Biecz – one of the largest towns of old Poland

A bird’s eye view pf he market square of a small town
A small town with a great history and a beautiful location in the valley of the Ropa River. It is a gem among the towns of southern Poland, called a ‘small Kraków’ or ‘the Polish Carcassonne’, thanks to its unusual architecture and urban planning preserved to this day. The town was granted city rights at the same time as Kraków – in 1257. Its strong strategic location made Biecz one of the largest towns of the Polish Kingdom until the 17th century. The town was a significant official centre and housed one of the royal and princely seats in the Middle Ages. Interestingly, on the site of the Biecz Castle, which no longer exists today, Konrad Mazowiecki, representing Poland, in 1228 signed the document that brought the Teutonic Knights and, alas, a great deal of misfortune to the Chełmno Lands. Marcin Kromer and Wacław Potocki, two of some of the most prominent figures in Polish history, were associated with Biecz. A very great many traces of the town’s former splendour can still be admired today.

Market Square and Town Hall, for a good start!

It is worth starting your walk from the central place – the Market Square, surrounded by low-rise buildings characteristic of small towns in Lesser Poland. Undoubtedly, attention is drawn to the Town Hall, which was initially more extensive, but as a result of the town’s impoverishment and to save money on  maintenance, the building was reduced in size, and the original Gothic tower, which fell apart in the 16th century, was replaced by a Renaissance one. The present Town Hall dates from 1830 is ornamented in classicist style; it is still a delightful monument with a magnificent panoramic view of the town. It is worth climbing up to enjoy the panorama of Biecz and the mountainous surroundings of the Low Beskids and the Carpathian Foothills. In the basement of the tower is a medieval prison, the so-called ‘turma’, consisting of two rooms. Note that the dungeons are a place for people with solid nerves because you can even meet an... executioner here! Not everyone knows that Biecz is connected with a legend of an executioner school that carried out sentences of the courts in the area and beheaded convicts.

While strolling around the Market Square and admiring the tenement houses surrounding the square, it is also worth stopping by the library in the former synagogue and the Chodorów tenement house, the so-called House of the Robber Becz located in the corner house. The basement of the library houses an exhibition on the history of the Biecz Jews, and the original paintings have been preserved inside the library. A nook of the altar wardrobe can still be seen today. Admission to the library is free, and it is worth having a look and seeing this unique example of the combination of history and the present, of yesterday and today, keeping in mind the former purpose of the building.

Collegiate Church in Biecz

A must-see on the list of sights is the Gothic Corpus Christi Church located two blocks from the Market Square. According to some, the alley where the church is located is one of the most beautiful places in Biecz. The church is considered one of the most valuable sacral buildings from the turn of the 16th century, and its interior conceals a beautiful altar with paintings by Włodzimierz Tetmajer. Please note that admission to the church is paid – tickets can be purchased at the neighbouring  Museum of the Biecz Land.

Another valuable sacral monument of Biecz is the church with the Franciscans monastery, a Baroque complex from the 17th century. Wacław Potocki (1622–1696), a poet and satirist born in Biecz, is buried in the basement of the monastery.

Town walls

To this day, the executioner's and blacksmith's towers as well as fragments of the town walls and fortifications have been preserved in Biecz. The town walls are a remnant of the medieval defensive walls surrounding the castle on the hill. A walking path has been created along the walls, and a stroll is a real journey back in time to medieval Biecz – all you have to do is close your eyes... One of the most fascinating surviving buildings is the Queen Jadwiga Hospital, probably dating from around 1480. Although the building is currently undergoing restoration and conservation work, it is worth remembering that it is the only building founded by Queen Jadwiga that has survived to the present day. Walking along the walls, it is worth taking a stroll to the eastern part of the town, to the furthest tip of Biecz. It is worth noting the fragments of the barbican that have survived behind the Corpus Christi Church and are among the few barbicans still visible in Poland.

Museum of the Biecz Land

Anyone wishing to learn more about the town's history in greater detail is recommended to visit the Museum of the Biecz Land, whose main building is located next to the collegiate building in the Barian Rokicki Tenement House, known as the Old Pharmacy, as it was here that the first pharmacy, founded in 1557 by the apothecary Marcin Barian Rokicki, was located. It is the oldest museum in south-eastern Poland, and its branches are located in historical buildings. A must-see is the so-called ‘house with a tower’, which has a beautiful Renaissance attic and a sgraffito frieze decorating the exterior facade and is directly adjacent to the defensive tower. The exhibition in the building is a reconstruction of an old pharmacy displaying ancient apothecary instruments and the animals and plants used to make medicines. Part of the exhibition is devoted to early music and crafts. In turn, the Blacksmith's Tower, also known as the Parsonage Tower, houses an exposition of a contemporary painting gallery and a permanent exhibition devoted to the Biecz Scouts.

Another beautiful Renaissance townhouse, a branch of the Museum, is the Kromer's House, the oldest Museum building dating back to 1519. It houses exhibitions devoted to Marcin Kromer (a historian, humanist and Renaissance writer from Biecz) and Wacław Potocki (an outstanding poet and representative of the Polish Baroque). The exhibition presents the history of the town and the region through the prism of Biecz's rich material,  spiritual, and intellectual and artistic  culture.

Kromer Festival Biecz

A unique festival, Kromer Festival Biecz, has been cyclically held in Biecz during the summer since 2015. This year, the event is scheduled for the weekend of 30-31 July and will be held under the theme of Transformations. This extraordinary cultural event transports participants into another dimension, providing an unforgettable experience. The Kromer Festival Biecz is a musical event that presents music from the Middle Ages to Classicism in various approaches. Every year, outstanding virtuosos and artists from all over Europe are invited to Biecz. The concerts take place in the historic interiors of the following churches: the Corpus Christi Collegiate Church in Biecz, the Franciscan Church and the St. Michael Archangel’s Church in neighbouring Binarowa.

Green areas

For those who have been exploring the town and would like a break by spending some time in nature, we recommend taking a stroll on the boardwalk along the Ropa River, which is also a beautiful scenic spot. Those with perseverance can walk towards the footbridge to get a broader perspective of the town. You can also take a rest in the Didactic Garden.


See the other most beautiful towns in Małopolska:

Bobowa – the great history of a small town

Dobczyce – between history and a great lake

Lanckorona – a town of angels and lovers

Famous towns of famous people

Wieliczka - more than just the Salt Mine

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska – World Heritage and other marvels

Małopolska small towns full of great history


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