I visited Cracow on the last weekend in May. Cracow is very well known city in Europe. It is one of the oldest city in Poland, It lies on the Vistula River in a charming location. Today I would like to show you St. Mary's Church which is located in the Main Square.
It was mass so I coul not take any photos inside.
The history of the Church
According to Jan Długosz, the parish church in the Main Square in Kraków, was founded by Iwon Odrowąży, bishop of Kraków between 1221-1222. A new church was partly built on the site in the early Gothic style between the years 1290 -1300 and consecrated in 1320.
The church was then completely rebuilt. Between 1355-1365, Mikołoj Wierzynek
the elder, (patriarch of Kraków and a carver from Sandomierz) was largely responsible for the erection of a lengthened one dimensional presbytery with tall stained glass windows around 1360-1400. When the new presbytery had been built, work started on the new body of the nave, which initially was to be constructed as a three aisled hall. The work was delayed and the initial idea changed so that towards the end of the 14th century, a basilica type structure was erected based on the western side of Wawel Cathedral. Between the years 1395-1397, it was covered with a cross-ribbed roof by master craftsman Mikołaj Werhner from Prague. Side chapels were constructed by the external nave walls between 1435-1446 and were mostly the work of master craftsman Franciszek Wiechon from Kleparz. The northern tower was raised at this time and adapted to become the town watchtower. Maciej Heringk, a carpenter covered it with the characteristic polygonal dome which was embellished with a gold Marian crown in 1666.
Between 1477-1489, the Church of Our Lady was enriched with a late Gothic masterpiece carving- the new main altar which was the work of Wit Stwosz funded by the local councillors.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Church of Our Lady had new chapels, tombstones and altars built which were replaced by new ones in later centuries.
The Manneristic altars to St.Agnes and Sts.Catherine and Dorothy were recently found in Iwanowice whereas the Baroque altars to St. Joseph and St. Ann were found in the parish church in Brzeszcz near Oświęcim( Aushwitz). Towards the end of the 17th century, the flooring was changed and two magnificent portals were erected made of black limestone from Dębnica. In the 18th century, the archipresbyter
Jacek Łopacki ordered a radical renovation to be done in the late Baroque style.
The altars, equipment and furnishings were replaced, the walls covered with pilastrades and cornices and the vault was covered with illusionistic wall paintings by Andrzej Radwański. The porch in the façade also dates from the late Baroque period.
In1795, the cemetery adjacent to the church was demolished and thus Mariacki Square was created. Some of the remaining epitaphs were then moved inside the church.Towards the end of the XIXth century, the architect Tadeusz Stryjeński undertook a complex renovation of the church and the interior was returned to its Gothic splendour. Jan Matejko was responsible for the newly decorated interior whereas Stanisław Wyspiański and Józef Mehoffer collaborated on the wall paintings.
The exterior of the church has two towers:
The taller watchtower “ Excubiarum” has a height of 82 metres. A stone cornice marks each storey of the square tower. On the ninth floor, the tower becomes octagonal with arch-shaped recesses in which there are two storeys of windows. In 1478 ,the tower was covered with a Gothic dome- the work of mastercraftsman Maciej Hering. It consists of a pointed octagonal spire surrounded by a ring of eight smaller towers. The hourly bugle call from St. Mary’s tower is sounded from a height of 54 metres. At the base of the northern side, there is a rectangular out building with a stone staircase leading to the inside of the tower. On the left of the entrance to the tower, our attention is drawn to a magnificent bronze plaque of King Jan III Sobieski
designed by sculptor Pius Weloński to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the rescue mission during the battle of Vienna. The higher clock-tower dates from 1530.
The church bells are located in the lower tower at a height of 69 metres. The storeys in the square tower, as in the taller one, are clearly marked by cornices and windows.
The belfry contains the Renaissance chapel of St. Paul’s Conversion (funded by the Kauffman family) accessed from a Renaissance balcony, the work of Italian master-craftsmen working for Bartłomej Berecci on the Wawel Cathedral. A “ bell for the dying” hangs outside the window of the above chapel cast by Kasper Koerber from Wrocław in 1736.The tower is covered by an elliptical dome from the late Renaissance period mounted on an octagonal drum and crowned with an ornamental lantern. Four smaller domes are situated in the corners set on low, hexagonal bases.
The tower has five bells:
- the oldest dates from the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries
- the next two known as ‘Misjonał’ and ‘ Tenebrat’ were cast between 1386 and
- the fourth and largest bell known as ‘ Półzygmunt’ is the work of Jan
- the fifth bell made in 1564 , known as the Dulcimer once worked in
These four liturgical bells are the largest and oldest collection of medieval bells in Poland.
A Baroque porch leads to the church interior designed by Franciszek Placidi between 1750-1753. Its polygonal form crowned with a tower is an imitation of the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The wooden porch doors are decorated with the carved heads of prophets, apostles and Polish saints made by Karol Hukan in 1929.
The facade above the porch has a large, stone ,fluted arched window designed by Jan Matejko.
On entering the basilica from the Marian Square, stocks in which prisoners were held and exposed for public display, can be seen.
The elongated presbytery with its huge buttresses is crowned with stone turrets lavishly decorated externally with sculptures. In the arched windows of the presbytery, floral motifs and sculptured figures symbolize hell on the north side and heaven on the south side and in the apse of the sky. Twenty one carved figures, a personification of virtues and vices, also lavishly decorate the consoles supporting the cornice which surmounts the main walls of the building. This architectural collection of stone carvings was made in the second half of the 14th century by a group of craftsmen working in Kraków at the time, having previously worked as apprentices on the building of St. Stephen’s church in Vienna.
The church is always very crowded.