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Frontpage News 2012 Uncovering the secrets of Warsaw's Old Town

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Uncovering the secrets of Warsaw's Old Town

  • Renovation works in the medieval town cellars of Warsaw's Old Town reveal Polish treasures. In July, a sack with 1200 silver coins was discovered – the oldest dating back to 1663.

    The medieval town cellars of the UNESCO listed Warsaw Old Town are being preserved with the help of the EEA and Norway Grants and in cooperation with the City of Bergen, Norway.

    On 13 July, one of the archaeologists working underground spotted an old silver coin under the flooring in one of the basements. A 4.5 kilo canvas sack filled with 1211 silver coins was discovered – a sack that someone went to great lengths to hide from other people’s view some 200 years ago. The oldest coins date back to 1663, whereas the latest was made in the year 1702.

    The Polish archaeologists call the collection of coins a ‘treasure’, referring both to the current value of the coin collection and the intriguing history of how someone sought to hide what represented considerable valuables back in the 18th century.

    Currently with the laboratory of Poland's Warsaw Historical Museum, the coins will be cleaned and inventoried before historians and numismatists (scholars studying coins) take their stab at the collection.

    Making a cultural trail
    The renovation of the Warsaw Old Town's cellars is part of a larger EEA and Norway Grants- funded project. Once renovated, the cellars will become venues for cultural and social activities. Visitors will be made familiar with the history of the Old Town and have a chance to view original fragments of some of the historical buildings.

    Together, the basements in the Old Town create a labyrinth of side streets. During the restoration work, new basements have been discovered. According to an archaeologist these basements were buried and walled in during the reconstruction of the Old Town after the Second World War. The recently unknown basements contain well preserved original architecture such as gothic vaults, arches and original brick motives. These basements will be opened for visitors when the renovation works are finalised.

  • Country:


    Project title:

    "Renovation and adaptation for cultural purposes of the Warsaw's Old Town basements within the area entered into the UNESCO's World Heritage List "

    Case number:


    Priority sector:

    Conservation of European cultural heritage



    Type & project assistance:

    Individual Project

    Project duration:

    42 months

    Project cost:

    € 8,862,955

    Grant rate:


    Grant agreement date:

    05 November 2008

    The purpose of the Project is to renovate and equip historical basements in buildings located in the Warsaw old town area included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, with the overall objective of increasing the space available for cultural activities and creating opportunities for local artists, as well as conserving Warsaw's cultural assets and enhancing tourism. Reference is made to the application, dated 8 April 2007, and to any subsequent correspondence with the Focal Point.

    The completed Project shall include the following activities and results:

    • renovation and equipping of the 2 Bolesc Street basement for the Warsaw Cultural Education Centre, to develop an exhibition room, a stage/auditorium, a literary café, and an external amphitheatre;

    • renovation and equipping of the basement between 10 Rynek Starego Miasta Street and 11-13 Brzozowa Street for the establishment of the Heritage Interpretation Centre, including a permanent exhibition presenting the city’s historical development and the establishment of an information centre/tourist point;

    • renovation and equipping of the 4 Jezuicka Street basement for the Warsaw Cultural Education Centre, to develop a dyed fabric/batik workshop and exhibition, a photography workshop/darkroom and exhibition, concert halls/music theatre, space for a literary club/café, and a sculpture workshop and gallery;

    • renovation and equipping of the 28-42 Rynek Starego Miasta Street basement, in which the Historical Museum is located, for increasing the exhibition spaces, the organisation of concerts and musical events, and the establishment of a wine bar and exhibition on wine heritage;

    • renovation and equipping of the 2 Rynek Starego Miasta Street basement, in which the Old Town Cultural Centre is located, to develop spaces for a literary club, internet spaces, and for the presentation of 'Poets' Night' including development of a system for live internet broadcasts;

    • management and supervision;

    • travelling and participation of Norwegian partners; and

    • publicity activities.

    The Project Promoter is the Capital City of Warsaw.

    Subject to national law the Project shall be implemented in partnership with the City of Bergen.

    The Focal Point shall ensure that Project Promoter provides at least 49.32 percent of the estimated eligible Project cost.