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Juliusz Słowacki Theatre

alias Deutsches Theater (German Theatre, 1940), Teatr Miejski im. Juliusza Słowackiego (The Juliusz Słowacki City Theatre, 1909-1939, 1945-1946), Teatr Miejski/ Stadttheater im. Juliusza Słowackiego (The Juliusz Słowacki City Theatre/ City Theatre, 1939), Teatry Dramatyczne Kraków – Teatr im. Juliusza Słowackiego (Dramatic Theatres in Kraków – The Juliusz Słowacki Theatre, 1946-1954), Staatstheater des Generalgouvernements (City Theatre of General Government, 1940-1945), Teatr Miejski (City Theatre, 1893-1909)
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1.8.1888 | architectural competition

Feliks Szlachtowski, the president of the city, advertised the competition to new theatre building 

 Feliks Szlachtowski (20.11.1820 - 11.03.1896) - lawer, president of Krakow in 1884-1893


(detail)21.10.1893 | opening

(detail)1901 | premiere of "The Wedding" by Stanisław Wyspiański


Jan Zawiejski |architect
Antoni Tuch |painter
(detail)Alfred Daun |sculptor

author of statues and bas reliefs adorning the facade and lobby of Juliusz Słowacki Theatre

(detail)Mieczysław Zawiejski |sculptor
author of statues and bas reliefs adorning the facade and lobby of the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre

(detail)bracia/brothers Kossobudzcy |other
Locksmith work

(detail)Karol Uznański |other
Locksmith work

(detail)Adolf Putz |other
Masonry work

(detail)Michał Szczyrbała |other
Masonry work

(detail)Józef Kulesza |other
Masonry work

(detail)Rawicz Stefan |other
He made in the theater bricklaying.

(detail)Ignacy Miarczyński |other
He made in the theater bricklaying.


Operating uninterrupted since 1893, it is one of Poland’s most famous theatres. Since 1909, it is named after the great Polish poet, Juliusz Słowacki. The building, erected by Jan Zawiejski, is regarded as one of the most precious monuments of the eclectic theatre architecture in Europe. On the façade, next to the inscription Kraków for the National Art, there are sculptures symbolising Comedy, Drama, Poetry and Music. The interior is richly decorated with frescoes by the Viennese artist Antoni Tuch; and the famous painted curtain is by Henryk Siemiradzki. Next to the stage the beautiful historic dressing room of the famous actor Ludwik Solski can be visited.


Teatr im. Juliusza Słowackiego



Plac Św. Ducha 1 · 31-023 Cracow · Poland · tel. +48 12 424 45 25

E-Mail: bilet@slowacki.krakow.pl · www.slowacki.krakow.pl

Visits: by appoitment.

by appoitment.




The first permanent city theatre in Krakow was the Stary Theatre [Old Theatre]. However the existing building (which had not been designed for performance purpose, but had been rebuilt from three medieval tenement houses) did not meet strict technical requirements, or the aesthetical or functional expectations of an increasingly demanding audience, eager for decent entertainment.

Despite its shortcomings, the building was used until the tragic fire of the Viennese Ringtheater in December 1881 led local authorities, terrified of a similar event happening in Kraków, to close the theatre immediately. The need for a real theatre building was a matter of great discussion since that time. After long general consideration (primarily on where to build and with what funds, which was the constant problem of all initiators of parallel enterprise at that time), the city president, Dr Feliks Szlachtowski, announced, in selected Polish, French, German and Austrian dailies, an international competition for the theatre project.[1]

According to the programme (much more expanded and detailed than the one in Lublin) printed specially for that purpose, including the site plan, the theatre, which was designed for performing comedy, drama and opera with ballet, was to be built in Św. Duch Square, with the façade onto Szpitalna Street. The auditorium, much larger than in Lublin, for about 900 – 960 spectators and 45 members of the orchestra was to be united with adjoining vestibules, corridors, staircases, cloakrooms and toilets. In addition to this, space for a large foyer with a buffet, a hall with box offices, technical and additional rooms had to be taken into consideration. Like in Lublin, the whole building had to be erected from fire-resistive materials, without use of wood in any construction elements. The stage was to be equipped according to the level of technical knowledge at that time, including an iron curtain as well as central heating, artificial ventilation, electric and gaseous lighting in the whole building. In addition to standard plumbing, special fire protection waterworks were required. Finally, the programme of the competition particularly emphasised the need to erect a suitable number of staircases enabling the audience to make a fast and safe exit from the building in any situation.[2]

