GENESIS OF GOTHIC-RENAISSANCE PORTALS OF THE WAWEL CASTLE
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The Renaissance rebuilding of the Royal Castle on the Wawel Hill in Kraków was designed and in its major part carried out (1502-1516) by Francesco from Florence, and finished under the leadership of Bartolomeo Berrecci (1516-1536) with the participation of German builder Benedicte, called 'Sandomierzanin' (of Sandomierz). During this rebuilding there were made dozens of portals which in a special way combine the late-Gothic and Renaissance forms and 35 of them, existing nowadays, are recognised on a European scale as the unique achievement of assimilation of Renaissance art in Poland. An unusualness of each portal is manifested by the combination of two, stylistically opposite parts: late-Gothic framing and Renaissance cornice, with the stripes of classical ornaments. Despite the contrast, both components – distinctly separated – make a consistent and balanced compositional whole. As is indicated by the research so far, the stylistic hybrid in the form of ‘Wawel type' of portal seems to have had no predecessors neither in Poland, nor in the neighbouring or more distant countries.The complex patterns of architraves in the lintels - the most characteristic motif of the Wawel portals - seems to have derived from the last great buildings of late-Gothic in Swabia, especially from the Burkhard Engelberg lodge, building the Church of St. Ulrich and St. Afra in Augsburg. The authors of the Wawel portals drew upon the patterns of stonework rather than the painting and graphic art. They adopted few models of lintel design which they developed and enriched with an unusual invention in almost as many variants as the number of portals. The master who probably transferred the idea of masterly stonework from the circle of the Burkhard Engelberg lodge to the Wawel Hill was 'magister Benedictus almanus', called 'Benedykt Sandomierzanin', a king's builder. The 'Wawel type' portals are present in all his buildings of the royal residences: at Piotrków, Sandomierz and Kraków (the eastern wing). As an originator of this remarkable artistic compromise should be regarded the architect Francesco - he had to employ non-Italian speaking stonemasons, who despite being excellent at their work, lacked the knowledge of the forms other than late-Gothic. He therefore did not force them to learn the new repertoire, but let them do what they were best at doing. He introduced only one - yet significant - element into their framing: a salient feature of the cornice - easy to construct, and harmonising them with the Renaissance character of the interiors and galleries.
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