“Do you see that mountain up on high? How it appears solemn and black? Though the Tatras may bring thunderstorms It will last through eternity It will float through the depth of ages Holy and unharmed.”
The Polish nation decided to commemorate Kościuszko by means of a permanent and simple monument. It was decided that a symbolic tomb will be raised for the Leader, built of native soil and stones, after the pre-historic Cracovian mounds of Krak and Wanda, shrouded by legends. As early as July 19, 1820, the Governing Senate of the Free City of Cracow adopted a resolution on raising a symbolic Tomb (the Mound). The place selected for the monument was the hill of Blessed Bronisława. The hill, also known as Sikornik, is situated in the Western part of Cracow, in the Zwierzyniec quarter. It is adorned by the shrine of Blessed Bronisława, which was erected at the beginning of the 18th century. In the 13th Century Blessed Bronisława left the convent of the Norbertine Sisters and led a hermitic life in this place. The hermitage still existed there in the 19th century. The area for the construction of the monument was donated by the Norbertine Sisters from the Zwierzyniec convent.
A day after the third anniversary of Kościuszko’s death, on October 16, 1820, a ceremony of establishing the basis of the monument took place. The event had religious and patriotic character. The authorities of the Republic of Cracow, envoys of the Wawel Chapter and the University Senate, representatives of all social classes of Cracow and other Polish lands under partitions attended the ceremony. The peasants brought soil from the battleground at Racławice. Franciszek Maksymilian Paszkowski, General of Polish army of the Duchy of Warsaw, the last of Kościuszko’s secretaries and aide-de-camp, his relative and heir, delivered a speech. In his brave address, Paszkowski reminded the assembled that “there is nothing more precious than liberty and independence” and addressed the peasants “without whom nothing truly great, nothing truly momentous may ever happen”. Foreigners were also present at the ceremony: Angelica Catalani, an Italian singer, who donated the proceeds from the Cracovian concert for erecting the Tomb and Bertel Thorvaldsen, an illustrious Danish sculptor of European fame, the author of a horse statue of Prince Józef Poniatowski (modelled upon a Roman horse statue of emperor Marcus Aurelius) in Warsaw. These two (Catalani and Thorvaldsen) were the first, yet not the only foreigners, who assisted in the construction of this exceptional Monument for this Citizen of the World, shortly afterwards notices in French were sent from Cracow to the United States, Great Britain and France, spreading the news of the Monument that was going to be erected for Kościuszko. From the very begining then, the raising of the Mound assumed an international character, but it was the work of Polish people first of all.
After the holy mass and ceremonial speeches, the foundation act was read out and placed in a glass and marble protection case in the shape of a column. Subsequently, the case was deposited at the basis of the Mound, along with tokens of the Insurrection (including bullets from the Racławice battlefields). Afterwards people commenced to raise the monument around a high trunk of a fir tree, brought from the forests in the vicinity of Jaworzno. The fir tree trunk was supposed to be an axis and the centre of the Mound’s cone. After the first barrows filled with soil brought by the officials, those present began to raise the Tomb. People worked with great enthusiasm until late hours, accompanied by an orchestra playing patriotic tunes and fire illuminations. The basis of the Monument – Tomb was set.
Years of construction works followed. They were implemented by local and regional people, as well as paid regiments. Volunteers from Cracow, as well as Poles visiting the city also participated in the works. The construction works were financed from patriotic pecuniary donations of compatriots from all territories under partition. Generosity was immense, everybody was willing to give: the poor who donated a few grosz and the owners of great fortunes who provided significant amounts. Once again, the issue of constructing the Tomb, Monument for Kościuszko consolidated the nation which was kept in captivity and torn apart by partitions.
In the course of erecting the Mound, in 1821, Princess Izabela Czartoryska of Puławy sent some soil from the Maciejowice battleground and it was deposited in the Mound. Later soil was also brought from Szczekociny and Dubienka. Szczepan Hubert, an architect, and Franciszek Sapalski, a mathematician, provided consultations during the construction and modernised the structure. The construction works were supervised by a Committee for the Construction of the Tadeusz Kościuszko Monument, appointed by the Governing Senate of the Free City of Cracow on November 20, 1820. The Committee was chaired by General F.M. Paszkowski.