The rules of the competition (as detailed and extensive as the programme) required that the participants submitted plans of storeys and cross sections with a scale of 1:100 (except the site plan with a scale of 1:500): twelve drawings altogether with explanations and a detailed cost calculation. On no account should it surpass the amount budgeted for erecting the theatre, i.e. 400,000 Rhenish złoty. It was stated that projects with higher costs would not be considered at all.[3]

The works were to be sent to the President of Kraków by 12.00 midday on 1 March 1889. It was decided to award the best three projects with prizes of 2,500, 1,500 and 1,000 Rhenish złoty. In addition, the city council allocated 1,500 Rhenish złoty to purchasing the next three awarded plans. All awarded plans were to become the property of the municipality of Kraków, which reserved rights to utilise them. It was also decided that the make-up of the jury would be revealed within a month at the latest, the jury would gather to reach a verdict no later than 14 days after closing the competition, and the projects would then be exposed to public view for two weeks at least.[4]

Thus the programme and rules were very precise, or even strict, as far as the layout and the size of interiors and their equipment were concerned. On the other hand, the organizers did not make any particular suggestions as to the shape and character of the exterior, although it was very important for the historic architecture of this part of the city, dominated by the Gothic skyline of St. Catherine’s Church. The only requirement was to avoid (because of the climate conditions in Kraków) an excessive abundance of decorations on exterior elevations, as well as open loggias, balconies and terraces. The apparent freedom in shaping elevations turned out to be one of numerous mistakes made during the competition. Another one was the fact that the programme and rules were published in Polish and in German, with several important differences between both versions, which led to disorientation and nervousness among international competitors.[5]

Moreover, contrary to the previous promise to reveal the make-up of the jury within a month, it finally happened only four months later. The members of the jury were Zygmunt Gorgolewski (a royal builder working in Halle), baron Karl Hasenauer (an imperial-royal building councillor and a court architect in Vienna), Juliusz Hochberger (the director of a building office in Lwów), Stanisław Koźmian (the editor of the ‘Czas’ magazine and a former director of the theatre in Kraków), Janusz Niedziałkowski (the director of the city building office in Kraków), Juliusz Niedzielski (an architect working in Vienna), Juliusz Rudolph (the imperial-royal inspector of the Opera House in Vienna), Józef Sare (the imperial-royal supervising engineer in Kraków),  Mikołaj Ýbl (an architect working in Budapest ) and Professor  Josef Zitek (an architect working in Prague).[6]

The Kraków competition stirred up enormous interest and resulted in twenty-one design projects being submitted. As many as fourteen of these were executed by foreign architects, with the other seven from Polish competitors, including four connected with Kraków. The design project known as ‘Experientia’, by the famous company of Viennese architects, Ferdynand Fellner and Hermann Helmer, supported by Tomasz Pryliński from Kraków (who rebuilt Drapers’ Hall – Sukiennice between 1875 and 1878), was awarded the first prize, the design project ‘Fredro’ by Sławomir Odrzywolski and Karol Zaremba from Kraków came in second, and ‘Nobile officium judicis’ by Jan Zawiejski, also from Kraków, received the third prize.[7]

In addition, the international jury suggested that the municipality purchase  another project by Karol Zaremba and Sławomir Odrzywolski (‘Pegaz’), the project ‘Klar und hell’ by Heinrich Christian Seeling from Berlin (who soon afterwards, between 1894 and 1896 made the plans for the Miejski Theatre [The Municipal Theatre] in Bydgoszcz and was in charge of the building works) and ‘Cel i praca’ by Emil Ritter von Förster from Vienna. Moreover, the projects by the company of Tadeusz Stryjeński and Władysław Ekielski (‘Jeanne d‘Arc’), Vratislav Pasovsky from Prague (‘Halka’), made in co-operation with engineer Heinrich Fialk) and, finally, the project by Hartel and Neckelmann from Lipsk (‘Res severa – erum gaudium’) were awarded with ‘honourable mentions’.[8]

