St Mary’s Church
Standing proudly in the Northeast corner of the Main Square, the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, or St-Mary’s Church in short, (Polish Kosciól Mariacki), is a sight to behold. The Gothic architecture houses an even more impressive interior, perhaps the largest and most important church after the Wawel Cathedral.
Founded in 1221-1222 by the Bishop of Krakow, Iwon Odrowąży, Mariacki was partly demolished during the Mongol invasion of Poland, then rebuilt in Gothic style. Later, between 1355-1365, it was completely rebuilt, including a lengthened presbytery and tall stained-glass windows. In the 15th century, side chapels were added and the Northern tower raised, becoming the town watchtower. There is a legend of two brothers related to the Mariacki’s two towers of different heights, a story best told by your guide.
Played four times every hour by a lonely bugler in the highest tower, is the Polish anthem, Hejnal Mariacki. It is said the abrupt ending of the anthem imitates the bugler who was shot in the throat whilst raising the alarm during the Mongol invasion.
One of Mariacki’s most magnificent pieces is the 15th century Gothic altar made by German sculptor Veit Stoss. An exquisite wooden masterpiece, the altar features intricate carvings of religious figures. In WWII, the Poles dismantled it in an attempt to preserve it, before it was discovered and sent to Nuremberg by the Germans. It was returned to Poland in 1946 and restored to its original location.
The 18th century saw the interior of the Basilica fully renovated into Baroque style. The adjacent cemetery was demolished to create what is now Mariacki Square. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the decor returned to its Gothic glory.
Inside Mariacki are multiple chapels, amongst them, the St-Anthony Chapel or Criminal’s Chapel where prisoners awaiting execution spent their last night. Also, original organs and works of various sculptors and artists adorn every corner of the interior, making it easy to lose yourself in contemplation.
St Mary’s Church Info
Address: Plac Mariacki 5, 31-042, Kraków
Map Ref: 50.061634, 19.939390
Opening Hours for viewing the Veit Stoss Altar: Mon-Fri 11:30am – 5:45pm
Sun, Church Holidays 2pm – 5:45pm
Ceremonial opening of the High Altar: Mon-Fri 11:50am
Children under 8: Free
Images by Stefanie Auger-Roy for Absolute Tours