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Wawel Royal Castle - HOME

Wawel Royal Castle
State Art Collection

31-001 Kraków, Wawel 5

(+48 12) 422-51-55, 422-61-21

Tourist Information:
(+48 12) 422 51 55
ext. 219

Reservations and Guide Service:
(+48 12)
422 16 97

Press contact:
(+48 12) 422 51 55
ext. 380, 341

Military objects

The militaria department contains over 1000 pieces of various types of offensive and defensive weapons and army equipment. Objects recovered from the USSR following the treaty of Riga of 1921 and Cieszyn’s Bruno Konczakowski’s great collection, bought after his death in 1961 are at the core of the collection. Private donations and purchases made by the Royal Castle should not be overlooked. The core collection contains weapons from the 13th to 18th c, but there are also single earlier exhibits (a Greek hoplite’s helmet, a sword from the Hallstatt period) and a large set of 19th c. weaponry. The most valuable exhibit in the collection is a splendid coronation sword named Szczerbiec, the only existing insignium from the regalia collection, kept in the Royal Treasury until 1795. Medieval and Renaissance objects constitute a small but important category. Noteworthy examples include a suit of late Gothic tournament armour, and various beautiful helmets (a Hundsgugel helmet from the beginning of the 15th c, a sallet from the end of the 15th c., and 16th-c beavers and basinets). However, the greatest significance is given to weapons from the 17th and 18th c., including many related to Polish monarchs, hetmans or representatives of senators’ families. There are Hussar half-suits (including a unique exhibit with its original wings), suits of scale armour, sabres, estocks, batons and maces.  Splendid horse livery and saddles are particularly noteworthy. Some of them were made in Poland, some in the East – in Turkey and Persia. Among the latter there are trophies won during the Turkish-Polish wars, and also during the Vienna campaign in 1683. Hand firearms (pistols, arquebuses, muskets and rifles) and cold steel (rapiers and swords) of high artistic value were mostly made in leading western European workshops. Among shaft weapons there are partisans used by Polish kings’ soldiers (John Casimir, Michal Korybut Wi�niowiecki, John III Sobieski, Augustus II the Strong and Augustus III the Saxon. Another collection includes canons, howitzers and mortars from the 16th -18th c., and is one of the best in Poland (on a par with the Polish Army Museum collection).
Militaria is exhibited in rooms on the ground floor of the castle, within the Castle Armoury and the Royal Treasury. A large collection of weapons is also exhibited in the oriental treasure exhibition on the first floor of the western wing of the castle.
Zoom in -
SZCZERBIEC – coronation sword of Polish kings, Rhineland (?), 2nd quarter of the 13th c. Steel blade and gold hilt, decorated in the niella technique. Originally the property of prince Boleslaus (perhaps Boleslaus Konradowic or Boleslaus the Pious) as the inscription on the hilt (no longer visible) indicated. At the time it probably functioned as a symbol of legislative power (gladius iustitiae). In 1320 it was used in Wawel Cathedral as the coronation sword by Ladislaus the Short. After that time it was kept with the other regalia in the Crown Treasury at Wawel, from where it was looted by the Prussians in 1795. It subsequently went through the hands of different collectors: around 1810 it was in Dymitr Łabanov-Rostowski’s collection, in 1818 he offered it to general Wincenty Krasiński in Warsaw; before 1843 it was sold to prince Anatol Demidovov from San Donato near Florence, and from 1870 it was in A.P. Bazylewski’s possession in Paris. In 1884 it was bought for the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, from where it  was recovered through exchange and transferred to Wawel. One of the most valuable medieval ceremonial swords in Europe, it is one of the most important symbols of Polish state sovereignty.
Zoom in - King Sigismund I The Old’s sword.
King Sigismund I The Old’s sword.