As this short review of the authors of the awarded and purchased designs shows unambiguously, they were the most interesting and, at the same time, the best known and the most appreciated architects in their countries. Some of them were at the height of their career, others at the beginning, and their work can be seen in many cities in Poland and abroad still today. The excess of richness and particularly the indecisiveness of the jury, which, admittedly, awarded three prizes according to the rules, but, on the other hand, believed that ‘from amongst the entries to the competition, there appeared no plan that did properly realise the totality of the requirements and conditions of the competition programme’,[9]led to unnecessary chaos, additionally deepened  by the absence of justification for the verdict.

The survived artwork shows that the architects, while designing the exterior block of the theatre, its numerous and various details, referred mainly to two great styles: Neoclassicism and Renaissance. The features of both styles can quite often be found in the same work. The motives that derive from Neoclassical style are primarily a portico, pediments, tympanums, and balustrades with sculptures. The giant order has also been used, especially in vertical partitions. Renaissance, and more precisely the Kraków version of Renaissance, was represented by attics in the shape of combs and gargoyles patterned after the nearby Sukiennice [Drapers’ Hall]. The richness and splendour of Baroque were not missing either (including typical high mansard roofs) with their pursuit of a refined game of light and shadows, as well as the wish to expose architectural orders. The desire to comply with as many requirements of the programme as possible and the excessive fixation of competitors with foreign patterns, especially the Dresden Hoftheater by Gotfried Semper (built between 1837 and 1841) and the Paris Opera by Charles Garnier, seem to have given birth to quite artificial creatures. Admittedly, the front elevation was relatively impressive (in most cases in the form of a projection with a tripartite loggia on the second storey), but the side elevations were too long (striking by their monotony and flatness) and – in some cases – too high (in proportion to the width). What is more, the designers did not completely succeed in using Garnier’s clear division of the building into three separate areas (the foyer, the auditorium and the stage with technical infrastructure), covered with separate roofs. They were not successful either as far as rich and varied architectural details were concerned.

As a result, the prize-winning designs bristled with excessive eclecticism of the incoherent exterior. As far as the interior arrangement was concerned, all the participants of the competition started from an elongated rectangular in which, following the example of Paris, they inscribed the house in a shape oscillating between a half and three-quarters of an ellipse. They also tried to create the house in forms similar to a bell or a goblet. Nevertheless, in the Kraków Theatre designs the house and the stage (including the infrastructure) constituted as much as two-thirds of the length of the building, while in the much larger opera in Paris, it is only a little over half of the length.

Owing to the doubts raised over the competition and the verdict of the jury, as well as excessively stimulated emotions, after long discussions lasting several months, the decision was taken not to construct any of the prize-winning designs. However, since Kraków society and architectural circles demanded that the matter be concluded, in June 1889 the city council announced a second, closed competition. Tadeusz Stryjeński and Władysław Ekielski (acting together), and Karol Zaremba, Sławomir Odrzywolski and Jan Zawiejski (acting individually) were invited to participate.[10] The competition brought no end of emotion until the conclusion. Finally, in April 1890, thirty-three of fifty-one city councillors judged Zawiejski’s design to be the best. Only four councillors chose Stryjeński and Ekielski’s project, although the tone of earlier discussions had suggested that their design would be implemented. In these circumstances, the council commissioned Zawiejski to erect the theatre.[11] The first earth works and construction steps started on 26 March 1891.[12] The ceremonial opening of the new edifice took place just two and a half years later, on 21 October 1893 on the stroke of midday.[13] The programme of the celebration, as rich and spectacular as in Lublin, was prepared by Adam Asnyk, Faustyn Jakubowski, Fryderyk Zoll and Józef Muczkowski. Representatives of the city council were there along with craftsmen wearing traditional outfits and holding flags, state authorities, a delegation from Akademia Umiejętności [the Academy of Arts and Sciences], and official delegations from Lwów, Warszawa, Poznań, Prague and Vienna, as well as eminent artists, including Wojciech Kossak, Stanisław Koźmian, Karol Estreicher Sr., Władysław Żeleński and, despite his serious illness, Jan Matejko, who, a few years earlier, had protested violently (and unfortunately in vain) against the demolition of the medieval Św. Duch hospital, on the site of which the new theatre was built.[14]

