The first hotel in Poland affiliated to the Relais & Chateaux Association
Hotel Copernicus stands on Kanonicza Street, Krakow’s oldest street that winds its way toward Wawel Royal Castle – the historic seat of Polish kings. Amidst the neighbouring Renaissance townhouses Copernicus stands out with its expansive, Gothic façade. As the first in Poland we joined the Relais & Châteaux – the exclusive French hotel association.
Several centuries ago the hotel building was the residence of cathedral canons. Nicolaus Copernicus, famous astronomer and “father” of the heliocentric theory lodged here whenever he visited Krakow as a Canon of the Archbishopric of Warmia. Striving to measure up to the building’s historic significance and the works of art preserved within it we have made it our ambition to provide the ultimate in hotel accommodation.
The rich historic fabric of our hotel is manifest in the Coats of Arms Suite topped with an astonishing medieval wooden beam ceiling and in the Canons’ Suite featuring a meticulously restored fresco dating back to 1500. Hotel Copernicus brings to life the idea of the coexistence of a listed building and a luxurious contemporary-style hotel. The establishment is fully climate-controlled, and each of its twenty-nine guest rooms is equipped with a safe, well-stocked mini bar, satellite television, and Wi-fi Internet connection. Period furniture and fine draperies have been scrupulously selected to harmonize with the character of the interior.
Luxurious bathrooms have been beautifully fitted with travertine and marble features. The Fireplace Room, home to a large collection of old manuscripts, it may be arranged as a high-tech equipped conference room.
Medieval cellars accommodate a swimming pool and a sauna. Atop the hotel suites a cozy rooftop terrace is nestled, offering a breathtaking panorama of Krakow. On one side, Wawel Royal Castle looms large on a massive limestone rock; on the other, towers of the Romanesque Church of Saint Andrew rise up next to the baroque dome of Saint Peter and Paul’s Church. Below, silver and grey roof surfaces descend into quiet streets.
Copernicus – it is here that Krakow’s true character, peaceful and pensive, is fully revealed.
Perhaps this is why Copernicus welcomed many prominent guests, including His Royal Highness Charles, Prince of Wales, His Royal Highness Felipe VI Burbon ,Prince of Asturias, U.S. president George W. Bush with his wife Laura, Saudi Princess Reem Al-Faisal, Condoleezza Rice and cardinals from Pope John Paul II’s retinue, to name a few.
In connection with the historic character of the building at the hotel are following derogations from the rules of categorization:
– No top cover over the main entrance ( a positive opinion of the Malopolska Conservation Department)
– No top cover on the driveway ( positive opinion of the Malopolska Conservation Department )
– No separate entrance, separate road storage and supply ( positive opinion of the Malopolska Conservation Department )
– No separate lift cargo – passenger ( positive opinion of the Malopolska Conservation Department )
– No separate toilet in the Apartments ( positive opinion of the Malopolska Conservation Department
About Relais & Châteaux
Founded in 1954, Relais & Châteaux is an association of over 550 exceptional hotels and restaurants run by independent men and women who share the same passion for their profession and for maintaining authentic relationships with their clients. The members of Relais & Châteaux are present on every continent, from the vineyards of Napa Valley to Provence and the Indian Ocean. Each one invites you to discover the art of living through the specific culture of the locale and to share in a unique human adventure.
Each member of Relais & Châteaux is profoundly determined to protect, share and showcase the richness and diversity of cuisines and hospitality throughout the world. They endorse this ambition, in keeping with the preservation of local heritage and the environment, through the Relais & Châteaux Vision, presented to UNESCO in November 2014.
Description of the place
The Palace at 16 Kanonicza St. is a wide, three-storey townhouse with a seven-window brick façade. Of note are the relics of masonry structures from the early 17th c., brick walls from the 16th c. featuring small stone windows and fragments of architraves, remnants of large medieval windows with stone crosses as well as attics with ogival blind windows, renaissance windows, a beautiful portal from 1554 and a modern-looking crowning cornice.
