Royal Castel courtyard
The history of the Royal Castle goes back to the fourteenth century when the Great Tower was erected. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries during the reign of Sigismund III Vasa, the Castle underwent large-scale expansion and was transformed into a five-winged edifice with an inner courtyard. It was a royal residence, the place where parliamentary deliberations were held and the administrative and cultural centre of the country. Destroyed in the middle of the seventeenth century during the Swedish Wars, it gradually regained its former magnificence during the reign of the Saxon-Wettin dynasty. In the second half of the eigheteenth century, artists in the employ of Stanislaus Augustus (Jan Christian Kamsetzer, Marcello Bacciarelli, Domenico Merlini) reconstructed the interiors of the chambers, comprising the Great Apartment and the King's Apartment. During the period of the partitions (in the nineteenth century) the major part of the collections of the last Polish king ended up in Russia. After Poland regained its independence, some of the works of art were reinstated to their rightful place in the Castle.
In September 1939 the Castle was bombed by the Germans; however museologists, under the leadership of Professor Stanisław Lorentz, managed to salvage some elements of the interiors and also some of the works of art. In September 1944 the Castle was blown up by the Germany army. In the years 1945-1970, the Communist authorities delayed making a decision on whether to rebuild the Castle. The decision to do so was taken in 1971. Funds for the rebuilding of the Castle which took until 1980 were provided thanks to the dedication of the community.
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Castle Square in Warsaw, Poland Dec 2011This is a view of a historic square in front of the Royal Cas...
Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.
The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.
Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".
Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.
Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights.
In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states.
Text by Steve Smith.