If we can describe it like that, this large painting shows the Battle of Racławice. It was a famous episode of the Kościuszko Uprising against Prussia and Imperial Russia, a heroic but failed attempt to defend Polish Independence in 1794.
The Panorama of the Battle of Racławice is the only surviving Polish panorama painting and one of the only few preserved in the world. This panorama is closely connected to the history of Poland, which may be why it’s such a popular tourist attraction in Wroclaw.
Since it opened to the public in Wroclaw in 1985, it became one of the most important tourist attractions of the city: so famous that it was visited by Pope John Paul II, Beatrix of the Netherlands, and Czesław Miłosz, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature.
The Panorama of the Battle of Racławice is the oldest and last surviving Polish panorama painting. The idea to create such a unique piece came to painter Jan Styka in Lwów, who also invited the renown battle painter Wojciech Kossak to participate in the project. Since the scale of this painting is huge (15 by 114 meters), they needed the assistance of Ludwik Boller, Tadeusz Popiel, Zygmunt Rozwadowski, Teodor Axentowicz, Włodzimierz Tetmajer, Wincenty Wodzinowski and Michał Sozański.
This project came to reality as a patriotic manifestation celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Racławice, a famous episode in the Kościuszko Insurrection. The battle was fought on April 4th, 1794, and was a victorious fight in the struggle for Polish Independence.
On one side, you had the insurrectionist force of regulars and peasant volunteers armed with scythes under Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko, a Polish military engineer and a military leader who became a national hero in Poland. On the other side, you had the Russian army commanded by General Alexander Tormasov. The memory of this glorious victory was particularly important for the nation that had lost its independence. This is why the location of this historical moment was chosen to become the subject of the panorama.
Today, as in the past, the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice touches the imagination and heart of every visitor with its illusionist effect and huge size. Nowadays, it is great to see a living example of storytelling and painting from the 19th century in this world of screens and projections.
Panoramic paintings were massive artworks that came to be used to bring the spectators to another reality. The panorama created an illusion of being there by combining technical skills with some painting effects.
Because the painting completely surrounds the spectator, eliminating every comparison to reality. Doing so blurs the border between what you see and where you are standing, making you almost believe you are inside the scene you are watching.
It took only 9 months to execute the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice between August 1893 and May 1894. The official opening happened on June 5th, 1894, in Stryjski Park in Lwów, Poland. Since the very beginning, the panorama attracted crowds of tourists.
After the end of the Second World War, the painting was brought to Wroclaw, where the Communist Regime considered it politically sensitive and kept it away from the eyes of the Polish people. It was only in 1985 that the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice was reopened in Wroclaw, where it repeated its success in old Lwów.
The Panorama of the Battle of Racławice is not the only preserved historical panorama. Almost 30 of them are worldwide, and 13 of them can be found in Europe. But this is the only panorama painting in Poland and is a must-see for every art-lover.
The Racławice Panorama is a mass culture work of art and a typical example of storytelling at the turn of the century. Visiting this masterpiece will allow you to see a unique piece of art, bring you back in time, and provide you with a live history lesson. You need to visit this piece of art when you go to Wroclaw.
You can visit the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice in Wrocław from Monday to Sunday, from 9 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon.
The shows are presented every 30 minutes, and you can buy a ticket with a scheduled time for your visit. The normal tickets cost 25 zł, something around 6€, and you can purchase them at the ticket office on-site or online at the Racławice Panorama booking service.
While in The Hague, back in 2019, we visited another panorama that survived to tell its story. Panorama Mesdag is its name; you should read what we wrote about it.
Panorama of the Battle of Racławice in Wrocław
Panorama Racławicka Oddział Muzeum Narodowego we Wrocławiu
ul. Purkyniego 11 – 50-155 Wrocław, Poland