The Jagiellonian Trail of the Union of Lublin

Duration: 2-3 hours

Lublin, situated on the old route between Cracow and Vilnius, was a witness of many historical events from the period of the Jagiellonian rule in Poland. One of the greatest achievements of the dynasty was the Polish-Lithuanian union signed in 1569, which turned the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania into a single state. The Jagiellonian Trail of the Union of Lublin aims to present places associated with this event and to commemorate the city’s ties with one of the greatest dynasties of the then Europe.

Stop 1. - The Chapel of the Holy Trinity at the Castle of Lublin

The Holy Trinity Chapel at the Lublin Castle is the most valuable antique building of the Jagiellonian era. The Gothic church was erected by the last member of the Piast dynasty – King Casimir the Great – in the mid-14th century. In 1418, the inside of the chapel was decorated with polychromes financed by Władysław Jagiełło. The frescos were based on the Byzantine canon created for the Orthodox Church. In this way, the chapel became a special monument to Jagiełło and the religious and cultural union of two great Christian traditions, whose roots originate from the western- and eastern-European civilisations.

Under the central vault of the presbytery is the coat of arms of the Jagiellonian family and a kneeling King Władysław Jagiełło is depicted on the exterior claddings of the staircase leading to the gallery; while an image of the King on the horse can be seen on the interior wall of the chancel arch in the passage between the nave and the presbytery. During the union parliamentary sessions in 1569, a holy mass was held at the chapel, asking for successful deliberations. In one spot, on the wall, the writing has been preserved: Pio(tr) Jeżewski (1569) unia facta est cum ducatus Lytuanie, probably immortalised by a witness of the swearing-in ceremony of the Union of Lublin.

In order to gain access to the Holy Trinity Chapel, as well as to other buildings of the National Museum in Lublin located in the castle complex, a ticket needs to be purchased from the Museum’s ticket office.

Stop 2. - The Castle of Lublin

The Lublin Castle, built in the 14th century, was one of the greatest royal residences in Poland. During the parliamentary sessions of 1569, King Sigismund Augustus met with delegates at the Castle. Key political decisions were made in its chambers, which resulted in the signing and sealing of the Union Act and swearing-in of the Union.

The Gallery of Polish and Foreign Paintings showcases the painting of Jan Matejko entitled ‘The Union of Lublin’ in the prime spot. The canvass is 512 cm long and 289 cm high. The artist immortalised the point in time of the Union Act being sworn in by King Sigismund Augustus and a group of secular and clerical dignitaries, both Polish and Lithuanian. The painting also shows the Castle Chapel in Lublin. The fresco depicts the praying founder and clergymen, both Polish and Lithuanian.

The painting also shows Albert II Hohenzollern, who paid liege homage to the Polish King in Lublin. Jan Matejko’s creation delights with the colourfulness and excellent depiction of the characters. It also inspires reflection over this important event which was a great step towards the future unification of Europe.

Stop 3. - Plac Po Farze (Old Parish Square)

The Po Farze square is located in the Old Town within the old city walls. Its name refers to the oldest parish church of St Michael, situated here between the 13th century and the second half of the 19th century when it was demolished. Its soaring silhouette, together with the belfry, dominated the Lublin landscape.

Because the city parish – the non-existent parish church of St Michael – was located closest to the royal residence, it was here that special intention masses were held in 1569 to celebrate the Union, with the participation of delegates and Lublin residents according to the lithography of A. Lerue (from the collection of the National Museum in Lublin).

The Po Farze Square offers a really beautiful view of Podwale, Podzamcze, Castle hill, Czwartek hill, Grodzisko hill, and the valley of the Bystrzyca River. Today, we can see the partly restored foundations of the Church of St Michael, which give us an indication of the size, shape, and layout of the structure.

Stop 4. - The Church of the Dominican Friars

The Church of the Dominican Friars of St Stanislaus the Bishop and Martyr was erected in the 14th century within the city walls. It used to hold the priceless relic of the Holy Cross which came here from Kiev. In the Union days, the church’s interior was originally in the Gothic style. A dangerous fire that damaged part of the city in 1575 also destroyed the church. It was restored in the Renaissance style. The monastery’s refectory holds the crucifix which, according to the legend, was used to swear in the Union at the Lublin Castle.

After the ceremony, Sigismund Augustus proceeded on his horse – according to the chronicler – from the castle to the church to sing the thanksgiving mass Te Deum Laudamus with others. One of the side chapels contains two Renaissance gravestones of Firlejs: Mikołaj, a Kraków castellan, and his son Piotr from Dąbrowica, a Russian Governor. The son of Piotr, Jan, one of the gravestone’s funders, participated in the diplomatic talks with the Lithuanians which led to the conclusion of the Union; he was depicted by Matejko in his painting among the signatories of the Act of 1569.

Stop 5. - Tenement house at Rynek 8

The Lubomelski tenement house (Rynek 8) is one of the largest in the Old Town. A section of the Renaissance portal shows the coat of arms of the house’s owners, placed there during its conversion in 1540. In 1996, polychromes were found inside which show the oldest Lublin landscape from the Jagiellonian era.

Renaissance paintings depicting secular themes have been preserved in the old wine cellar, praising the ‘life of pleasure’, decorated with fitting Latin sentences.

Stop 6. - The Post-Bernardine Church of the Conversion of St. Paul

The Post-Bernardine Church of the Conversion of St Paul was built at the end of the 15th century outside the old city curtain walls, while the adjacent monastery was constructed in stages in the 15th and 16th centuries. The church and monastery complex burnt down in 1557 but it was rebuilt in 1569. The works were concluded at the time of the thanksgiving mass held after signing the Union. The participants in the union parliamentary session were most probably staying at the monastery.

Stop 7. - The Post-Bridgettine Church

The Post-Bridgettine Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary the Victorious and the convent of St Bridget of Sweden was financed by Władysław Jagiełło as a thanksgiving offering for the victory outside Grunwald over the Teutonic Order. The paintings preserved in the church’s attic (awaiting restoration) show the allegorical entry of knights commanded by King Casimir Jagiellon into Lublin.

During the reign of the monarch, in 1474, Lublin became the capital of the newly established Lublin voivodship (province) and remains its capital today. A monument to the greatest Polish poet of the Renaissance era, Jan Kochanowski, stands on the square adjacent to the church and monastery. As a careful observer of the events of 1569, he wrote poems about the Union. The poet was also a witness to the homage paid to the Polish King by Duke Albert II Frederick Hohenzollern, which took place on 19 July 1569 in the city of Lublin.

Stop 8. - The Monument to the Union of Lublin

The Monument to the Union of Lublin at the Litewski square is the last stop at the Jagiellonian Route of the Union of Lublin. The name of the square is derived from the camp of the Lithuanian Nobility during the union parliamentary sessions.

The original monument from the 16th century was damaged by the Tsarist authorities which established the Drill Square here. Upon the initiative of Stanisław Staszic, in 1826 a new monument was unveiled in the shape of an iron obelisk which is still standing today. It was cast in foundries in Kielce owned by the Old Polish Industrial Region, whose creation and development was initiated by Staszic.

A gilt bas-relief is located above the base of the obelisk which depicts two female characters holding out their hands to each other. Between them are two coats of arms: the Polish – the White Eagle, and the Lithuanian – the Pahonia. Paweł Maliński was the creator of the bas-relief. The monument to the Polish-Lithuanian Union has lasted for over 175 years and still brings back this great chapter of Polish and European history. It is a symbol of the event which, in an ever more united Europe, emphasises the position of Lublin as the city of Union, a multicultural city.