KING SIGISMUND I THE OLD’S SWORD. Kraków, c. 1520. Silver hilt and sheath, gilt throughout, decorated with etched Renaissance ornament. On the plates of the hilt there are coats of arms of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. On the sheath there is the figure of Sigismund I with the insignia of power and the inscription: Sigismundus Rex Iustus (Sigismund the Righteous King). It was kept in the Royal Treasury at Wawel. Originally used as the sword of justice, later used in the ennoblement of knights. In 1795 it was looted by the Prussians, then it was in the Hohenzollern collection in the Monbijou palace in Berlin. In 1951 it was bought in London by expatriate Poles, and then in 1963 it was donated to Wawel.
Zoom in - Tournament armour.
Tournament armour.
TOURNAMENT ARMOUR. Nuremberg, Konrad Poler, c. 1490. A great example of late Gothic tournament armour, with a characteristic helmet (frog’s mouth), fixed to the cuirass with screws, which comprises a solid breastplate and a considerably thinner backplate. On the right side of the breastplate there is a hook for supporting a lance. The armour comes from Artus Court in Gdansk.
Zoom in - Cannon with an emblem of Hercules.
Cannon with an emblem of Hercules.
CANNON WITH AN EMBLEM OF HERCULES. Nuremberg, Oswald Baldner, mid 16th c. (with later gun carriage). Bronze barrel, with rich Renaissance decoration and a presentation of the mythological figure. In the Wawel collection there is a twin canon with an emblem of Samson. The author of these works received many commissions from king Sigismund Augustus, first in Nuremberg and then in Krakow. 
Zoom in - Basinet.
BASINET. Southern Germany, 2nd half of the 16th c. Made of steel, covered with etched and gilt Mooresque decoration and amethysts. It comes from the Tyszkiewicz family collection in Łohojsk in Lithuania. It is s richly ornamented helmet, characteristic of southern German armoury centres in the 16th c., reminiscent of Persian basinets.
Zoom in - Consecrated sword.
Consecrated sword.
CONSECRATED SWORD. Rome, 1675-76. Steel blade, partly gilt, with an inscription referring to Pope Innocent XI, and the year 1676, with gilt silver hilt and sheath showing Clemens X’s  coats of arms. The sword was given to King Jan III in the cathedral in Żółkiew in 1684, as a sign of gratitude for the protection of Christendom against the Turks. Kept by the Radziwiłł family in Nieśwież, looted by the Russians in 1812 and donated to the collection in Carskie Sioło, and then to the Hermitage collection in St. Petersburg. It was recovered by Poland in 1924 and donated to Wawel.
Zoom in - Hussar Armour.
Hussar Armour.
HUSSAR ARMOUR. Poland, 2nd half of the 17th c. A rare example of a half-suit with wings, used by the Polish cavalry – the Hussars. A characteristic feature of this armour is the construction of the breastplate and backplate, made of movable metal plates at the bottom, as well as rich brass decoration. The breastplate is decorated with openwork medallions with the Cross of the Knights Templar and the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Zoom in - Saddle from Sultan Mustafa II’s gift.
Saddle from Sultan Mustafa II’s gift.

SADDLE FROM SULTAN MUSTAFA II’s GIFT. Turkey, 3rd quarter of the 17th c. An example of a top quality saddle from a workshop working for the sultan and the Ottoman Porta elite, decorated with gold embroidery on red velvet and gilt silver ferrules richly set with turquoise and nephrite plates encrusted with gold. Given by Sultan Mustafa II to Stanisław Małachowski, a Polish envoy to commemorate the signing of a peace treaty in Karłowice in 1699, which finally brought a close to a period of wars between Poland and Turkey.

Zoom in - Baton.

BATON. Poland, 2nd half of the 17th c. Made of steel, studded with gold in a geometric and plant motif and set with precious and semi-precious stones. In the old Poland it was an insignia weapon – it indicated the rank of hetman. The baton presented is one of the most artistic objects of this kind in Polish collections. It was bought for the Wawel collection in 1961 with Bruno Konczakowski’s weapon collection.

Krzysztof Czyżewski