Tourist routes in Cracow: Churches and cathedrals

Catholicism is the predominant religion of Polish people. Plenty of catholic temples can be found throughout the country. Many of them are an example of amazing architecture. Make sure you see the five most beautiful churches in Cracow.

Wawel Cathedral - Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Stanislaus and Wenceslaus

Wawel Cathedral - Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Stanislaus and Wenceslaus

The 11th century gothic Cathedral on Wawel Hill is more than 900 years old. It served as a coronation site of polish monarchs. The construction is cheifly famous for an architectural masterpiece - the Zygmunt Chapel and the underground tombs of polish kings. Its amazing cupolas and aisles might be seen from outside. It was a main burial site of polish monarhs since 14th century. Not only kings are buried in the Cathedral. Walking underground corridors we will meet toms of nationals bards such as Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki or national heros such as Józef Piłsudski. One of the hall is occupied by the tomb of presidentional copule - Lech and Maria Kaczyńscy.

St Mary's Church

St Mary's Church

Krakow's most famous religious building is situated at the eastern corner of the Market Square. This first Romanesque church was built in the first half of the thirteenth century, and the present Gothic style took shape in the fourteenth century and the first half of the fifteenth century, when the side chapels were added. The impressive, three-nave basilica has two towers of different heights. The higher one, topped with a cupola with a beautiful Baroque Gothic crown, acted as a guardian of the city and from here can be heard the bugle call of St. Mary every hour which is the musical symbol of Krakow. The most valuable artefact is the famous church altar made by Veit Stoss in the years 1477-1489. It is artistically the most perfectly-preserved in Europe, a late-Gothic altar set with sculpture. It presents the life of Mary and Christ - there is a huge selection of scenes with 200 characters, all carved in linden wood, then painted and gilded. The chancel windows are unique, preserved stained glass windows from the fourteenth century. The church interior is decorated with polychrome (1889-1891), undertaken by such individuals as Jozef Mehoffer and Stanisław Wyspiański, and designed by Jan Matejko. Of note are the magnificent stalls (XVII century) with carved scenes from the New Testament in their backs. The richly decorated, mostly Baroque altars in the nave and side chapels are filled with paintings by Giovanni Pittoniego, Szymon Czechowicz and Dominika Estreicher. Among the numerous monuments and epitaphs of Krakow's townspeople which stand out are the brown slabs of Solomon and Boners (XVI century) and the Mannerist tombstones of Montelupich and Cellari.

Basilica of the Holy Trinity

Basilica of the Holy Trinity

Located  by the plac Dominikański and ulica Stolarska, its history dates back to the thirteenth century. In 1221, Bishop Iwo Odrowąż brought Dominican Monks from Bologna, and gave them a little Romanesque chapel. In its place stood a Gothic three-nave basilica, completed in the first half of the fifteenth century. The church entrance leads through to a neo-Gothic vestibule (1875), where there is an interesting portal from the end of the fourteenth century, with sculpted plant and animal decoration. In the second half of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the side aisles and chancel, as well as the family and guild chapels were were erected, and they were rebuilt in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. In the seventeenth century the burial chapels were formed for: Myszkowski, Lubomirski, Zbaraski. and St Jack (św. Jacka). The latter, was built on the model on the Wawel Zygmunt Chapel, which is one of the greatest works of art in Poland. It is decorated in Baltazar Fontana stuccowork (from about 1700 onwards), Karol Dankwart of Nyssa polychrome (1701) and paintings by Tommaso Dolabella from the first half of XVII century. There is also the Our Lady of the Rosary chapel (kaplica Matki Bożej Różańcowej) which was built (1685-1688) as an offering for victory in Vienna. Adjacent to the church are the monastery buildings which are clustered around three courtyard patios, erected from the thirteenth century. The Great Fire in 1850 destroyed the church, the tower and part of the cloister, but the basilica was quickly rebuilt and its interior was reconstructed.

Church of Saints Peter and Paul

Church of Saints Peter and Paul

Krakow was the first building to be constructed in Baroque style. Work on the construction of the church, which is dedicated to the Jesuit order, began in 1596, but unfortunately was not problem-free. As a result of construction errors the freshly-erected church walls began to crack. The builders therefore decided to demolish the walls and deepen the foundations. Finally, the church, which was modeled on the Italian Jesuit churches of Il Gesu and Sant'Andrea della Valle, was completed in 1619. The most characteristic elements of the building are the statues of the apostles built into the church wall. At present, sculptures surround the church, which are copies of late seventeenth century sandstone statues. Acid rain destroyed the originals, having washed out the figures' faces. Inside the church, it is worth paying attention to the Baroque Giovanni Battista Falconi stucco decoration, dating from 1633, and the gilded statues of the Evangelists also by the same artist. In the crypt is the tomb of the most famous Polish Jesuit priest - Father Piotr Skarga. In the church, Poland's longest Foucault pendulum can be seen (which is a pendulum that is able to move in any vertical plane). Organised presentations of the pendulum are held every Thursday.

Capuchin Church

Capuchin Church

In the vicinity of the medieval university buildings and Plant are located the monastery buildings of the Capuchin Order of the Province of Krakow, shrine and Holy House of Loreto. The monks settled on Polish territory in 1681, thanks to the efforts of King Jan Sobieski III, and founded two monasteries: one in Krakow and the other in Warsaw. Crown court marshal Hieronim August Lubomirski along with his sister, Lady Krystyna Potocka founded the Krakow one. The monastery took nearly four years to build from 1696 to 1699. The first Mass was celebrated on August 15, 1700, but the consecration of the church took place on May 13, 1703. The church was built in Tuscan Baroque style. It has a nave, with two side chapels. Next to the main altar, between the chancel and nave, were built two symmetrical side altars. At the main altar the monastic choir was situated. The interior is surprisingly modest, with smooth walls and a barrel vault with small windows. On the main altar is placed a picture of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, painted by Piotr Dandiniego in around 1701, which is a copy of the image from the Servite church in Florence. On the north wall of the nave is the black marble sarcophagus of the special benefactor of the order, the Auschwitz and Zator standard-bearer Wojciech Dembinski (1657-1720). He was buried in a Capuchin habit. All of the furnishings in the church are wooden. The pulpit has a characteristic representation of the Capuchin churches, depicting a hand with a cross. It is a remnant of closely guarded tradition, and serves to preach the sermon, "not from books but from the heart and memory".

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