After three years of works (in November 1823), the construction was completed. The Committee, a public body subject to the highest authority of the Republic of Cracow, was not dissolved, but was appointed to safeguard this national memento and property, acting as its manager, curator and guardian. The Committee, today known as the Committee of the Kościuszko Mound, whose activities are inherently associated with the fate of the Mound, has a history of incessant service as long as the age of the Mound. The very first task of the Committee after the construction was finished was the publication of A Diary of the Construction of the Tadeusz Kościuszko Monument (Pamiętnik Budowy Pomnika Tadeusza Kościuszki) (Cracow, 1826). It contains documents related to the construction, designs and a list of names of all the donors who provided funds for the construction, including the sums that were given. The list includes names of famous Poles, people of various social classes and standing, inhabitants of all the partitioned territories, sums both great and small, as well as anonymous contributions – it is an impressive testimony of patriotism and solidarity. This is probably the biggest written record in the history of Poland, until the moment of publishing war losses after the First World War.
The Committee’s intention was to set up a peasant settlement at the foot of the Leader’s Mound, called Kościuszko. The settlement was meant to be inhabited by the veterans of the Insurrection and their offspring, who would be farming the parcels of land granted to them. This idea, intended to be a symbolic implementation of the social testament of Kościuszko, was not possible to be achieved fully.
It immediately became clear that the Committee, whose objective was to protect the monument, was very much needed. Already in the 1830s and 1840s, it was necessary to mend damages to the Mound made by forces of nature. The Committee carried out restoration from its own funds, as well as from funds donated by its own President and members. In the 1840s, the members of the Committee with their own resources regulated and hardened the old dirt road from Salwator to the Mound and planted trees along it. Since that moment, the subsequent generations of Cracovians, tourists from the entire country and travellers from all over the world have walked along the Washington Avenue (Aleja Waszyngtona) and headed towards the Kościuszko Mound. In 1846, the Republic of Cracow, whose authorities established the Committee as its body, ceased to exist; its formal demise took place two years later. Despite changes in the political situation, the Committee managed to retain its authority.
In the middle of the 19th century, the Austrian authorities decided to turn Cracow into one of the fortresses in the frontier defence system of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The Austrians decided to erect a large stronghold on the hill of Blessed Bronisława, around the Mound. The spot had great strategic importance – it towered over the roads leading to Silesia through the valleys of the Vistula and Rudawa Rivers. The stronghold was one in a series of such fortifications encircling Cracow. The Committee was forced to abandon the areas in the vicinity of the Mound for the sake of the Austrian Ministry of War in Vienna. A reservation was made that one morga (app. 5600 sq.m of Austrian soil at the foot of the Mound along with its cone would remain extraterritorial. Further management of the Monument was also secured.
The Austrians commenced the construction of the stronghold, also known as the “Kościuszko” stronghold: the foot of the Mound was encircled by brick revetment. Within its limits a neo-Gothic chapel of Blessed Bronisława was built, following a design of Feliks Księżarski, as compensation for a small historical church that was demolished. The construction of the chapel was a result of the Committee’s determined requests.
The stronghold, the work of Austrian partition authorities, was erected between 1850 – 1854, in accordance with designs of illustrious architects, including Caboga and Pidolly. The construction was in the shape of a citadel, its architecture reflected the stylistics of mature historicism, with neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance elements. The stronghold did not survive in its entirety until today. Between 1945 and 1956, the gateway was thoughtlessly demolished, as well as the South-Western rampart and retrenchments. Today, the rough area on this side of the structure is overgrown by a self-seeding forest. Despite all that, the Kościuszko stronghold (“Stronghold No. 2”), in the opinions of the experts of defensive architecture of the 19th century, ranks among the highest-class monuments of its kind in Europe. Simultaneously with the sale of land for the construction of the stronghold, the ownership title to the Mound, Monument of Kościuszko, was certified by entries in the land and mortgage register. The Mound was registered as the National Foundation for the Tomb - Monument of Tadeusz Kościuszko (Fundacja Narodowa Mogiły Pomnika Tadeusza Kościuszki) – due to the fact that the Polish nation erected this symbolic Tomb to honour its Insurrection Leader. The Polish nation remains the owner of the monument.
