Lublin is a city in eastern Poland and is the provincial capital of Lublin Voivodeship. With a population of 343,000, Lublin is the largest city in Poland east of Warsaw and the Vistula River. In the Middle Ages and early modern era, Lublin played an important role as an administrative, trade, and military center for the Polish kingdom and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In recent years, Lublin has emerged as a tourist destination due in part to its significant old town and as a gateway to the eastern half of the republic.
The city of Lublin was first mentioned in the 13th century. The city's golden age came in the 16th century, when—due to its central location between Kraków (the medieval Polish capital) and Vilnius (the capital of Lithuania)—it was chosen as the location where the Union of Lublin was signed, effectively uniting the two states for several centuries as a single commonwealth. During the commonwealth's heyday, Lublin served as an important administrative center, housing the country's highest court. Due to its location at a crossroads between the rest of Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, the city was always a melting pot of different cultures and religions, serving as an important center of Judaism as well as for the Christian Reformation movement. Jews made the city the home of the Va'ad Arba' Aratzot (The Council of Four Lands), which governed taxation and other community issues for Jews throughout Poland from 1580 to 1764. During the 16th century, as the city grew thanks to its economic and political influence, it developed its own unique architectural style, named Lublin Renaissance, which was heavily influenced by Italian architecture. The style spread quickly to other cities and towns throughout the region, with examples found today in Końskowola and Kazimierz Dolny.