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Gniezno, as the first capital of Poland and the town of St. Adalbert, represents not only a symbol of European reconciliation and dialogue; it is also a place dear to every Pole. The Gniezno region is crossed by the Piast Route, belonging to the most popular tracks of excursions in the country. It links Poznań, Gniezno and Kruszwica, towns rich in historical relics and architectural monuments. Gniezno is eagerly visited by tourists who, first of all, want to get in touch with the heritage of our forefathers. Strolling along the picturesque streets of this secular town one can meet on the way numerous relics, originating either from the era of the first Piast kings or from subsequent centuries.
But Gniezno does not live only by recalling its past, it is a town open to the future. This is proven by the five universities located in the city, which provide the town with a rich cultural and scholarly life. Moreover, the first capital of Poland attracts tourists because of its beautiful surroundings of parks and lakes, providing its visitors a chance to rest in the open air. At the same time, numerous festivities and cultural events of various types, like the Gniezno Encounters with History Festival, provide visitors with unforgettable experiences.
A trip to the first capital of Poland involves an excursion into the historical and cultural past of the country, to the time when the state of Poland was born. According to the Piast legend, Gniezno was erected in the place signified to Lech, a brother of Czech and Rus, by a white eagle in the area where it formed its nest. To this day, echoes of the legend sound in the name and heraldic arms of the town, in which the bird of prey founded this honourable site. The convenient location of the Gniezno lake region determined that the Piast rulers selected this area as their central abode, erecting a stronghold in the year 940, setting the foundation for the future location of the medieval town
It was just in Gniezno that one of the most important events in our history took place, the baptism of the Piast prince, Mieszko the First, in the year 966. This historical moment made Gniezno a very important centre of Christianity, which was symbolized by the establishment of the first Bishopric. The arrival of the Prague bishop Adalbert, his Christianizing mission in Prussia and martyr’s death gave beginning to the cult of St.Adalbert, which up to now unites and attracts to Gniezno pilgrims from the entire Europe. His remnants, deposited in the Gniezno cathedral church in the year of 1000 was the reason for the pilgrimage
to Gniezno of the German emperor, Otto the Third. The meeting of the prince Boleslaus the Brave, a son of Mieszko the First with the unquestionable ruler of Christian Europe resulted in the crowning of the Piast, who became the first king of Poland. In this way Gniezno became the symbol of the new state’s début on the political map of the Old Continent. This historical meeting provide contemporary Gniezno with the guiding principle for the international meetings of leaders of European countries which take place in Gniezno, a symbol of a united and solidary Europe.
Till the end of the medieval age Gniezno formed one of the most important political centres in Poland while the first archbishopric located in the town secured the religious unity of the young state. The Gniezno cathedral was the scene of the coronation of several other rulers of the medieval Poland: Mieszko II, Boleslaus the Courageous, Przemysław II and Wacław II the Czech. The invasion of the Teutonic Order in 1331 interrupted the active growth of Poland’s first capital. At the time Gniezno lost its strategic importance but history has never permitted to forget the peak moments of the town’s splendour and its significant input into the formation of Polish statehood. And so it remains till today.
So, welcome to the historical heart of Poland and please feel right at home. Your stay in Gniezno will be both a useful historical lesson and a pleasant rest out in the open or in the town’s charming cafeterias and restaurants.