This question is a follow-up to the question Why did Poland keep Warsaw as its capital instead of returning it to Krakow in the 20th century?

In particular:

Now as for Warsaw becoming the capital. The court of Sigismund III Vasa was moved to Warsaw in 1595 from the highly interesting reason including the results of alchemical experiment, which is unfortunately not a matter of this question. But it was only short, temporal change

Please write more about these reasons for moving the capital from Krakow.

3 Answers 3


According to Wikipedia, just like Alexandre has said the reasons were mainly geographical. Warsaw was closer to Lithuania and many noble assemblies were held there. Also, as Sigismund was also the king of Sweden, it was easier to keep track of Swedish court from Warsaw.

Regarding alchemical experiment, in 1595 huge fire broke out as a result of such experiment in Wawel Castle (residence of the kings of Poland in Krakow). Wikipedia says it was court alchemist's mistake started a fire but I've also found claims it was the king's fault.

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    It was clearly the court alchemist's fault - for letting the King play with matches in the lab. Jul 26, 2015 at 6:21

The capital of Poland was moved to Warsaw in 1595 for geographic reasons; Because of the formation of the commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania. Poland did not return to Krakow in the 20th century because Warsaw was already situated in the center of Poland, which is usually a major concern because you want a capital to be easily accessed by all the people. As for the comment, i have found no link to alchemy for the reason to move to Warsaw. Sigismund III Vasa did like to do alchemical experiments, but all references to them were in Krakow. So I Don't know what the source was for that answer in the other question.


I used to believe that after the establishment of the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania, the capital was moved to Warsaw to be closer to the center of the combined country. While they're not wrong, the other answers to this effect may overlook a key factor.

Its true that the Sejm or Parliament of the country began meeting in Warsaw as early as 1529, and permanently in beginning in 1569, the year the Commonwealth was established, as per this History of Warsaw.

But the gist of the question was why the capital was moved in 1595 and not in 1569 or some other year. And I found the answer somewhat surprising: Warsaw as a key point in the three way balance of power between Poland, Lithuania, and Sweden.

In 1595, the Polish king was Sigismund III, the son of the King Sweden, and his Queen, Catherine Jagellion, of the Lithuanian royal family. As such, he was a logical choice for "election" to king of Poland. He was also supposed to inherit the Swedish crown, meaning that he would be able to rule both Sweden and Poland in a "personal union."

Unfortunately, Sweden would not allow Sigismund to ascend to the Swedish throne because he was a Catholic. So Sweden "disinherited" him and gave the throne to a cousin. In this context, Warsaw was a much better place for Sigismund to contest the Swedish throne than Krakow (even though he lost); no previous Polish king had attached this kind of importance to Warsaw. One earlier king left the Polish throne to become the king of France; others were more oriented to the southern part of the country.

In the 17th and early 18th century wars against Sweden, Warsaw, which was defended by the Lithuanians, was useful as a "straw" capital that absorbed Swedish power, while Krakow remained a de facto "second" capital when Warsaw was occupied, and formed a focal point for the resurgence of Polish power. This formula didn't work in the 18th century because Austria and Prussian "amputated" Krakow and Gdansk, two important Polish cities in the first partition, leaving her to weak to resist the second and third partitions.

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