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The Royal Castle Wawel (Polish: Zamek Krolewski Wawel) is a castle residency located in Krakow, Poland, and the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the world. Built at the behest of King Casimir III the Great it consists of a number of structures from different periods situated around the Italian-styled main courtyard. The castle, being one of the largest in Poland, represents nearly all European architectural styles of medieval, renaissance and baroque periods. The Wawel Royal Castle and the Wawel Hill constitute the most historically and culturally significant site in the country.

The castle is part of a fortified architectural complex erected atop a lime stone outcrop on the left bank of the Vistula River, at an altitude of 228 meters above sea level. The complex consists o numerous buildings of great historical and national importance, including the Wawel Cathedral where Polish monarchs were crowned and buried. Some of Wawel's oldest stone buildings can be traced back to 970 AD, in addition to the earliest examples of Romanesque and Gothic architecture in Poland. The current castle was built in the 14th century, and expanded over the next hundreds of years. In 1978 Wawel was declared the first World Heritage Site as part of the Historic Center of Krakow.

For centuries the residence of the kings of Poland and the symbol of Polish statehood, Wawel Castle is now one of the country's premier art museums. Established in 1930, the museum encompasses ten curatorial departments responsible for collections of paintings, including an important collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, prints, sculpture, textiles, among them the Sigismund II Augusts tapestry collection, goldsmith's work, arms and armor, ceramics, Meissen porcelain, and period furniture. The museum's holdings in oriental art include the largest collection of Ottoman tents in Europe. With seven specialized conservation studios, the museum is also an important center for the conservation of works of art.

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Additional Photos by Zbigniew Kalinowski (fotka) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 599 W: 9 N: 1683] (7269)
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