Crown Treasury and Armoury
The exhibition is located on the ground floor of the north-eastern corner of the castle. It is related to the historic institution of the Crown Treasury once located here, which was a visible sign of the independence of the Kingdom of Poland, and later of the Commonwealth of the Two Nations. From the 14th century the insignia of royal power were stored here (crowns, sceptres, orbs, a sword, the Book of Gospels and a tray used in the ceremony of anointing a ruler), as well as a variety of valuables and curiosities which were official state property. At the same time in the castle the monarch’s private treasury consisting of the personal insignia, valuables and ornamental vessels was established. The assets of the Crown Treasury, augmented by diplomatic gifts and royal bequests, including the last will of Sigismund Augustus, were not on public display.
Single objects were only removed on special occasions, primarily for coronation ceremonies. Lists were made of the Crown Treasury’s content during regular audits. The first special public presentation of royal insignia took place in 1792. Three years later the Prussians broke into the Treasury and almost completely destroyed its contents.
Following the destruction of the royal insignia by the Prussians and the loss of almost all the treasures, the new collection, systematically augmented since 1930, only gives an inkling of the old magnificence of the place. Yet, it does include significant works of art, among them some historic artefacts, at the head of which is the Szczerbiec coronation sword - the most significant Polish historic artefact.
The Casimir the Great's Room
The Casimir the Great Room
Casimir the Great’s Room is the only remaining example of a formal apartment from the time of the last Piast kings (the first half of the 14th century), with relics of a fresco bearing the monogram of Queen Jadwiga (the end of the 14th century). A massive pillar that runs through the centre of all three levels of the Gothic tower residence is the inspiration for the name it was given: the Hen’s Foot. Today, the first room of the Treasury houses precious stones (dating from 2nd C. BC to 18th C. AD), among them the gem of the Lanckoroński family, a Roman pendant found on Wawel, as well as medieval religious vessels, such as a chalice commissioned by Casimir the Great, and treasures belonging to Polish rulers, including a pair of candlesticks with the coat of arms of Stefan Batory, a paten and a chessboard belonging to Sigismund III Vasa, a precious stone with the medallion of Vladislas IV Vasa, a vessel in the shape of an eagle from John Casimir’s collection or a miniature of Augustus III Sas in a diamond case, and also ornamental vessels and clocks from the 16th to 18th C.
The Jadwiga i Jagiello's Room
The Jadwiga i Jagiello's Room
Jadwiga and Jagiello’s Room is located in the Gothic pavilion which dates from the end of 14th century, later called the Danish Tower. The most valuable artefacts saved from the original Treasury are on display here: Szczerbiec - the coronation sword of Polish kings and a sword which belonged to Sigismund I the Old.
The room in the Sigismund III Tower
The room is located in Sigismund III’s Tower, which was constructed around 1600. The honourable insignia of John III Sobieski are exhibited here: the mantle of a Knight of the Order of the Holy Ghost received in 1676 from the King Louis XIV of France, and a consecrated sword and headwear presented by Pope Innocent XI in 1684.
The room with Ceremonial Weapons
This room with ceremonial weapons houses primarily part of spoils of war from 17th-century Polish military campaigns. Among these are trophies from the Vienna campaign (1683), mainly artistically decorated equestrian equipment, made in the most noted Turkish, Persian and Polish workshops of the 17th and 18th centuries. Here the military objects from the armoury of John III Sobieski in Żółkiew can also be admired.
Shaft weapons and two-handed swords are exhibited in the entrance hall to the Armoury. The main exhibits are representational halberds used by court and city guards. Some of them are richly decorated and bear the coats of arms of such rulers as: Archduke Ferdinand (who later became the Emperor), Archduke Ernest, Ferdinand the Prince of Bavaria, and the Archbishops of Salzburg: Wolf Dietrich von Reitenau, and Paris and Francis Lodron.
The 16th century glaives bearing the coats of arms of the Saxon dynasty of Wettin and the figure of Lucrecia is of unique artistic value. A group of partisans from the court guards of John Casimir, Michael Korybut Wiśniowiecki, John III Sobieski, Augustus II the Strong and Augustus III the Saxon has connections with Poland. The collection of two-handed swords from the 16th and early 17th centuries, along with the sword used by Julius II of Brunswick’s guardsmen is also very valuable.
Suits of armour are exhibited in this room. The complete German plated suits of armour from the 16th and early 17th centuries are examples of the medieval tradition.
Especially noteworthy, for its exquisite construction and aesthetic value, is a tournament suit of armour from the Court of Artus in Gdańsk made by the Nurembergian armourer Konrad Poler c. 1490. Most exhibits are half-suits of Polish Hussars’ armour from the 17th century, among them a unique item with its original wings. The scaled suits of armour used in Poland in the late 17th and in the first half of the 18th centuries are real rarities.
This room contains western European weapons from the late 15th to the early 19th centuries. There are medieval and modern swords, rapiers, cavalrymen’s swords and sabres. Particularly eye-catching are ceremonial artefacts, richly decorated and made in the best German, Italian, French and Spanish centres. Among the elements of protective suits of armour, two very rare hussar kapalins from the end of the 17th century deserve particular attention. A small collection of Polish sabres contains select examples of curved swords, hussar sabres, and a unique czeczuga (an Armenian sabre). An important historic artefact is the pommel of a cavalryman’s sword which belonged to the Grand Crown Hetman Stanislas Jabłonowski, a participant in the battle of Vienna (1683).
This room houses hand and projectile weapons. The exhibits include magnificent rifles, arquebuses, patrinals and pistols, ivory-incrusted and with etched decoration, from German, Silesian, French, Spanish and Polish factories (16th to the early 19th centuries). There are also interesting, primarily German, cross-bows used for hunting and sports with one beautiful piece made in Poland in 1725 for the Crown Chamberlain Kazimierz Poniatowski.
The final part of the exhibition is located in three basement rooms, one of which is 14th C. Gothic (with a vault supported by a central pillar) and two Renaissance rooms from the first half of the 16th century. Along the walls there are cannons, howitzers and mortars – ranging from small ceremonial cannons to huge outdoor ones. Two small cannons (from the mid 16th C.) cast by the Nurembegian founder, Oswald Baldner, commissioned by Sigismund Augustus, are examples of exquisite artistry. A collection of barrels which bear the coats of arms of Polish kings, hetmans and noblemen, the work of celebrated metal casters, is one of the most valuable in the country (alongside the Polish Army Museum collection in Warsaw) and are considered important throughout Europe.
Copies of banners captured from the Teutonic Knights at Grunwald in 1410 hang under the vault in the first basement, reflecting the tradition of bringing trophies captured from an enemy to Wawel Castle. These banners were recreated in the 20th C. from very detailed descriptions by Jan Dlugosz and miniatures by Stanisław Durinek in his work entitled Banderia Prutenorum.