The golden age of Poznań trade

From the moment of its foundation, Poznań has played an important role in trade. However, it reached its full potential in the 15th and 16th century. What helped the city were numerous trade privileges granted by rulers. Moreover, Poznań mediated in trade between Western Europe, Russia and Lithuania. At the same time, the city was situated midway between the wealthy port in Gdańsk and the lands in Silesia, Czechia and Austria.

This crucial location contributed to the fact that Poznań was visited by merchants from all over the world. A special time for such encounters were Poznań fairs. There was one for each season: in spring – an Easter fair, in June – a Midsummer fair (which is still organised today) as well as St Michael’s fair in September and St Lucy’s fair in December. Apart from these, there were also market days organised once a week.

The Old Market Square and the City Hall on the market day, a lithograph by W. Kurnatowski based on a drawing by W. Baeseler, 1841-1846. From the collection of the Municipal Monument Conservator,


Main photo - The golden age of Poznań trade

Who is going to buy all this?

The majority of Poznań’s inhabitants were craftsmen. In the 15th and 16th century nearly 900 workshops employed representatives of one hundred professions. They mainly produced textiles as well as goods made of metal and leather, which were valued both in the country and abroad. What is more, goldsmiths became the real trademark of the city. At the beginning of the 17th century they would use 225 kilograms of gold and over a tonne of silver a year.

Some of the goods produced in the city were bought by the inhabitants and the gentry. The question was, however, what to do with the surplus.

One idea would be to try and sell it during the fairs organised abroad. That is why many merchants from Poznań travelled to other countries. Their most popular destination was the West – German or Italian cities or even such distant ports as Lisbon and London.

On the other hand, the city benefited greatly from foreign merchants coming to the local fairs. Trade fees they paid were a valuable source of income for the city. It was also an opportunity to sell the surplus of local products as well as buy desirable foreign goods.