Old City of Zamosc

Zamość, Poland

Zamosc was founded in the 16th century by the chancellor Jan Zamoysky on the trade route linking western and northern Europe with the Black Sea. Modelled on Italian theories of the 'ideal city' and built by the architect Bernando Morando, a native of Padua, Zamosc is a perfect example of a late-16th-century Renaissance town. It has retained its original layout and fortifications and a large number of buildings that combine Italian and central European architectural traditions.

Morando organized the space within the enceinte into two distinct sections: on the west the noble residence, and on the east the town proper, laid out around three squares. To populate it, Zamysky brought in merchants of various nationalities and displayed great religious tolerance to encourage people to settle there: they included Ruthenes (Slavs of the Orthodox Church), Turks, Armenians and Jews, among others. Moreover, he endowed the town with its own academy (1595), modelled on Italian cities.

Zamość is spoken of as a Renaissance town. However, on the one hand, Morando himself must have had Mannerist training, and on the other, in all the countries of Central Europe (Poland, Bohemia, Slovakia, Hungary, certain German regions and, in part, Austria proper), Italian Renaissance architecture had been well assimilated and adapted to local traditions since the 15th century. Consequently, Zamość was planned as a town in which the Mannerist taste mingled with certain Central European urban traditions, such as the arcaded galleries that surround the squares and create a sheltered passage in front of the shops.

The modem town grew for the most part outside the fortifications, which gives the old town a great degree of coherence in its plan and architecture. Having escaped the vast destruction suffered by many other Polish towns during the Second World War, Zamosc is an outstanding example of Polish architecture and urbanism of the 16th and 17th centuries.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee passed Zamość as a World Heritage Site in 1992.

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