Krakow’s main wealth is definitely its churches. In this city tradition and history are of great importance – churches, monasteries and other religious buildings are one of the main elements creating its historic character. On the tourist map of Krakow, there are currently about 360 historic churches. Each one is built in its own unique style, so I chose 5 of my favourite churches I highly recommend you visit.
1. St. Mary Basilica
Address: Plac Mariacki, 5.
The Gothic Mariacki Church is the undoubted pride of not only Krakow, but Poland in general. The facade of this cathedral is represented by two towers of different heights. The interior is striking, since outstanding Italian, German and Polish masters worked on it, mixing Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau into a single whole. The main artistic value is the world’s largest wooden altar of the late 15th century. Concerts of organ music are sometimes organized at the Mariacki Church in the evenings. Be sure to visit the famous church when you are in Krakow, because it is a living legend of this unique city.
2. Saints Peter and Paul Church
Address: Grodzka 52A
The Church of St Peter and Paul was Krakow’s first church in the Baroque style. There are 12 apostles at the entrance to the temple. The interior of the building is amazing and in the centre of it there is a beautiful altar. The dome is decorated with stucco. The reliefs on the walls here remind of Peter and Paul, they tell the story of the death of the saints. You can see with your own eyes the beautiful figurines of frescoes of the 18th century, as well as unique examples of painting and sculpture. Today this beautiful piece of heritage belongs to the Jagiellonian University. A lot of art vernissages are often held in its courtyard. Also, I recommend you to attend one of the church’s classical music concerts, which take place every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 8 in the evening.
3. Church of St Anna
Address: Świętej Anny 11
This is one of the most beautiful examples of «mature» baroque in Poland located at the very heart of Kraków. It is considered one of the most beautiful sacred buildings of the late XVII century in the whole of Poland. The interior of the church is very lavishly decorated: you can see the alabaster decor and many marble columns. The edifice is crowned by a dome placed on the so-called pendentives featuring the cardinal virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude. The nave is decorated with six chapels, while the High Altar includes a picture representing St Anna Samotrzeć and sculptures of St Adalbert and St Stanislaus.
4. Church of St. Joseph
Address: ul. Jana Zamoyskiego 2, Podgórze
This beautiful church is for sure a sight to behold. It was erected in the years 1905-1909 on the site of a classical building. The author of the church is Jan Sas-Zubrzycki, who designed this neo-Gothic church with great pomp. It can be seen from the building itself, constructed with three towers, a steeple referring in its style to the tower of St. Mary’s Church and a richly decorated facade. The church outside is composed of architectural elements and details taken from the Gothic cathedrals style as well as the spacious, bright interior of it, perfectly imitating basic Gothic features. The building has a high nave, two aisles, six chapels, a presbytery with the surrounding bypass, and a transept (nave in relation to the temple axis). On the main altar stands a statue of St. Józef – patron of the church, surrounded by sculptures of St. Anna and St. Joachim. Also, I recommend you visit it at night when it is lit up.
5. St. Andrew’s Church
Address: ul. Grodzka 54
This is one of the oldest churches in Krakow, which was built in 1079-1098. It captivates with its great Romanesque form, contrasting with the baroque spires added in the 17th century. The treasury of the church holds priceless relics of the 13th century. The pulpit in the shape of a boat and the musical choir with 18th-century organ in the chancel, decorated in a Rococo manner are totally worth attention. The church is an excellent example of the phenomenon of reduction, which means the preservation of all significant architectural elements while reducing the scale and length of the naves. In the church of St. Andrew’s naves have only one span, so it is the absolute minimum.
6. Corpus Christi Basilica
Address: ul. Bożego Ciała 26
Corpus Christi Church is definitely one of the city’s most beautiful Gothic churches – it’s located in the Kazimierz district. It was founded in 1335 as a wooden church by Casimir the Great and was rebuilt in brick a few decades later, in 1385. It has a rich interior – a mixture of Polish Gothic and impressive Polish Baroque architecture and several side chapels. Notable features include a high altar from 1634, the superb choir stalls of 1629, and an interesting mid-18th-century pulpit shaped like a boat. Corpus Christi Basilica houses the largest organs in Kraków. The organs are placed 70 metres away from each other which gives the listener a unique experience!
7. Basilica of Holy Trinity
Address: ul. Stolarska 12
The Basilica of Holy Trinity is a Gothic church and monastery of the Dominican Order. Its history dates from the year 1223. Since then, the church has been destroyed and rebuilt more than once, but the Gothic architecture of the building has remained unchanged. Currently, the Dominican Church is one of the largest and most important places of worship in Kraków. The interior is lined with guild chapels and mausoleums from the Renaissance period. Inside the neo-gothic vestibule, there’s an amazing late 14th-century stone portal richly ornamented with carved floral motifs.
8. St. Barbara’s Church
Address: Mały Rynek 8
This church is situated right in the heart of Kraków’s Old Town – in Mariacki Square. The building is a Gothic-style brick structure squeezed between burgher houses (tall, thin, historic houses previously owned by the rich, upper classes), built in the second half of the 14th century as a cemetery chapel, and remodelled in the 17th century. The church blends a simple Gothic exterior with an elaborate Baroque décor with a noteworthy Gothic crucifix on the high altar and a stone Pieta (sculpture of Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus) in the chapel. Once inside you will admire the colourful Baroque interior, which features a black-and-white checkerboard floor pattern and marble-coated walls. At the rear of the nave pay attention to the flamboyant altarpiece framed by artistic stained-glass windows.
9. Lord’s Transfiguration Church
Address: ul. Pijarska 4
This church is a part of the Piarist Monastery complex and is included in the register of protected monuments of Lesser Poland Voivodeship. The interior of the church is late Baroque, from the first half of the 18th century with Rococo elements and was designed by the Polish architect Kacper Bażanka in the likeness of the Roman church of Il Jez. Construction of the church began in 1718 and was completed in 1728. The façade of the church was designed by the Italian architect Francesco Placidi. The church is built in the form of a rectangle with a single nave and side chapels. The walls of the interior are decorated with trompley polychromy (an optical illusion) by two Moravian artists Franciszek Eckstein and Jozef Piltz, who worked in Kraków since 1733.
10. Church of St. Francis of Assisi
Address: Pl. Wszystkich Świętych 5
The Gothic basilica was erected in the 13th century but has been rebuilt several times since. This Church was one of the first tall brick-and-sandstone buildings in the city. We recommend visiting it on a sunny day to admire the artistry of Stanisław Wyspiański, who designed the fantastic art nouveau stained-glass windows. The dark blue ceiling is dotted with stars like the night sky which looks truly amazing! The multicoloured deity in the chancel above the organ loft is a masterpiece. From the transept (the transverse part of the ‘cross’ of the building), you can also enter the Gothic cloister of the Franciscan Monastery to admire the fragments of 15th-century frescoes (murals).
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