The Committee was recognised as the representative of the Foundation and the manager, guardian and conservator of the Mound. In fact, in the light of this provision, the Kościuszko Mound with a morga of land at its foot was the only a patch of free and independent land of the former Republic of Poland, held, on behalf of the Nation (who was its owner), by a national institution such as the Committee. Until the very end of the Republic of Cracow (1846 – 1848), the Committee was treated as an authority of this small state, subject to the Governing Senate of the Free City of Cracow. Subsequently, the Committee was transferred under the rule of Galician provincial authorities, and later, in the period of Galician autonomy, under the rule of plenipotentiary authorities in Lviv. It is necessary to stess that the Committee, due to the fact that is was composed of the most distinguished citizens, enjoyed general respect and retained extensive autonomy.
In June 1860, during the presidency of Piotr Moszyński and by his own means, the top of the Mound was crowned with a boulder of Tatra granite (of a few tons), brought from the Bystry stream in Kuźnice. The Tatra Mountains, visited more and more often by Poles from all the partitioned territories, were gaining significance as a land of liberty, where stone has always been a symbol of lastingness and indestructibility. A most laconic and meaningful inscription was engraved on it: TO KOŚCIUSZKO. Under the stone, in a leaden chest the A Diary of the Construction of the Tadeusz Kościuszko Monument was placed, along with banknotes from the period of Insurrection, the foundation act of the boulder and a copy of the Cracovian magazine “Czas” published on the day the boulder was positioned on the Mound. This was the actual completion of the construction of the Mound. The crowning of the Mound by the boulder was the Committee’s intention from the very beginning; however, it was necessary to wait some time for the stabilisation of the earth structure. The originators of this form of the Monument had in mind its durability. The Mound was erected as an “everlasting sign” of the memory of Kościuszko and the immortal idea of Poland’s independence. The Kościuszko Mound towering above Cracow, the former capital of Poland, appealed to the generations of Poles in captivity as a symbol of independence, a sign of hope and faith in sovereignty. As the last soldiers of Kościuszko were dying on emigration in Paris (Karol Kniaziewicz, Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz), who did not live to see the independent Poland, they asked to put a handful of native earth from the Leader’s Mound in their graves. As a symbolic Tomb, the Mound was also a sign of faith in resurrection. It was a place of pilgrimage for the Poles. It was visited by the Cracovians on Easter Monday, when a traditional church fair – Emaus – took place at the Church of Most Holy Saviour and the Norbertine convent. Sometimes, e.g. in the period preceding the January Uprising (1860 – 1863), a great number of trips to the Kościuszko Mound assumed an ostentatious character, upsetting the partitioners.
At dawn of August 6, 1914, at the edge of Cracow’s Błonia by the Oleandry area, Józef Piłsudski ordered the squads of Strzelcy and Drużyniacy to go and wake Poland for the Resurrection. In the background, above Błonia, the Kościuszko Mound was glowing in the light of the sunrise. The First Cadre Company (Kompania Kadrowa) set off from Kraków to the Kingdom . It was followed by other companies of soldiers willing to fight for independence. The Legions were created. An independent Poland come into being in the autumn of 1918 from the blood of these soldiers, from the sacrifice of generations of insurgents, from the torment of wandering, from the suffering on exile and the ordeal of Siberia, from the work and yearning of entire generations living in captivity.
The 100th anniversary of Kościuszko’s death in 1917 was already being celebrated in Cracow in a steadfast premonition of the approaching independence despite the raging Great War. The person of Kościuszko and his Tomb, the Mound, towering over Cracow, was the symbol and reminder of independence.
