Cracow (Pol. Krakow; Ger. Krakau), a city, formerly capital of independent Poland, from 1815 to 1846 of a republic of its own name, and since 1846 incorporated with the Austrian crownland of Galicia. It is situated in a plain surrounded by hills on the left bank of the Vistula, which there becomes navigable, and is crossed by a massive bridge connecting the city with the suburban town of Podgorze; lat. 50° 3' K, lon. 19° 52' E., 200 m. N. E. of Vienna; pop. in 1869, 49,834, of whom about 15,000 were Jews. It consists of the city proper and several suburbs, the chief of which are Kleparz, Stradom, and Kazimierz, the latter on an island of the Vistula, inhabited almost exclusively by Jews. Except this part, which is mostly a narrow and gloomy abode of misery, Cracow, with its old castle, once the residence of the kings, on the top of the Wawel, its large central square, its numerous churches, chapels, turrets, and steeples, offers the aspect of a handsome and picturesque old city; though several conflagrations, of which that of 1850 was one of the most destructive, have changed parts of it, and the ancient fortifications have been converted into modern encircling promenades.
The royal castle, whose history is connected with that of the legendary Krakus and his daughter Wanda, of the Piasts and Jagiellos, having been destroyed by two conflagrations, restored by King Augustus II., fortified under the direction of Dumouriez, afterward the French general, in 1768, and repaired by the Austrians, has finally been converted by the latter into barracks. But the beautiful Gothic cathedral of the ancient residence still contains, in its numerous and splendid chapels, the tombs and monuments of St. Stanislas, whose remains are preserved in a silver coffin, of Casimir the Great, Jagiello and his wife Hedvig, the three Sigismunds, Stephen Bathori, John Sobieski, Copernicus, Prince Poniatow-ski, Kosciuszko, Dombrowski, Arthur Potocki, and other kings, queens, and celebrated men of Poland. Its bell, cast in 1520, its archives and library, as well as the royal insignia preserved in the vaults, are also shown to visiting travellers. A bishopric was established at Cracow about the year 1000, and in 1443 the bishops became sovereign dukes of Severia, the country between Cracow and Silesia. The larger portion of the diocese belongs to Russia, the smaller to Austria. The see has been vacant for some time, and in 1873 each part had a vicar apostolic, the one for Russia residing at Kielce. Cracow has more than 70 Roman Catholic churches, numerous convents and chapels, a number of synagogues, and one Protestant church.
Other remarkable buildings are the episcopal palace, with a museum of Sarmatian antiquities, the city hall, and the Jagiello university. The latter, founded by Casimir the Great, and completed under Ladislas Jagiello, was for centuries one of the most flourishing institutions of Europe, but lost its importance through the influence of the Jesuits, and having been reorganized in 1817, had again to suffer restrictive alterations in 1833. In 1871 it had 70 professors and 563 students. A library containing numerous old books and valuable manuscripts, a cabinet of natural history, a botanical garden, and an observatory belong to it. Cracow has also a polytechnic academy, with 24 professors and 378 students in 1871, two gymnasia, and a number of other institutions for public education, arts, sciences, and benevolence. In the vicinity of the city, the hill of Wanda, which commemorates the patriotic suicide of the daughter of Krakus, the Bronislawa (glory of arms), with a mound 150 ft. high erected in memory of Kosciuszko, and Lobzow, a summer residence built by Casimir the Great, attract the attention of travellers and patriots. The commerce of Cracow, though greatly decreased since the fall of independent Poland, and especially since the annexation to Austria, is considerable.
It is still a centre of trade between Russian Poland, Galicia, and Hungary, and a chief depot for Hungarian wines, salt, and wax. The celebrated salt mines of Wieliczka are a few miles distant. Railway lines connect the city with Warsaw, Berlin, Vienna, Lemberg, and Pesth. - The foundation of Cracow is attributed by the legends of Poland to Krakus, a Slavic chief, who is supposed to have lived about the year 700. Under Ladislas Lokietek (the Short), who was crowned here in 1320, it took the place of Gnesen as capital of Poland. This dignity it maintained down to the reign of Sigismund III., who in 1609 transferred the seat of government to Warsaw. The kings of Poland, however, still continued to be crowned in the cathedral of Cracow. It was conquered in 1039 by the Bohemians, in 1241 by the Tartars, in 1655 by the Swedes under Charles X., in 1702 by Charles XII., and in 1768, after having for some time supported the cause of the confederation of Bar, by the Russians. After the fall of Kosciuszko, who made Cracow the starting point of his revolution, it was on the last partition of Poland (1795) taken by Austria. In 1809 it was annexed, together with western Galicia, to the duchy of Warsaw, which had been created two years before by Napoleon. After the fall of Napoleon it was erected by the congress of Vienna, together with a small but fertile territory of about 500 sq. m. on the left bank of the Vistula, bounded by Russian Poland, Galicia, and Prussian Silesia, into an independents and neutral republic, under the protection of Russia, Austria, and Prussia. This miniature state, the last remnant of Polish independence, had a representative assembly, which held sessions in the last month of-every year, and an executive senate headed by a president, who was elected for three years by the assembly, and confirmed by the protecting states.
It contained about 150,000 inhabitants, of whom more than one tenth were Jews. The latter enjoyed no civil rights, and were besides subject to many humiliating mediaeval restrictions. Grain, excellent fruits, cattle, coal, iron, and sulphur, and the reviving commerce of Cracow, were the chief sources of wealth. During the Polish revolution of 1830-'31, Cracow was under the influence of the national party, and many of its inhabitants fought in the ranks of the Polish armies. Having become a place of refuge to a small part of the corps of Rozycki toward the close of the war, it was occupied by the Russian general Rudiger. The republic was now purged by the three protecting powers of all revolutionary elements, and finally reorganized in 1833. But new national agitations brought about another military occupation in 1836, this time executed by troops of all the three powers. This was followed by the expulsion of more than 500 persons, who were escorted to Trieste, to be transported to America. Scarcely had the troops retired when new conspiracies served in 1838 as a reason for a fresh occupation by the Austrians, which lasted till 1841. The revolutionary outbreak of February, 1846, which was prepared by a conspiracy for simultaneous action in all the provinces of ancient Poland, was for a moment successful in Cracow alone.
The Austrians, who had again occupied the city, were driven beyond the Vistula, the restoration of Poland as a democratic republic was proclaimed, and a provisional government organized under Tys-sowski as dictator. The early detection of the conspiracy in the duchy of Posen, the easy suppression of the outbreak in Russian Poland, and particularly the great catastrophe in western Galicia, where the peasantry massacred the insurgent nobility with their followers and families, soon annihilated the hopes of the friends of Poland. Three armies were approaching. Thus pressed, the small body of Poles surrendered to the Prussians (March 3), and the republic of Cracow was soon after annexed to Austria by a resolution of the three protectors. Tyssowski went into exile, and died at Washington in 1857. Thus the stipulation of the congress of Vienna, which guaranteed the "perpetual freedom and independence " of the last small remnant of Poland, was set aside by three of the eight contracting powers, without the consent of the others. France and England protested in vain.
The movements of 1848 but slightly disturbed the peace of Cracow. Since the reorganization of Austria in 1867, the city has again become one of the principal centres of the Polish nationality.
Palace at Cracow.