The building that emerged in front of the inhabitants of Kraków was impressive, but surprisingly eclectic (for the last decade of the 19th century), dominated by neo-renaissance, indigenous elements, derived from 16th century local monuments, especially Sukiennice and Wawel Royal Castle. Although much smaller than its ‘pattern’ in Paris, it was equally pompous, with numerous bas-reliefs and sculptures on the front elevation (by Tadeusz Błotnicki and Alfred Daun), as well as in the interiors, stuccowork and electric chandeliers, first lit in Kraków, glowing mysteriously in the light, abundantly decorated with gold. The walls were painted in red and cream and completed, in the most representative places, with Pompeian polychromes (by Antoni Tuch). The seats, upholstered in red velvet, exquisitely matched the spectacular, multi-figure decoration of the representative drop curtain, designed by Henryk Siemiradzki (ready only in February 1894).[15]

For Jan Zawiejski (1854-1922)[16] the fact of winning the competition and the construction of the Kraków theatre meant the beginning of the real professional career. The conception of the Water Palace from 1897, prepared with a view to the ‘Exposition Universelle’ in Paris in 1900 must be considered as the most original work of this architect, unfortunately not implemented. In subsequent years he participated (with various results) in many competitions for buildings of public utility (among others the competition for the project of the Peace Palace in Hague in 1905), he designed and was in charge of construction works of  many buildings of various destinations, including tenement houses (between 1909 and 1910 he erected his own tenement house, called ‘Jasny dom’ [‘Light House’], on the corner of Biskupia Street and Łobzowska Street. In June 1900, in recognition of his merits the Kraków City Council nominated Zawiejski as a resident city builder.[17]


[1]The competition was announced in papers such as ‘Kraj’ 1888, No. 32, p. 14; “Czas” 1888, No. 179, p. 4; No. 181, p. 4; ‘Kurier Lwowski’ 1888, No. 219, et seq.; ‘Nowa Reforma’ 1888, No. 180, p. 4; ‘Gazeta Lwowska’ 1888, No. 182, p. 8; ‘Dziennik Poznański’ 1888, No. 182, p. 4; ‘Gazeta Toruńska’ 1888, No. 183, p. 3; ‘Czasopismo Techniczne’ 1888, No. 15, p. 134; ‘Przegląd Techniczny’ 1888, No. 8, p. 186 et seq. The archives show (State Archive in Kraków, records TM-10) that ‘Figaro’ and ‘Architecture’ (Paris), ‘Wiener Zeitung’ and ‘Oester Ingennieur und Architekturen Verein’ (Wien), as well as ‘Expedition der Deutschen Bauzeitung’ (Berlin) also announced the competition.

[2] Program i warunki konkursu na budowę teatru nowego w Krakowie, Kraków 1888, p. 1 et seq.

[3]Ibid., p. 2 et seq.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Rozmaitości, ‘Czasopismo Techniczne’ 1888, No. 22, p. 188.

[6] State Archive in Kraków, records TM-12 – Wykaz sędziów zaproszonych przez Gminę m. do ocenienia planów konkursowych na budowę teatru w Krakowie, manuscript; Kronika bieżąca, ‘Przegląd Techniczny’ 1889, No. 1, p. 19; Rozmaitości, ‘Czasopismo Techniczne’ 1889, No. 3, p. 22. Gentlemen Ýbl  and Niedzielski were chosen instead of Főrster and Zacharewicz, who had been originally invited but had not accepted the invitation for personal reasons (they were going to participate in the competition themselves).