Right before the beginning of the Second Republic of Poland, the Committee taking care of the Mound provided the Chief of State and the Sejm with a report of its 100-years’ service, trusting that in an independent country the authorities will assure proper care for such a significant place of national memory on new principles. By the act of July 1, 1924, the Government of the Republic of Poland approved the Committee with all its former rights (and obligations), declaring the assistance of the army in repairing damages and providing money from the Treasury. The management of the Mound remained practically unchanged. What is more, in the period between the wars, in the time of the Second Republic of Poland (1918 – 1939) the Kościuszko Mound, visited in great numbers, still fulfilled its patriotic functions as a momentous place of memory. On July 16, 1929, Ignacy Mościcki, President of the Republic of Poland, paid a visit to the Kościuszko Mound. The Committee set up a new guest-book to commemorate this event.
On July 4, 1926, observing the 150th anniversary of announcing the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, an American delegation paid a visit to the Mound and deposited earth from the battlefields for the independence of the United States as a proof and testimony to Kościuszko’s participation in these fights. In this manner, the Mound obtained another symbolic dimension – it became not only a place of Polish, but also of universal history. In 1926, a handful of earth was taken from the Mound as a foundation for Kościuszko’s monument in Hudson; in 1928 another handful was taken for the foundation of a monument of Adam Mickiewicz in Paris and in 1932 for the foundation of the monument for president Wilson in Washington, who was a faithful advocate of Poland’s independence; in 1934 a handful was taken for the foundation of the Mound of Independence of Józef Piłsudski. The construction of that monument in Sowiniec was just commencing. This is the evidence for the dearness of soil from which this Mound was built. In 1938, the Mound was listed in the register of monuments and due to this fact it is subject to legal protection.
During the years of the Second World War and the Nazi occupation (1939 – 1945), the occupier closed the access to the Mound. Due to the fact that the Mound was clearly visible from the Wawel Castle, this symbol of Poland irritated Hans Frank, Governor-General who resided there. Schemes were devised to destroy the Mound by levelling it; fortunately, they were not put into practice – only plans of this operation remained. The occupier destroyed Kościuszko’s statue at the Wawel Castle, as well as a plaque on the house at the Market Square, where Kościuszko used to live. The painting by Jan Matejko entitled Kościuszko at Racławice (Kościuszko pod Racławicami) painted in 1888 and purchased from the contributions of Poles from the three partitioned territories for the National Museum in Cracow, was stored in hiding. In these years, the Committee conducted a secret supervision over the Mound.
Less than a month after the liberation of Cracow from the Nazis, the Committee gathered for its first post-war meeting under the guidance of Karol Rolle, a former senator of the Second Republic of Poland and pre-war mayor of Cracow. In 1946, the 200th anniversary of Kościuszko’s birthday was celebrated openly. This year was even called the Year of Kościuszko. The new authorities of the Polish People’s Republic gladly accepted Kościuszko. His ideals of democracy and his programme of emancipating the serfs were used in demagogic propaganda; the Mound, however, a place of special memory to him, was completely neglected. Karol Rolle did everything possible to take care of it. Later, since 1951, his duties were taken over by Karol Estreicher, an excellent and famous art historian. The fame of the place was able to defend itself by its ideological content and exceptional beauty. The Mound was still visited by large numbers of Cracovians and throngs of Poles visiting Cracow. Professor Estreicher treated his care of the Mound as a mission to protect the symbol of independence in the conditions of limited sovereignty of the country. Due to the fact that the status of the Committee was unclear in the light of contemporary laws, it was necessary to seek refuge under the wings of the meritorious Cracow Heritage Society (Towarzystwo Miłośników Historii i Zabytków Krakowa), established in 1897. In 1971, pursuant to the resolution of the Society’s Management Board, the honourable Committee entered into organisational relation with the Society (whose legal standing was regulated), maintaining considerable independence. However, the Mound deteriorated more and more in the years after the war. It was only in 1979 that Karol Estreicher managed to attract the attention of the authorities to the exacerbating state of the Mound. The ensuing repairs and protection measures carried out by the army between the years 1980 – 1985, as well as repairs in the 90’s conducted by Przedsiębiorstwo Budowy Kopalń in Lubin (Silesia), in accordance with designs of expert geo-technicians from the Cracow University of Technology, did not bring permanent results.
