Under the Golden Sun tenement and its history

March 1 – May 31, 2017

The Ossolineum Gallery
Pan Tadeusz Musuem
National Ossoliński Institute

  • free admission

The Pan Tadeusz Museum is located in a beautiful tenement house Under the Golden Sun on the Main Square of Wrocław. The story of the building is told at the temporary exhibition in the Ossolineum Gallery, on the museum courtyard.

The Main Square of Wrocław, demarcated in the 13th century, covers the area of 3,64 hectares; it’s hard to find an equally monumental medieval agora in Europe. The wealth of the city’s burghers is clearly visible here: tenement houses similar to palaces, with comforts and amenities, like water mains (installed in the medieval era) or central heating. The most spectacular ones, including the „Golden Sun”, stand in the Western part of the Square, only moderately damaged during the siege of Festung Breslau.

The „Golden Sun” house amazes with its baroque front, designed by one of the most prominent 17th century European artists , Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt. The genius from Vienna was invited by the owner of the house, Maximilian von Seyler – a nobleman, patrician, traveller. Hildebrandt turned an ordinary tenement house into an aristocratic urban palace with a beautiful balcony portal. Without an investor, the project would have remained only an idea on paper – hence the letters „MS” above the gate remind of Maximilian Seyler’s input. The next owners of the „Golden Sun” tried to bask in the splendour of the rich patron and to trick the later generations. In a cartouche on the front of the building (1st floor), we see letters „HBL”. Trader Heinrich Balthasar von Loesch became the owner of the „Golden Sun” in 1783 and he added himself to the founders’ list, despite not modifying anything in the house.

The hosts of the „Golden Sun” belonged to the Wrocław elite. Consuls, jurors, heads of the City Council – they were all wealthy, influential and took part in great politics. Trader Peter von Schwarz and his son Jacob lent money even to the Czech king Charles IV, later to become the emperor; Johann Boner, for his service to the Jagiellonian dynasty, was granted with Polish nobility and received a coat of arms with a lily, still visible in one of the rooms on the ground floor. Still, the glory of the owners of the house was nothing compared to the glory of their guests. Between 15th and 18th century, the „Golden Sun” had hosted kings and emperors visiting Wrocław to receive tribute from the cities and people of Silesia: German king Sigmund of Luxembourg (later to become emperor), Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus, Habsburg emperors Ferdinand I and Rudolf II.

After the World War II, the „Golden Sun” became home for the Polish-Soviet Friendship Society, the „Dom Książki” scientific antiquarian bookshop, the Museum of Medallist Craft (currently part of the City Museum of Wrocław) and the Ossolineum bookshop, continuing the great tradition of the city of trade. Before the Golden Sun House became home of the Pan Tadeusz Museum, the entire site was examined by archaeologists. They have discovered a medieval toilet with only pieces of ceramic potties in it. A more exciting find was a 18th century well at the courtyard and a 15th century brick deposit box in the basement, which caused great excitement – it was a first discovery of that kind in Poland. The Boner family, owners of this strongbox, weren’t ordinary burghers, but millionaires comparable to today’s Bill Gates.

The „Golden Sun” is not a royal residence anymore, but it’s still a place attracting noble guests, such as Andrzej Wajda, president of Poland Bronisław Komorowski or Jan Nowak-Jeziorański; Władysław Bartoszewski celebrated here his 90th birthday. Not as lavishly as king Matthias Corvinus, but the event still became a part of Wrocław’s history.

Beata Maciejewska