Located in the quaint city of Krakow in Poland, St. Mary’s Basilica Krakow is a brick gothic church close to the busy Main Market Square. This 260-feet tall cathedral dominates the picturesque landscape of Rynek Glowny, which is an extensive open space in the Old Town Square of Krakow. Originally built in the 13th century, the St. Mary’s Basilica Krakow brags about featuring a regal Polish Gothic architecture with majestic exteriors and charming interiors. No matter how many times you visit the church, its fascinating altarpiece, tall stained glass windows of the nave, intricately decorated interiors and blue, starred ceiling are sure to mesmerize you.
St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow is uniquely characterised by the two grand towers that embellish the facade of the church. Backed by a dark history, the North Tower or Bugle Tower and South Tower or Bell Tower are the main highlights of the church as they are built in different heights and architecture. The 80-metre tall Gothic style Northern tower is famously known for the bugle call or hejnal mariacki that is played every hour on the hour for four times in succession. The South Tower, on the other hand, is built in Renaissance style and houses all the church bells. The observation deck of the Hejnalica Tower offers astonishing views of the city.
The history of St. Mary’s Basilica Krakow dates back to the 13th century when the church was first constructed on the remaining foundations of a former Romanesque church. It was consecrated in 1320 and completed in 1347 but was rebuilt between 1355 and 1365 with new renovations. The church has undergone several reconstructions in both its interior and exterior over the centuries. The presbytery was extended plus tall stained glass windows and a new vault were built in the late 14th century. The church underwent a major redecoration during the years 1477- 1489 when the breathtaking altarpiece designed by Veit Scott was installed. During the 18th century, Baroque aesthetics were installed in St. Mary’s Basilica Krakow and decorations like polychrome murals designed by Jan Matejko were set up in the 19th century. The two iconic towers adorning the frontal facade of St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow have a gruesome history that explains why the towers are of unequal heights. According to history, two brothers were bestowed with the erection of the towers. While the younger brother realized that the older sibling’s South Tower is taller than his North Tower, he murdered his sibling and commissioned the placement of a cupola on the tower thus stopping its construction. But, caught in guilt, the younger sibling killed himself on the day of consecration of the church.
The frontal facade of St. Mary’s Basilica Krakow is dominated by two towers that are characterized by different heights and architecture. According to history, the towers were built by two brothers and when the younger sibling found out that his brother’s South Tower is taller, he killed him and crowned the unfinished tower with a cupola.
The Northern Tower of St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow, also known as Bugle Call Tower or the Excubiarum Watchtower, stands 82 metres tall and plays the well-known bugle call. There are nine storeys in the tower and each storey is separated from the other by stone ledges. The top of the tower is crowned with a Gothic-style cupola made in 1478 by Maciej Heringk. The cupola has a central pointed steeple surrounded by eight smaller steeples. On entering the tower, you can see a bronze plaque of King Jan III Sobieski and a huge d-tone clock bell from 1530.
The 69 metres tall South Tower holds the bells of St. Mary church and hence it is also known as the bell tower. The tower is capped with a late-Renaissance cupola which has an ellipsoidal dome placed on an octagonal drum and crowned with an openwork lighthouse hollow. Four smaller cupolas are placed on the corners on a hexagonal foundation. The stories of the South Tower are also separated by ledges and windows like the North Tower. You can visit the Renaissance chapel of the Conversion of St. Paul in the tower and you can also see the famous bell ‘for the dying’ outside the chapel window.
The music from St. Mary’s Basilica Krakow has always been related to three main pipe instruments over the centuries – small organ in south aisle, choral organ and great organ. The first preserved organ of the church belongs to 1399. These organs are capable of creating sacred classical music suitable for church prayers.
Location: Plac Mariacki 5, 31-042 Kraków, Poland
Timings: Monday to Saturday – 11:30 AM to 6 PM Sunday and holidays – 2 PM to 6 PM
Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit St. Mary’s Basilica Krakow is during the morning hours as soon as the church opens. It is recommended to time your arrival around 11:50 AM when the famous altarpiece of the church is opened with a short ceremony. Visit the church during the months of March to May when the spring weather is pleasant and ideal for sightseeing.
St.Mary’s Basilica Krakow is located centrally in Krakow Old Town and can be easily reached from the Krakow Glowny railway station.
By Train: Board a tram on Line 3 from Krakow Glowny station to reach St. Mary’s Basilica in 10 minutes.
By Bus: Take a bus on line 610 to reach St. Mary’s Basilica from Krakow railway station.
By Car: St. Mary’s Basilica is just 4 minutes away from Krakow Glowny station by road. You can drive your car or hire a taxi from the railway station to the church.
How old is St. Mary’s Basilica?
St. Mary’s Basilica Krakow is presently 675 years old. The initial foundation dates back to the 13th century when the church was founded in 1222, consecrated in 1320 and completed in 1347. But it was built again in the 14th century between 1355 and 1365 and the main body construction was over by 1397.
What is special about St. Mary’s Basilica?
St. Mary’s Basilica Krakow is an iconic landmark and a representative symbol of the city that is worth visiting for its marvellous Polish Gothic style architecture. This brick Gothic church features a splendid 15th century 12-metres long altarpiece designed by Veit Stoss which is the largest in Europe. The two towers adorning the exterior of the church are major highlights since they are made of different heights and architecture.
What is the best time to visit St. Mary’s Basilica?
The best time to visit St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow is in the morning as soon as the church opens. If you wish to witness the small ceremony performed during the opening of the altarpiece, time your visit around 11:50 AM. In case you are visiting the church on Sunday, go by 2:10 PM to take part in the same ritual.
What are the different architectural styles used to build St. Mary’s Basilica?
St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow flaunts an authentic Polish Gothic architecture that also served as model for building many other cathedrals. The two main towers in the front facade of the church are of uneven heights and feature different architectural styles. The North Tower is taller and is constructed in Gothic style while the South Tower is built in Renaissance style.
Who built St. Mary’s Basilica?
St. Mary’s Basilica Krakow was initially founded in 1221-22 by Iwo Odrowaz, the Bishop of Krakow. It was rebuilt in the 14th century during the reign of Casimir III, the Great and was completed in 1347. The major altarpiece of the church was built by Veit Stoss while some of the monumental murals were designed by Jan Matejko, Poland’s famous history painter.