International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property


N.B.: General country data and external links have been provided by the Member State. * Uploaded: 09/2020

General Country data

The main cultural assets of Poland

Poland is a unitary state located in Central Europe, bordered by the Baltic Sea in the north and the Carpathian Mountains in the south. With a population of 38.5 million and a surface area of 312 679 square kilometres (120 727 square miles), Poland is the fifth most populous and the sixth largest member state of the European Union. Poland has rich natural and cultural heritage representing multicultural history of the region. Today, the capital city of Warsaw is a modern metropolis, attracting business, investments, tourists and innovators.

Poland has been a multicultural country for centuries. Polish national identity is a multi-layered concept shaped by diverse collective experiences of people coming from various ethnicities, languages, religions and traditions. As a meeting point for Western and Eastern cultural traditions, Polish cultural heritage represents the essence of the European civilization. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, existing in the 16th and 17th century, developed a unique political system which laid foundations for the development of the constitutional democracy as we know today. Existing religious, industrial, and architectural monuments offer an insight into a fascinating yet turbulent history and inspiring heritage of Poland.

The unimaginable scale of destruction brought by the Second World War led to unprecedented loss of Polish cultural heritage. The conservation philosophy and techniques had to be reinvented and adapted to the needs of recovering society, on both pragmatic and spiritual levels. The most important conservators and visionaries of the reconstruction of cultural heritage process in Poland were Stanisław Lorentz, Karol Estreicher, Hanna Pieńkowska, and Jan Zachwatowicz, a professor of architecture. In the post-war Poland, he held the position of the first General Inspector of Monuments and within this capacity he developed the plan for the reconstruction of Warsaw’s Old Town. The most noteworthy achievements of the process involved rebuilding of St. John's Cathedral and the Royal Castle. Following successful completion of his project, the historic centre of Warsaw was inscribed on The World Heritage List in 1980.

The State Enterprise Ateliers for the Conservation of Cultural Property were established in 1950. Comprising several specialized teams, the institution was able to carry out interdisciplinary and comprehensive conservation, restoration and reconstruction works. Having a unique experience, numerous experts from Poland got actively engaged in similar initiatives around the world. Most importantly, Professor Kazimierz Michałowski contributed to saving the Abu Simbel temples, which was one of the earliest international initiatives to protect cultural heritage under the auspices of UNESCO. Polish experts also contributed to creation of international organizations and policy documents. Representatives of Poland participated in the process of writing and negotiation of the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954). Professor Jan Zachwatowicz designed the Emblem of Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954). Ever since, the emblem, called also as the blue-white shield, is used worldwide to mark monuments protected during military conflicts by international law.

Poland, together with Austria, Dominican Republic, Spain and Morocco, belongs to the founding members of ICCROM. The process of establishing and developing the organization since its foundation involved excellent Polish specialists: Prof. Stanisław Lorentz, a long-term Director of the National Museum in Warsaw, who held the position of vice-chairman of the ICCROM Council between 1960 and 1965, and then the position of the chairman until 1971; and Prof. Andrzej Tomaszewski, subsequent General Inspector of Monuments of the Republic of Poland, who held the function of ICCROM Director-General between 1988 and 1992.

Polish conservators took an active part in the creation of the Venice Charter in 1964. The resolution on the establishment of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), which was adopted at that time, was put into effect at the Constitutional Congress which took place in Warsaw and then at the General Assembly organized in Kraków in 1965.

Poland has also contributed to the creation and popularization of the World Heritage List as a tool of cultural heritage protection within UNESCO. Two objects located in Poland, together with six others, were the first ones to be inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978:

  • City and County of Cracow, Lesser Poland (Malopolska) Voivodship
  • Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines, Lesser Poland (Malopolska) Voivodship

Most recently, the “Warsaw Recommendation on Recovery and Reconstruction of Cultural Heritage” constitutes another important contribution of Poland to the international system of cultural heritage protection. While the Recommendation refers to the example and experiences of the reconstruction of Warsaw after the Second World War, it emphasizes the importance of reconstruction in the contemporary context. This way, the history of Warsaw and its unique inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980 in recognition of the heroism and dedication of the Polish society which has rebuilt the capital city, has become an example to follow for other cities affected by the tragedy of wars and natural disasters.

The legal framework on cultural heritage conservation

Polish legal thought within the field of monuments protection has a long and significant tradition. In 1918, after 123 years of partitions, Poland regained independence. In October 1918, the Regency Council of the Kingdom of Poland issued a pioneering document in the field of monuments protection - the Decree on the Care of Art and Cultural Monuments. This was one of the first legal frameworks of monuments protection in the world. What is more, the issue of monuments protection was one of the first on the agenda for the newly created state authorities. It reflected the significance of this matter for the Polish society at that time.

