It is hard to imagine that this small town was once the first political and religious capital of Poland. The Gniezno’s cathedral is a magnificent place where the first polish coronations took place and where the remains of the first polish christian queen Dabrowka and the first Polish martyr St Adalbert were buried.
The hills surrounded by the three lakes were inhabited by the Polanie tribe from the 7th century and as the main stronghold of the Piasts dynasty became the seat of the first rulers of Poland. Gniezno increased its importance in 997 when the relics of St Adalbert were laid here and when the historic visit of the Emperor Otto III took place here in 1000. St Adalbert was a bishop of Prague who tried to convert the Prussians to the Christianity but was martyred. As the legend says the polish king Boleslaw the Brave bought the saint’s body from the Prussians, giving them in return its weight in gold and laid its remains in Gniezno’s cathedral. The Gothic Cathedral of the Assumption is not the original church that stood in this place but stands on the site of two earlier churches: one pre-Romanesque from 10th century and the Romanesque one from mid-11th century. One of the most interesting masterpieces are the 17th-century Baroque confession with the relics of St Adalbert and the 12th-century bronze Gniezno Doors depicting scenes from the life and martyrdom of the saint – one of the finest examples of the Romanesque art in Europe. Worth seeing are also: the Tomb of Archbishop Zbigniew Olesnicki by Veit Stoss and the Baroque Potocki Chapel built by Pompeo Ferrari in the 18th century.
Gniezno has also many other historic buildings and fine museums, such as: the Gothic Church of St John and the Church of St George, the Museum of the Origins of the Polish State on Lake Jelonek which presents the history of the Piast dynasty and the Gniezno Archdiocesan Museum, one of the richest religious art collections in Poland. In the Franciscan Church on the medieval market square is the 17th-century miraculous picture of Our Lady of Consolation, Lady of Gniezno.
Since 1994 Gniezno has been officially named as the City of St Adalbert.