Historical Churches Walking Tour (Self Guided), Krakow

Krakow, earlier considered “the Northern Rome” is a city of many churches. It is the center of the religious life of the country. New churches continue to appear today, but the most attractive and interesting are the old ones. Some of them have wonderful architecture, others are picturesque or have historical value. Many of them possess relics and old manuscripts. Check out the most acclaimed places of worship in Krakow in this self-guided walking tour.
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Historical Churches Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Churches Walking Tour
Guide Location: Poland » Krakow (See other walking tours in Krakow)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: ellen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Basilica of St. Mary
  • St. Casimir's Church
  • Church of St. Anne
  • Basilica of St. Francis
  • Basilica of Holy Trinity
  • St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church
  • St. Andrew's Church
1
Basilica of St. Mary

1) Basilica of St. Mary (must see)

Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, this basilica stands adjacent to the Main Square in Krakow as a beautiful illustration of the merger of different styles of architecture. Together, these styles brew a singular timeless piece of structure that stands as an example for several other churches in Poland.

The facade of the Church consists of two high raised uneven towers, of which one is constructed in Gothic style while the other has a Renaissance style. The Gothic tower boasts a magnificent spire built in 1478 that measures 81 meters and has a gold-coated crown. The other tower, measuring 69 meters, has a Renaissance roof and was constructed in 1592. The tower has five bells, two of which date back to the 14th century. On the front side of the Church is a beautiful Baroque designed porch that was constructed in the mid-18th century.

Not only is the exterior of the St. Mary's Basilica magnificent, but the interiors also make their mark in terms of grandeur and excellence. The basilica houses the famous altarpiece of Veit Stross, the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world, consisting of 200 figurines sculpted to the utmost delicacy and each limewood figure treated with color and gold foil. One of the national treasures of Poland, this ornate wooden altarpiece is a must-see on your visit to Krakow.

Tip:
Before going inside, you might want to make sure you're not wearing shorts and your shoulders are covered.
Don't forget to buy the camera ticket; otherwise, the camera spotting official will tell you to turn it off (not discreetly either!)...

Note that every hour/on the hour, a trumpeter comes out at the top window of the left tower to play a song out of each of the three windows up there. If you want to climb the tower, pre-book a time to go up (best to do it online). You can meet the trumpeters at the top and pose with them for a modest tip! The views are excellent.

Tour Hours:
[Basilica] Mon-Sat: 11:30am–6pm; Sun: 2–6pm
[Bell Tower] Thu-Fri: 10am–2pm (Apr-Oct); max 6 people; children not admitted for reasons of safety
[Bugle Tower] Tue-Sat: 9:10am–5:30pm; Sun: 1:10pm–5:30pm (Apr-Oct); Thu, Fri, Sat: 9:10am–5:30pm (Nov, Dec, Mar)
2
St. Casimir's Church

2) St. Casimir's Church

Standing quaintly in the Old Town District of Krakow is the Church of St. Casimir the Prince. The plain white exterior may not look extraordinary but the church is quite unique in its own right. One of the most mysterious places in Krakow, it gets a number of visitors year-round waiting to steal a peek at the secrets that lie beneath it.

Adjacent to the Franciscan monastery, the church has over the years, managed to garner much curiosity from visitors all over the world. Established in the late 17th century, the church has been the final home for many locals, monks as well as members of the noble family. Although this may not seem like an extraordinary facet, it is this very quality that has popularized St. Casimir's.

The catacombs are said to contain over 1000 bodies over the years, a quarter of which were monks and the rest belong to lay people. The unique climatic conditions in the crypts allow the bodies to undergo a natural process of mummification. Historians believe that the micro-climate of the catacombs arrests the decaying of the corpses that have been kept in the crypts since the 17th century.

Many corpses were laid in the catacombs without coffins and directly on earth. Among the mummies is the body of Countess Domicella Skalka who served the church as a housemaid for over 20 years and only revealed her true identity moments before her death.

Tip:
The monastic crypts with mummified bodies are made available for public viewing only once a year on All Souls Day (November 2nd), the day after All Saints Day.
3
Church of St. Anne

3) Church of St. Anne

The Church of St. Anne is a Roman Catholic church located at 13 św. Anny Street in the UNESCO-protected historic centre of Kraków, Poland. It is one of the leading examples of Polish Baroque architecture designed by Tylman van Gameren, however, the church's history dates back to 14th century.

The church was first mentioned in 1381 in the deed of donation of Sulisław I Nawoja of Grodziec. In 1407 the church was completely destroyed during a fire, but it was rebuilt the same year in the Gothic style by King Władysław II Jagiełło. The king also attached the Church formally to the Jagiellonian University by giving it the right to nominate the parish priest. In 1428 the choir was reconstructed and enlarged. By a charter dated October 27, 1535 St. Anne's was raised to the rank of a collegiate church.

In 1689 the Gothic edifice was demolished as it proved too small for the growing cult of Saint John Cantius, the patron saint of the Jagiellonian University who's laid to rest there. In 1689-1705 the new Baroque church was erected, modelled on Sant'Andrea della Valle in Rome. The architect was a Polonized Dutchman Tylman van Gameren, a chief architect at the court of John III Sobieski.

