Warsaw

Plac Bankowy

  Plac Bankowy     more than a year ago
Lying at the crossroads of two of Warsaw’s main arteries, ul. Marszałkowska and Al. Solidarności, is Plac Bankowy (A-2), not so much a square as an oblong shaped custard of car horns and traffic jams. Presiding over it all is the Blue Tower, a 120 metre skyscraper that’s source to one of Warsaw’s most enduring legends. Prior to WWII it was the site of the Great Synagogue. Leander Marconi (a relative of the man who designed the Tsarist Pawiak Prison) was chosen to be the chief architect and the building was completed in 1878 after three years of work. Holding over 3,000 worshippers it was the largest of its kind in Warsaw, and one of the biggest synagogues in the world. The Holocaust marked its end, and it was dynamited by Nazi soldiers on May 16, 1943 to celebrate the end of the Ghetto Uprising. Popular legend suggests that a Rabbi placed a curse so that no other building would rise in its place and, wouldn’t you know it, the glass tower that now stands took quite a while to build – 26 years to be precise, and only then after two long breaks in construction. Finally completed in 1991 all that remains of the original synagogue is a small stone column.

The nasty monument that stands outside is that of Stefan Starzyński, the mayor of Warsaw at the time of the German invasion. Extremely popular his tenure in power saw the construction of the National Museum, the opening of 44 schools, two parks, and the beginnings of the Warsaw Metro – an undertaking interrupted by war and only resumed decades later. His finest moment came with the 1939 Siege of Warsaw. Refusing to flee the city his rousing radio bulletins became the stuff of legend, and he is credited with countless humanitarian actions. Arrested by the Gestapo after the capitulation his fate remains unknown, though it is likely he died in Dachau concentration camp. His bronze and granite likeness, the work of Andrzej Renes, was unveiled on November 10, 1993.

The officious looking building that stands opposite functions as the Presidential Office and was rebuilt between 1950 and 1954 following destruction in 1939. Originally built in 1825 to a design by Antonio Corazzi it housed the treasury, and it was here that Juliusz Słowacki worked as a pen-pushing clerk. Along with Mickiewicz and Krasiński he would go on to become one of the three bards of Polish literature, and a patriotic voice for the nation at a time of 19th century Tsarist repression. That’s his statue outside.

Finally, to the corner of pl. Bankowy and ul. Elektoralna you’ll find the former Stock Exchange. Designed by Corazzi as well it was completed in 1828 and rebuilt after WWII. Since then it has served two purposes; under communism it functioned as a museum documenting The Polish Revolution, before being turned into the Museum of the Collection of John Paul II. It’s a role it still serves to this day, housing a rich collection of works by major Western European artists including Rubens and Goya.

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Ratusz Arsenał

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