The Cracovian Błonia was the place of various memorable events related with the Kościuszko Mound. However, it is enough to draw your attention to at least one of them: the Papal mass on the Błonia at the completion of the first pilgrimage of John Paul II to the Motherland in June 1979. The mass was celebrated on Błonia, between the Wawel Castle and the Kościuszko Mound. This event gathered probably the largest number of people in the entire one-thousand-year history of the Polish nation. The Pope could see the Wawel Castle and the Kościuszko Mound, he was looking at the crowds gathered on the fields and speaking to them. The People, finding strength in the Wawel Castle, the stone book of Polish history, and the Mound, which symbolizes independence, listened attentively. There were two million Poles, but one could hear only the Pope’s voice and the birds. These were the very last words of John Paul II: “Allow me, just before I leave, to look at Cracow once again […] – and to look at Poland. And that is why, before I leave I ask you to accept this entire spiritual heritage, which is called “Poland” with faith, hope and love – the kind of love that was implanted in you by Christ during baptism. I ask you never to doubt, never to grow weary, never to give up – I ask you never to cut the roots from which we grow.” A year later Solidarity movement started.The catastrophe of the mound in 1997and its reconstructionbetween 2000 – 2002.
At the beginning of the summer of 1997, heavy rains, which caused numerous floods in the neighbourhood, contributed to the sudden erosion of the slopes of the Mound. Cracks and landslides appeared on extensive stretches of the slopes. Stone pavement paths cracked, and the paths on the northern, north-western and north-eastern slopes were completely ruined. The viewing terrace at the top of the Mound visibly tilted in the north-western direction, threatening with the slide-off of the huge granite boulder straight onto the chapel of Blessed Bronisława. The entire body of the Mound started to collapse, splitting in half. These numerous creaks, clefts and cave-ins opened the way for unlimited penetration of rain water, threatening the Mound with complete destruction.
The Committee alerted the Conservation Officer for Historic Monuments (Konserwator Zabytków) and the Construction Supervision Department, informing them about the serious state of affairs. Several teams of experts decided that the area of the Mound constituted a construction disaster. At the same the time, the Committee, using its own resources, undertook provisional protective measures for the largest stretches of landslides against further penetration of rain waters.
In the face of the greatest catastrophe in the entire history of the Mound, its area was closed for visitors. The Committee did not cease to appeal to the authorities and the society for help for the endangered national monument and important place of remembrance. The situation of the Mound was aggravated by midsummer downpours in 1998. Simultaneously, the Committee commissioned a Warsaw company “Polibeton” to prepare a rebuilding design, which was subsequently approved. The damages were evaluated and the reconstruction cost estimate was prepared, amounting to PLN 15 million. Making use of the funds granted in 1998 and 1999 by the Civic Committee for Restoration of Krakow Heritage (Społeczny Komitet Odnowy Zabytków Krakowa), the granite stone was removed from the top of the Mound, reducing the load on the earth structure. The entire top section was reinforced with a wooden structure and covered with tarpaulin – until the commencement of proper reconstruction. The Committee, having in its possession the design and the estimate of the cost, renewed its appeals to the highest authorities for donation of funds for this national investment. It also appealed to the hearts and generosity of the members of society. After three years of appeals and waking up the national consciousness, the need to reconstruct the Mound was finally acknowledged. In November 1999 the funds started to flow from the governmental Fund for Removing the Effects of Flood (Fundusz ds.usuwania skutków powodzi). Works at the construction site commenced on December 5 of the same year, as everything had been ready for the last two years. Changes were also introduced in the land and mortgage register: the Mound was registered as the property of the Treasury. The reconstruction works were carried out by Hydrotres-Skanska, and the construction was supervised by the Management Board for Restoration of Historical Complexes of Cracow (Zarząd Rewaloryzacji Zespołów Zabytkowych Krakowa), managing the funds of the National Fund for Renovation of Cracow’s Monuments (Narodowy Fundusz Odnowy Zabytków Krakowa), from which the subsequent stages of reconstruction were financed. In January 2000, the Honorary Committee for Reconstruction of the Kościuszko Mound was established. From that moment, the Committee of the Kościuszko Mound, which had been serving the Mound for 180 years, was not working alone.