[7] Protokół z obrad sądu konkursowego oceniającego projekta na budowę teatru miejskiego w Krakowie, Kraków 1889, p. 19 et seq.

[8] Kronika bieżąca, ‘Przegląd Techniczny’ 1889, No. 3, p. 78.

[9] Protokół z obrad sądu konkursowego…, op. cit., p. 20.

[10] Z miasta i kraju, ‘Czas’ 1889, No. 126, p. 3; No. 129, p. 3; see also: the State Archive in Kraków, records TM-10 – drafts of letters of Dr Szlachtowski to architects dated from 27 June.

[11] Kronika bieżąca, ‘Czasopismo Towarzystwa  Technicznego Krakowskiego’ 1890, No. 3, p. 32; Kronika, ‘Świat’ 1890, No. 10, p. 238.

[12] Otwarcie Teatru Miejskiego w Krakowie, [in:] “Józefa Czecha Kalendarz Krakowski na rok 1894, annual LXIII,  p. 130.

[13] Teatr miejski w Krakowie, ‘Czasopismo Techniczne’ 1893, No. 21, p. 171.

[14] Kazimierz Nowacki, Dzieje Teatru w Krakowie. Architektura krakowskich teatrów, op. cit., p. 213.

[15]Ibid., p. 208 and pp. 214 -  226 (description of interior decorations).

[16]The architect, as one of few Polish architects active in 19th century has a valuable monograph by Jacek Purchla, Jan Zawiejski architekt przełomu XIX i XX wieku, Warszawa 1986.

[17]Ibid., pp. 49-71.



1. Bar A., Dzieje teatrów krakowskich, Kraków 1932.

2. Krakowskie rodowody teatralne. Materiały z sesji naukowej „Z Krakowa w świat" 22-24 października 1993, pod redakcją J. Michalika, Kraków 1994.

3. Marczak-Oborski S., Teatr w Polsce 1918-1939. Wielkie oirorf&z, Warszawa 1984.

4. Marczak-Oborski S., Teatr polski w latach 1918-1965. Teatry dramatyczne, Warszawa 1985.

5. Michalik J., Dzieje teatru w Krakowie w latach 1893-1915, cz. I, wol. 1 -2, Teatr Miej­ski, Kraków-Wrocław 1985.

6. Michalik J., Dzieje teatru w Krakowie w latach 1893-1915, cz. II, W cieniu Teatru Miejskiego, Kraków 1987.

7. Michalik J., Wspomnienia Karola Rollego o teatrze, „Pamiętnik Teatralny" 1983, z. 3.

8. Michalik J., L. Rydel, Szkoła dramatyczna miejskich teatrów krakowskich, „Pamiętnik Teatralny" 1990, z. 1-2.

9. Nowacki K., Architektura teatrów krakowskich, Kraków 1982.

10. Nowacki K., Tak oczekiwany gmach..., „Architekt" 1991, z. 3. Objaśnienie projektu na budowę teatru krakowskiego wykonanego przez architekta Jana Zawiejskiego, Kraków 1889.

11. Purchla J., Teatr i jego architekt, Kraków 1993.

12. Purchla J., Jan Zawiejski, architekt przełomu XIX i XX wieku, Warszawa 1986.

13. Reiss J., Opera w Teatrze Miejskim im. J. Słowackiego w Krakowie, Kraków 1945.

14. Sprawozdania Komisji Teatralnej w Krakowie 1893-1911. Napisali Karol Estreicher i Józef Flach, wstęp, opracowanie, przypisy D. Poskuta-Włodek, Warszawa 1992.

15. Szukiewicz M., [O teatrze krakowskim, maj 1916r.],rkps 8804II,Biblioteka Jagiellońska.

16. Teatr polski w latach 1890-1918. Zabór austriacki i pruski, redakcja T. Sivert, R. Taborski, Warszawa 1987.

17. Waśkowski A., Teatr Teofila Trzcińskiego w Krakowie (1931-32), Kraków 1932.



Author: Lechosław Lameński

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