Racławice Panorama reopened

On 14 June 1985, the Racławice Panorama, initially based in Lwów – now modern-day Lviv in Ukraine – was reopened in Wrocław.

A cycloramic painting,shown on the inside of a cylindrical platform,depicts the Battle of Racławice, one of the earliest skirmishes of the Kościuszko Uprising. With shouts of, “My boys, take that artillery! For God, and the Fatherland! Go forward with faith!” Tadeusz Kościuszko, Polish general and war hero, inspired his rebels to victory against the opposing Russian forces in April 1794. However, Polish joy was short lived. Kościuszko was wounded and captured by Russian forces at the Battle of Maciejowice in October and, by mid-November, the uprising had collapsed. The country was finally divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria in the Third Partition of Poland the following year.

Created for the 1894 National Exhibition in Lwów to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Kościuszko’s victory, the piece was designed by Lwów-based artist Jan Styka and renowned battle-painter Wojciech Kossak. Painting began in August 1894 after a specially built iron rotunda, designed in Vienna by Ludwik Ramułt, was installed in Lwów’s Stryjski Park. The huge panorama, painted on canvas specially woven to order from Brussels, took nine months to complete and was finished in May 1894. Created with over 750 kg of paint and stretching 114m, the painting was an instant success, attracting around 75,000 visitors annually on average until World War II.

Panorama Racławicka in 1984 in Wrocław

Following the War, the panorama was a key piece of the Ossoliński Institution collection brought to Wrocław, part of Poland since the 1945 Potsdam Conference. The patriotic nature of the artwork was deemed politically sensitive under Poland’s post-war Communist regime, which meant that restoration efforts were haltingly slow. The contributions of successive Volunteer Committees only came to fruition following increasing liberalisation during the 1980s, most notably with the growth of the Solidarity movement.

After reopening in 1985, the panorama was again an instant hit and has become a must-see attraction in Wrocław. Many internationally famous guests have visited the painting, in both Lwów and Wrocław, including Franz Joseph I of Austria, Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and Nobel Prize laureate Czesław Miłosz. The battle site at Racławice is another popular tourist location, designated by the National Heritage Board of Poland as one of the country’s official national Historic Monuments.

Panorama Racławicka in Wrocław
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Photos: Photo archive of the Prince of Whales, Magdalena Starowieyska (POLIN Museum), Polityka, Marek Edelman Dialogue Center.

Written by: Liam Frahm

Liam Frahm is Poland Today’s editorial co-ordinator and is based in the United Kingdom. He currently studies politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University and is interested in current and international affairs.