Today there are more than 130 churches within the city limits of Krakow and the number continues to grow. Inside the Old Town, there are so many churches that their number gave rise to the saying “If Rome wasn’t Rome, Krakow would be Rome”. This text is dedicated to all devotees of sacred art, who will find more to see in Krakow than they probably imagined was even possible. For anyone looking for a holiday with an artistic or religious accent, here’s what you need to know about Krakow’s churches.
There are a limited number of relics in Poland that exhibit the influence of Romanesque art, making those that do exist a special treat for lovers of art and architecture. Krakow is home to a few of these truly remarkable works. Perhaps the most significant of these are the remnants of the Herman Cathedral on Wawel Hill. The Gothic Cathedral at Wawel today was preceded by two Romanesque structures, the second of which was built during the time of Władysław Herman and later destroyed by fire. The Gothic structure visible today was build on the ruins in the 14th century. Several surviving elements of the Romanesque structure, like the crypt and some magnificent Roman columns, were incorporated into the new church and can still be seen.
An exceptional example of Romanesque architecture exists in Krakow today in the form of St. Andrew’s Church on Grodzka street. Its two towers and unique triforiums (triple windows) are very characteristic elements of the landscape of Grodzka street. Two of the oldest holy sites in Krakow worth mentioning are the small, picturesquely situated Holy Church of Salvator and the Church of St. Benedict. A Romanesque portal from the same period can be found in the Dominican monastery and other relics adorn the Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec.
Gothic Churches of Krakow
Krakow is famous for its beautiful Gothic churches. The four most well-known and important ones are the Wawel Cathedral, St. Mary’s Church, the Corpus Christi church and St. Catherine’s Church. The greatest Gothic treasure of Krakow is, of course, the dazzling altarpiece in St. Mary’s Church by the master artist Wit Stwosz. All of these magnificent structures house further treasures and places to explore inside, including relics and works from many eras. St. Mary’s displays incredible Rennaisance elements and Baroque altars. More Rennaisance pearls are found in the Sigismund Chapel at Wawel Cathedral. Also, the Church of the Holy Trinity (the Dominican church) has much to offer for anyone interested in Gothic influences.
Among the many amazing baroque churches in Krakow, the very first one to be built here, the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the Church of St. Anne deserve special attention. Construction on the first of these two Krakow landmarks started at the end of the 16th century, with Italian masters overseeing various aspects of the project. Its high vaults convey a monumental impression to visitors who step inside. Outside the church, statues of the Twelve Apostles adorn a high fence.
An academic collegiate church – St. Anne’s Church – was erected in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Professors of the Cracow Academy dreamed of a church that woud outshine the beauty of St. Peter and St. Paul’s. Today, St. Anne’s is a stunning example of Baroque influences both inside and out.
No trip around the churches of Krakow is complete without a visit to the Church of St. Michael the Archangel and St. Stanislaus, known as “Skalka” (“the rock”). This is yet another structure planned by Italian artists and is the home of the shrine of the patron saint of Poland, St. Stanislaus. The crypt of the church is also part of any visit here as it is the final resting place of a number of accomplished artists and writers.
Do you see just what a challenge it is to make even a short list of all there is to see for lovers of the history, art and architecture of churches? One visit probably isn’t enough unless it’s a very long one. Learn more about Krakow Sightseeing at guide-krakow.com and start planning your visit today!