck closely together behind the three-meter-thick brick walls, thirsty and striving to catch a breath in the Barbican's narrow corridors, falling down the uneven stairs in the dark, barely looking out the loopholes for fear of an enemy arrow with their name written on it. The Barbakan was Krakow's first defense line, exposed to the most powerful attacks.
The Barbican had its brave defenders, who used measures much more bizarre than one's own breakfast. When Krakow was attacked by the Russians in the 18th century, a Krakow burgher named Marcin Oracewicz, for lack of other ammunition, shot an enemy colonel with his own button. The Cracow townspeople commemorated Oracewicz with a plaque that hangs on Barbican's eastern wall.
Events in the Barbakan
Though the Barbakan would prove worthless as a defense measure against today's weaponry, its role exceeds being a mere attraction; a monument of Gothic architecture; a Krakow landmark – whatever you wish to call it. First of all, it is a division between Krakow's Historical Museum, and various open-air exhibitions which are organized in its courtyard.
More lively events in the Barbican include knights' tournaments, an attraction for those who want to feel the charm of the times of chivalry. Of course the medieval times were not just about the romance – during the Barbican tournaments one can see sword fights as well as torture and the work of an executioner. The Barbakan is also the place of clashes between today's knights, as every year it hosts a fencing tournament, whose winners receive the Barbican Cup.
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