The MOST BEAUTIFUL Churches in Krakow
SKAŁKA CHURCH – Skałeczna 15
Legend has it that there used to be a pagan temple on this site; however, the first place of worship that we definitely know about here is the Romanesque Church of St. Michael the Archangel. Following the canonisation of a former bishop of Krakow, Stanislaus of Szczepanów, in 1253, the church became a place of pilgrimage, one which was also popular with several European royal families. The bishop had been killed in the 11th century on the orders of the then king, Bolesław II the Bold, who sentenced him to death for alleged treason. It is said that the hired assassins were unwilling to carry out the order to commit murder during Mass, so the king actually did it himself. During World War II, the Nazis stole a silver gilded reliquary dating from the beginning of the 16th century, but luckily the building survived that time without further damage. Now it’s a must-visit spot for every tourist!
BASILICA OF THE HOLY TRINITY – Stolarska 12
The construction of a Gothic church and monastery began in 1241, for the Dominican order which had come to Krakow from Bologna 20 years earlier. The building was erected in a pillar-slope system, characteristic of 14th-century Krakow architecture. There are 10 chapels in the naves – each one of which is filled with great art pieces and unique ornaments. One of the most important pieces of art is the tombstone of Italian humanist Filippo Buonaccorsi, made by Veit Stoss. For hundreds of years, the church was one of the greatest examples of Gothic architecture in the city. Unfortunately, in 1850 a huge fire consumed a large part of Krakow in what is considered to be the biggest disaster to hit the city in the 19th century and one of the largest fires in the city’s history in general. A lot of the church interior was destroyed, and the nave vault also collapsed. The church was subsequently renovated and then consecrated in 1884. Both the church and the adjoining 14th-century monastery have remained unchanged since the 19th century and are a real gem for any history lover.
CHURCH OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI – Franciszkańska 2
This beautiful church was created for the Franciscans who were brought from Prague by Prince Henry II the Pious. Built in the 13th century, it immediately became one of the most important churches in Krakow. The original church was probably built on a Greek cross plan and had a brick tower at the intersection of the naves. The church has been hit by fire several times in its history, with the worst blaze occurring in 1850 (as mentioned above), which consumed a large part of Krakow. Later, the interiors were decorated with paintings by one of the most important Polish Art Nouveau painters – Józef Mehoffer. In 2015, a group of archaeologists discovered some unknown crypts under one of the chapels. This was a great discovery as about 20 metal and wooden coffins were found, all of them preserved in good condition. Ground-penetrating radar research has suggested that there may also be a second, lower level of crypts – but these are yet to be discovered by scientists
CHURCH OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL – Grodzka 52a
The first Baroque building in Krakow, its construction was funded for the Jesuit order by the then king, Sigismund III Vasa. It was consecrated on 8th July 1635. All the architects who worked on the project were Italians, who applied their knowledge of the architectural trends of the time to come up with an unusual building that would gain widespread renown. The plan and shape of the church refer to the main Jesuit seat in Rome – the church of Il Gesù. The façade, made of dolomite taken from the local mines near Krakow, was modelled on the churches in Rome, and decorated with sculptures in the niches. The most characteristic feature is the railing around the church decorated with life-size limestone figures of the apostles from 1722. Every Thursday in the church there is a demonstration of the longest Foucault pendulum in Poland (measuring 46.5 m), which allows visitors to observe the movement of the earth around its axis.
ST. MARY’S BASILICA – 5 Mariacki Square
The unquestionable symbol of Krakow, this Gothic building was built on the site of the Romanesque church destroyed during the Tatar invasion. In the years from 1290 to 1300, an early Gothic hall structure was erected on the foundations of the older church and expanded and illuminated a century later. As a result, the church took on the shape we know and admire today. At the end of the 15th century, it was fitted with its most famous element – the wooden altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss that is considered to be one of the most important monuments of that era in Europe. In the 18th century, the church was rebuilt in Baroque style so all 26 altars and a porch were replaced. At the end of the 19th century, some of the greatest Cracovian artists of the time worked on the decorations with a neo-Gothic design: a starry polychrome on the walls and vault, and stained glass windows. Interestingly, the church had a cemetery surrounding it for centuries, but this was shut down in the 19th century following the introduction of sanitary regulations by the Austrian authorities. Today, the area once occupied by the cemetery is marked out with white limestone paving stones and known as Mariacki Square.
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