The Palace is split into a front and rear section (with two rows of rooms) and in addition has annexes that enclose a perpendicular yard. Its rooms changed their functions, but many elements of their original furnishings are maintained (windows, portals, exquisite wooden beam ceilings dating from the 15th and 16th century, wall paintings from various periods, splendidly-preserved 19th-century wooden panelling and polychrome paintings). All this constitutes a highly valuable and integral whole.
The expansive lot at 16 Kanonicza St. saw first construction works as early as the first decade of the 16th century. By 1550s two separate multi-storey houses stood here. Between 1411–1435 canon Paweł Włodzimierski of the Dołęga Coat of Arms adopting the walls of both buildings erected a sizable palace that occupied the whole width of the lot.
In 1455 the Palace was completely destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt. Successive owners decorated and altered the residence, with several conversions taking place in the 16th century (for example, a new polychrome ceiling, portal and two annexes were added). Various further additions were made in the following centuries. Following the requisition of the property by the occupying Austrian authorities (1802) the building frequently changed hands.
In the 1970s, after the relocation of all of its occupants, the building underwent an architectural survey, after which it was left to fall into decline. Toward the end of the 20th century the derelict palace was purchased by the Likus. Hotele i restauracje group, highly regarded for luxurious historic hotels (the group’s Hotel Stary in Krakow received the Prix Villégiature award for “Best Hotel Interior Design in Europe”).
The renovation works carried out in Copernicus at the beginning of the 20th century under the auspices of the new owner restored the hotel’s former glory and splendour.
Krakow is a place where until today unknown masterpieces of medieval wall painting are discovered. Spectacular recent finds include Romanesque murals of St. Andrew’s Church as well as gothic figures of saints in the galleries of the Augustinian Abbey in the district of Kazimierz.
One of the most interesting murals that have recently been discovered in secular residential buildings is the 16th-century décor of the Guest Room no. 101 on the first floor of Hotel Copernicus. Its discovery in 1998 was a great sensation, and the painting immediately became the subject of analyses of art historians.
What came to light was partially preserved decoration that nevertheless was in good condition. It included green ornamental wooden “panelling” with plant motifs, and above it depictions of four Church Fathers (St. Jerome, St. Gregory the Great, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine)., either enthroned or seated at writing desks, dressed in parti-coloured robes, holding the insignia of their office and books.
All is skillfully painted: space and form are rendered faithfully, the colouring is harmonious, softly modelled parts (e.g. complexion) combine with competently used graphical elements of outlines, face types are diversified. Wall inscriptions are excerpts from hymns to Church Fathers, who were held in high veneration by higher clergy across Europe. It has been established that the author employed by the donor was a member of Krakow painters’ guild. The decoration could have been created between 1510–1520, which was the period of transition between Polish Gothic and renaissance, with its triumphant humanism.
The discoveries made in the building also include murals from the Renaissance period. Room no. 108 has 17th-century ornamental decoration resembling the ceiling friezes from the nearby royal castle. It is accompanied by an illusionistically rendered depiction of Maria Immaculata and Saint Stanislaus the Martyr. Interesting paintings (dating from the 16th to 19th centuries), frequently consisting of several layers, have survived in other rooms.
In brick and masonry palaces of the Middle Ages wooden ceilings were used. They divided a building into storeys and braced the walls. Such ceilings came in several varieties and could be impressively decorated. In the Palace on Kanonicza Street a collection of nine ceilings has been preserved – the work of Krakow’s carpenters.
The most interesting is the ceiling in Room no. 109 on the first floor, probably made from elements dating back to the 15th century. It is composed of seven beams with small crossbeams and is covered with painted decoration in the form of mannerist representations of highly stylized plants with intense, vivid colouring. During the renovation works fragments of the ceiling from the 16th century were found, covered with paintings depicting effective rosettes and rings of stylized bay leaves. The ceilings of Hotel Copernicus are one of the finest examples of this type of art in Poland.