Currently, the system for the protection of historic monuments in Poland is regulated by an act of 23 July 2003 on the protection of historic monuments and the care of monuments (Journal of Laws of 2010, No. 130, Item 871 as amended). The act establishes a two-level system of bodies for the protection of monuments: the Minister of Culture and National Heritage and province governors. The General Inspector of Monuments performs the tasks concerning the protection of cultural heritage on behalf of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage: preparation of a national programme of monument protection and conservation; implementation of tasks resulting from the national monument protection and conservation programme and the national spatial development policy; undertaking actions connected with the support of regional development and the implementation of province contracts regarding conservation of historic monuments; keeping the national register of monuments and the national register of stolen monuments or monuments exported illegally abroad; issuing decisions, statements and certifications regarding matters stipulated in this act in separate regulations; organizing and controlling matters of compliance and application of regulations regarding conservation and protection of monuments; supervision over the activity of provincial monument conservators; promotion of research on monument conservation; granting distinctions, money or material prizes for the protection of monuments; cooperation with public administration bodies regarding monument protection; organizing trainings on monument protection and conservation of monuments; undertaking actions concerning caring for monuments; protecting monuments connected with the history of Poland located beyond the borders of the country.

On the other hand the province governor appoints the province monument inspector, who manages the province conservation office upon consent of the General Inspector of Monuments. The Province Monuments Inspector is the first link in the system of cultural heritage protection in the region. Its duties include the following: the right to execute tasks of monument protection and conservation; preparation of financial plans – within the scope of the assigned budgetary means; preparation of a register and a province list of monuments and gathering documents on this matter; issuance of decisions, statements and certifications in matters stipulated in the act in separate regulations in accordance with competences; supervision over research on architecture, conservation, restoration, construction works and other actions connected with monuments as well as archaeological research; organizing and executing control over monument protection and maintenance; preparation of province plans of monument protection in case of a military conflict and crisis situation and coordination of actions for the implementation of these plans. Moreover, the General Inspector of Monuments supervises the activities of the National Institute of Culture Heritage in Poland – an institution of an expert nature constituting the substantive background for the activities of the General Inspector of Monuments.

The cultural and natural sites on the World Heritage List

The heritage of Poland is well represented on the UNESCO World Heritage List including sites, such as towns, temples of varied faiths, mines, castle, a pilgrimage park, memorial sites, a landscape park, and a natural site. To date there are sixteen World Heritage properties in Poland.

The History Monuments are the most highly classified monuments and historical sites in Poland, established by regulation of the President of the Republic of Poland. They are one of the forms of monument protection. So far, there are 105 History Monuments; information is available at this link.

Adhesion to ICCROM

Poland is a Member State of ICCROM since 10/05/1958


Director-General: Andrzej Tomaszewski from 1988 to 1992

Mandates in ICCROM Council since 1958:

  • 1960-1971: Stanislaw Lorentz
  • 1971-1975: K. Malinovski
  • 1975-1977: Andrew Szpakowski
  • 1977-1981: K. Dabrowski
  • 2004-2007: Zbigniew Myczkowski
  • 2018-2021: Kamil Zeidler

ICCROM Staff since 1959: 1

Involvement of Polish Nationals

Activities in/with Poland since 2002

Activities details

Activities details

  • 2003 - 2 Technical assistance(s)
  • 2004 - 1 Mission(s), 1 Technical assistance(s)
  • 2005 - 1 Mission(s), 1 Technical assistance(s)
  • 2006 - 2 Mission(s)
  • 2007 - 1 Technical assistance(s)
  • 2008 - 1 Mission(s), 1 Technical assistance(s)
  • 2011 - 1 Mission(s)
  • 2012 - 1 Mission(s)
  • 2015 - 1 Mission(s), 1 Partnership(s)
  • 2016 - 2 Mission(s)
  • 2017 - 4 Mission(s)
  • 2018 - 3 Mission(s)
  • 2021 - 1 Mission(s)
  • 2022 - 1 Course(s)

External links

Governmental Cultural Institutions

Museums and Cultural Heritage Institutions

* ICCROM reserves the right to moderate the content provided by Member States for country profiles to ensure that they remain within the scope of ICCROM’s mission and pertinent to cultural heritage. However, ICCROM does not take responsibility for the accuracy and validity of the content supplied. The ideas and opinions expressed are those of the Member States.