Wall paintings uncovered in Kazimierz

 
Tomasz Cieplinski is a busy man. He?s opening a jazz club on ul. Lobzowska where Miasto Krakoff and Dwa Pstragi once were, starting up no less than two galleries in Kazimierz, planning artistic salons, and now heading the renovation of a building on the corner of Meiselsa and Bozego Ciala Streets where a major salon for the wealthy members of Krakow?s Jewish community once was.
Since 1946, this has been known to Krakowians as the rehearsal center for The Krakowiacy, one of Krakow?s foremost folk dance ensembles. When The Krakowiacy were expelled last year, the building lay dormant, and remained that way until Cieplinski got wind of it.
The building is of interest to Cieplinski, and to us by extension, because one of the rooms is entirely covered in 19th Century polychromes (wall-paintings) depicting four views of Jerusalem: the tomb of the David clan, the tower of the David clan, the holy mount and the Western (Wailing) Wall (this last is the most badly destroyed). There are holes in the wall where plaques once hung commemorating the wealthy Jews who supported and frequented the establishment. Where a massive wooden or marble podium once stood supporting the Torah, there is no more than a gashed alcove. On either side of the alcove, red plush curtains are painted. From the ceiling, where once hung golden ceiling ornaments and glowing chandeliers — bare white plaster.
Cieplinski presumes that this was once the meeting place of affluent Jews, a place that was designed to cut a stark contrast from the mainly poor-looking apartment houses of Kazimierz, which seldom had decor and were usually constructed on a budget. A salon took place here to encourage wealthy Jews to stay in Kazimierz, to show them that there was a place for them.
An architect, restorer and painter, Tomasz Cieplinski waves his arms about enthusing about how the paintings show an extraordinary sensitivity. In a sense, he is right: there is none of the melodramatic and dry 19th Century Academicism in these paintings, and an awareness of impressionism is just visible. The colors are rich and complex, due in part no doubt to the passing of time. The ornament has an oriental flair.
The ravages of The Krakowiacy and a group whom Cieplinski vaguely refers to as the ?communists? spur him to wave his arms about no less. The devastated present condition of the paintings is less due to the passing of time than the interior redecorating that has taken place post-1946. A radiator system with pipes was haphazardly attached around the room, a rail-bar was mounted about the circumference, a balcony thrown up near the ceiling, and some doors knocked into walls. All of these changes played their part in making for the present ruined state of the wall paintings.
What follows is a discussion on the role of conservation. For Cieplinski to get a grant to restore the building, the building must have a plan to make it ?economically soluble.?
This means — in Cieplinski?s words — ?everything will have to shine.? The gold must be reinstalled, the chandeliers rehung, the presumed marble restored, and the paintings conserved in a way that respects their original form but does not take pains to reveal their age.
The upstairs will be a three-star hotel, the downstairs a bar and perhaps a club, and the main room with the paintings — a venue for previous stars of the Jewish Culture to play in when the festival is not on. There are apparently waiting lists of A-list musicians who would like to play in Krakow for free, but are being turned down because there is no venue. The restored salon would be precisely such a place.
The only drawback to all this would seem to be that the room as it is, for all the ravages and wreckage, has its own peculiar beauty that will surely get lost in the ?shine? Cieplinski mentions, in the glare of all those chandeliers. There will, however, be at least one chance to see it in its present state: in October an exhibition of paintings by Grzegorz Stec will be held in the unrenovated room, and then it will be opened to the general public.       
 
How long has the Krakow?s traditional ?Lajkonik Parade? been around?
Each year, eight days after the movable feast of Corpus Christi, an interesting celebration is held in Krakow. You do not want to miss it! It is called the ?Procession of Lajkonik? and it will be observed this year on June 14 on Rynek Glowny and some main streets of Krakow?s Old Town.
The dance, the movement and the music cast an extraordinary aura on the event. Lajkonik, the hero of the festivity, is disguised as a Tartar and rides a wooden hobby-horse with peacock feathers on its head.
This beautiful parade grew as a commemoration of the repulsion of the invasion of the Tartar hordes in 1241. According to legend, a valiant local craftsman, Lajkonik, defeated a Tartar marshal at the gate of Krakow. He then dressed in the marshal?s clothes and led a group of craftsmen into the city. There they were met as heroes by the local people, who celebrated with the religious procession of the Corpus Christi.
If you wish to accompany Lajkonik in his procession, be ready on June 14 at 13:00. The parade begins in the courtyard of the Norbertine Convent in Salwator, a ten-minute walk along the river west from Wawel Castle.
From there, Lajkonik and his retinue leave for Rynek Glowny. Their route is always the same. It leads through the streets of first Kosciuszki, next Zwierzyniecka, then Franciszkanska and finally Grodzka.
Occasionally during his ride, Lajkonik forms a circle with his merry men and provides a magical flag dance.
For instance, this will occur at the Philharmonic around 17:00 – 17:15 and in front of the Town Hall tower on Rynek Glowny, where the ceremony will culminate.
At 19:00, Lajkonik, surrounded by a crowd of Krakow citizens and visitors, will be presented with the traditional symbolic tribute from Mayor of Krakow Jacek Majchrowski. This tribute consists of the Guild money and a goblet of wine. The ceremony ends with a toast to the good fortune of the city and its inhabitants.
The tradition of Lajkonik?s procession was already known in the 18th Century. However, until the end of the 19th Century, Lajkonik and his retinue wore random outfits. In 1904, Stanislaw Wyspianski designed the attire of Lajkonik that can be seen in the Historical Museum of Krakow. In 1997, the clothes were redesigned by Krystyna Zachwatowicz.
An important point to know is that the gentle hits of Lajkonik?s baton are believed to bring luck! So don?t try to dodge them. Instead, allow him to bestow his bounties on you.
 
Malgorzata Zielina has many years experience working as a guide in Krakow. The main profession of a guide is answering your questions. We will start with the questions she has heard most during her career. You can also ask your own question by sending her an email at: editor@krakowpost.com. Malgorzata will answer the most interesting questions in The Krakow Post.
 

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