The interior stucco decoration is the work of Baldassarre Fontana, and the polychromy assisted by painters and brothers Carlo and Innocente Monti and Karl Dankwart of Nysa. The painting of St. Anne in the high altar is the work of Jerzy Siemiginowski-Eleuter, court painter of King John III Sobieski. The 18th-century paintings in the stalls showing the life of Saint Anne are by Szymon Czechowicz. In the transept there is an altar of the adoration of the cross to the left, and the tomb of John Cantius to the right.
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Basilica of St. Francis

4) Basilica of St. Francis

The city of Krakow is adorned with some of the most beautiful stained-glass windows in the world. The Basilica of Virgin Mary houses one of the most delicate examples of stained glass windows which attract connoisseurs of the art from far and wide. However, the greatest stained glass art piece stands at the entrance of the Basilica of St. Francis on Franciszkanska Street. Titled ‘Become!’ this stained glass window is better known as ‘Our Father’.

The window is a masterpiece not only of this art but also of the artist, Krakow's native son Stanislaw Wyspianski. It depicts Creation in a way no other art work in the world has been able to do till date. The fact that it adorns a basilica and is illuminated by natural light everyday belittles every living soul and forces us to pause every other thought and admire His Creation, the world we live in.

Don't be fooled by its plain red brick exterior. Step inside to admire the magnificent art noveau murals and beautiful stained glass - you will be impressed. It is no surprise that St. Francis is the first church visited by Pope John II after arriving in Krakow.
5
Basilica of Holy Trinity

5) Basilica of Holy Trinity

Presiding over the vicinity in its Gothic grandeur is the large Dominican temple, known as the Basilica of Holy Trinity. Ever since established in the mid-13th century, this church has been the stronghold of the Black Friar brotherhood in Krakow. In 1850 the building suffered severe damage from fire that had claimed one-tenth of the city. Sadly, the ensued reconstruction didn't do a particularly good job on the original, leaving behind traces visible today, albeit not to an untrained eye.

The Dominican friary adjoining the Basilica was founded by Saint Jacek Odrowaz, who is widely known internationally as San Jacinto. He died in Krakow in 1257 and his relics are enshrined in an upstairs sanctuary-chapel.

In 1289 Duke Leszek II the Black, the then ruler of Poland, was also interred in the temple, next to the high altar. Over the next few centuries, the Holy Trinity church had served as a resting place for many of Polish aristocrats. Among the notable mausoleums found here is the Chapel of St. Dominic (Kaplica sw. Dominika), otherwise known as the Chapel of the Myszkowskis (Kaplica Myszkowskich), the second last in the right-hand aisle, dating back to 1614 and adorned with bas-reliefs of the 16 members of the Gonzaga-Myszkowski family buried inside. At some point, the image of Saint Dominic placed in the chapel’s altar in 1642 became famous for miracles.

In 1957, Pope Pius XII bestowed on Krakow’s Holy Trinity church the title of a minor basilica.

Today, the Basilica is open from 7 am to 8 pm or longer, but tourists are advised against visiting when there is a service. On Sundays and major Catholic holidays, the Holy Mass takes place at 8 am, 9 am, 10.30 am, noon, 1.30 pm, 3.30 pm (except for July and August), 5 pm, 7 pm, 8.20 pm, and 9.30 pm. On weekdays and Saturdays it is held at 7 am, 8 am, 9 am, noon, 5 pm, 6 pm, and 7.30 pm.
6
St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church

6) St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church

Raised beside the austere St Andrew’s Church is the St. Peter and St Paul’s Church in Krakow. Unlike its neighbor, the Sts. Peter and Paul’s Church stands out with its immaculate facade and famous collection of life size sculptures of the 12 disciples erected at the fence of the Church.

The Church was funded by King Sigismund III Vasa for the Jesuit Order, which had arrived in Poland to stand against the influence Reformation and its ideas. Built during the 16th and 17th century, the Church was constructed with a grand vision in mind, which is probably why the Church was the first Baroque styled building in Poland. It is also speculated that so much was spent on the ornate facade that construction of the entire building was done in plain brick. The project was undertaken by Italian architect Giovanni de Rossiwhich and was taken further by Józef Britius. However, majority of the work done on the Church is credited to Giovanni Maria Bernardoni.

The architecture seems greatly influenced by Church of Gesu which is in Rome. The interior of the church may not be as impressive as the outside albeit, is remarkable. The Church also possesses the longest Foucault pendulum (devise to demonstrate the Earth’s rotation) in Poland, which is brought out for demonstration every Thursday.
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
St. Andrew's Church

7) St. Andrew's Church

Standing humbly in the old town district of Krakow is the Church of St. Andrew. It stands in the shadows of the grand Church of Saints Peter and Paul and can easily be missed. Although the structure may seem less scintillating than its neighbor, the Church of St. Andrews is one of the city’s treasures from the past.

With a modest pale Romanesque exterior, the St. Andrew’s Church is one of the oldest structures in the city. The building dates back to the 11th century when it was built by Palatine Sieciech, a medieval statesman. The Church is one of the best-preserved constructions in the country flaunting its clean Romanesque style. The modern Baroque design rooftops on the towers are, however, a recent addition made in the early 17th century.

Unlike the rather simple exterior, the Church is dramatically different on the inside, transfixing visitors with its ornate Baroque design and decoration. The interiors were redone in the early 18th century by Baltazar Fontana, a sculptor and stucco artist of Italian origin. The elaborate paintings on the walls were done by Karol Dankwart. The Church of St. Andrew is also known for having offered refuge to people during military assaults. It was one of the very few structures that were left standing during the Mongol attack.

Why You Should Visit:
Like most churches in Krakow, this has its interest and charm, and it might even have some have concerts in the evening (circa 8pm) which enhance the experience.

Tip:
Avoid mass times when you should not visit.
Sight description based on wikipedia

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