In this manner, in the period of three years between 1999 and 2003, the Kościuszko Mound was restored. The works commenced with removing approximately 9 meters of soil, due to the fact that the upper section of the Mound’s cone was completely stratified. It had to be disassembled and built anew. Because of this, the silhouette of the Mound was not in Cracow’s panoramic view for some time. The Cracovians felt it very bitterly and voiced their concerns a number of times.
State-of-the-art geo-technology and modern materials (tested in seismic and landslide conditions) were used during reconstruction, as the contractors assure. The Mound was provided with drainage system, various forms of insulation, protecting against the penetration of precipitation waters to the interior of the Mound’s body, as well as lighting system for the paths and illumination of the top section (at present this has not yet been completed). Due to all this, the restored Kościuszko Mound is both a modern geo-technical structure, and still remains the same, because it was rebuilt from the very same soil from which it was erected by our ancestors. One has to believe that it is now more resistant to the forces of nature and that it will remain the same ideological symbol for the future generations.
It was impossible not to restore the Mound – towering over the city and constituting an inalienable and important element of the city’s panorama, on the same level with the Wawel Caste and towers of St. Mary’s Church (Kościół Mariacki). The cost of restoration amounted to PLN 14,666,000 from public funds, including approximately PLN 250,000 from social premiums. On October 15, 2002, a ceremonious event took place on the restored Mound: under the crowning stone of the Tatra granite, a few tokens of the recent times were placed. These were: a Solidarity badge from 1980, constituting a symbol of great national movement towards independence and democracy; a black-enamelled cross with the Polish Eagle – a token of underground “Solidarność” during martial law after December 13, 1981; a copy of the Constitution of the Third Republic of Poland as a significant result of these efforts; a silver coin commemorating the 20th anniversary of John Paul II’s papacy, a copy of the Tygodnik Powszechny magazine with the papal Message of Mercy delivered on August 2002 at Błonia, under the Mound, which was undergoing reconstruction, and the Committee’s report, as well as the entire documentation of the reconstruction in electronic form.
On November 10, 2002, on the eve of the national Day of Independence, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, President of the Republic of Poland, opened the reconstructed Kościuszko Mound. The ceremony was very solemn and a full state ceremony was observed: the Polish flag was raised to the mast and the National Anthem was played by the military orchestra, accompanied by the Honour Guard of the Polish Army and various representatives of people from the entire country.
The Małopolska District Governor Jerzy Adamik and the Committee Chair welcomed the President in their speeches. Then, the President made a speech. The Cracow metropolitan, cardinal Franciszek Macharski said the words of the prayer for the country written by the priest Piotr Skarga. The Tadeusz bell from the ave-bell of Blessed Bronisława’s Chapel rang. The President cut the ribbon at the entrance to the Kościuszko Mound (Kopiec Kościuszki) and unveiled a plaque situated at the bottom of the mound above the revetment. The plaque commemorates the restoration of the Kosciuszko Mound which, as the inscription on the plaque says: HAS BEEN RESTOREDAS AN EVERLASTING SIGN OF THE INDEPENDENCE OF POLAND AND SOLIDARITY BETWEEN NATIONS IN THE NAME OF WELLFARE OF HUMANKIND
Then, the President made a symbolic gesture of setting the boulder at the top of the Mound with a ritual trowel and signed the commemorative book. The day marked a new period in the history of the Kościuszko Mound; following the opening ceremony, long queues of those willing to reach the top started to form for many days.
On the Polish Independence Day (November 11), the day following the opening ceremony, the Mound was visited by approximately four thousand people. In the period from November 12 to December 31, 2003, the Mound was visited by 25 572 people. This impressive turnout for the Kościuszko Mound is an explicit proof that it does have a firm place in this “warm-hearted”, “inner” geography of the Poles, yet one can still come across tourists from far away here.
The Kościuszko Mound is usually open all year from 9 am till dusk. On March 24 and on the national holidays of the May 3 and November 11, admission to the Mound is free of charge. On those days flags fluttering from the top of the Mound can be seen from the city centre. On July 4 – the American national holiday - the American flag flies next to the Polish one. Whenever John Paul II visits the place it is decorated with the Polish flags and white and yellow Vatican ones.