Bobowa – the great history of a small town

A lace roller with a pattern, thread bobbins and the beginnings of a lace pattern.
Bobowa is the town where Polish lace reigns supreme and a charming place with a medieval urban layout famous for its rich folklore and unique folk handicrafts. It is considered the capital of Polish lace, where women have passed down the art of making unique patterns for many generations. A town where the history of the Christian and Jewish populations intertwined. What can be seen in Bobowa today?

Medieval urban layout

Did you know that the first references to Bobowa date back to the 14th century? At that time, from 1339, the first landowners of Bobowa were knights from the mighty Gryfit family from Małopolska. Over the years, the town passed into the hands of subsequent families, and before World War II it lost its town rights, which it regained only in 2009. However, the medieval layout of the town's market square and streets has been preserved. In the four-sided market square is a chapel with a statue of Saint Florian, which dates back to the turn of the 18th/19th century, and a fountain with a statue of the Bobowa Lace-Maker.

Jewish Culture Route

Bobowa is also where the history of Christian and Jewish cultures is intertwined. Jews moved to Bobowa in 1732 on the initiative of Michał Jaworowski, whose aim was to restore commercial activity in the town. They owned most of the shops and some of the craft workshops. Thus, in the 18th century, a Jewish community was established, and a synagogue was erected in Bobowa. The town became one of the largest centres of Hasidism in the Polish lands, and to this day, Jews from all over the world make pilgrimages to the grave of the Bobowa Tzaddik, Salomon ben Natan Halberstam, who enjoyed great authority. Today, you can wander around Bobowa along the Jewish Culture Trail. The synagogue, which is still an active place of worship, has one of the best-preserved sacred artefacts of its kind in Małopolska, a dazzling 18th-century cabinet where the sacred Torah scrolls are kept, the ‘Ark of the Torah’ (in Hebrew, the Aron ha-Kodesh). Surrounding the synagogue’s stucco vine-wrapped columns are polychromes with floral and animal motifs, including gryphons symbolically venerating the tablets of the Decalogue. The synagogue also houses a museum of Judaica and a lace-making workshop. The Markus Jakub Landau House is the second most-significant site associated with Jewish culture. The house displays valuable Jewish memorabilia, notebooks, documents, inkwells and many everyday objects. To enter the house and its atmosphere of unparalleled uniqueness is to step into the world of Bobowa’s Jewish inhabitants and appreciate their history and be touched by their fate. If the weather is nice, it is also worth taking a walk to the Jewish cemetery, where about 200 matzevot have been preserved, as well as the famous ohel (a tomb with a door and windows) erected in honour of Tzadik Shlomo Halberstam, the grandson of one of the most famous of the Hasidic Tzadikkim.


Bobbin lace from Bobowa

Above all, however, Bobowa is famous for its Polish varieties of handmade linen bobbin lace. Bobowa lace is distinguished from others by the traditional way of tying flax threads, wound on wooden bobbins finished with spools and turned round. The individual threads are hooked sequentially onto pins inserted into a cushion on which the pattern is placed. The threads are interlaced in different densities, depending on the pattern chosen and the type of lace. Bobbin lace is also characterised by exceptional delicacy and extremely precise weaving. Women have been making lace in Bobowa since time immemorial. According to sources, lace-making history in Bobowa began as early as the 16th century. Queen Bona, who was involved in sewing lace and brought the art of lace-making from Italy, contributed to the spread of lace-making in Poland.

Bobbin Lace Gallery

To get to know the secrets of the unique Bobowa lace, it is worth seeing the exhibition in the hall of the Centre for Culture and Promotion of the Bobowa Commune, where examples of lace making are shown along with a presentation of the history of its production. In the Bobbin Lace Gallery, the oldest designs and realisations of Bobowa lace are exhibited, as well as contemporary examples of lace handicrafts and souvenirs from exhibitions abroad. Interestingly, only 17 places in Europe today make Bobowa lace, one of which is Bobowa, the pearl of the Gorlice district. Thus, it is worth taking a trip here to familiarise yourself with the rich cultural heritage of the region.

A castle and other attractions

Bobowa is also home to a small castle built in the 17th century. Interestingly, from 1887, the building belonged to the Długoszowski family, including the adjutant of Marshal Piłsudski, Bolesław Wieniawa-Długoszowski, who grew up in Bobowa. Of the sacral monuments, it is worth visiting All Saints Church, which has retained its Gothic character. A fascinating history is connected with the building. A collegiate church in 1529, it was converted into a Lutheran congregation in 1561–1593. Inside is a precious painting by Jacek Malczewski depicting the Crucifixion, and while you are in the Baroque chapel, you can admire an artwork by Feliks Hanasz from 1851. Another interesting building is St. Sophia Church, which dates back to the 2nd half of the 15th century. Built of split stones, the temple is an excellent example of Gothic sacral architecture. The building consists of a turret on the signature tower and a Gothic stepped portal, which adorns the entrance on the western side; the church roof is shingled.


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