Historical Churches Walking Tour, Krakow

Historical Churches Walking Tour (Self Guided), Krakow

Krakow, the center of religious life in Poland, was once considered “the Northern Rome” for its multitude of churches. Alongside the new temples continuing to appear in the city today, these remarkable sanctuaries, holding deep historical and cultural significance, still remain the most attractive and interesting to look at.

By far the most iconic of these is the Basilica of Saint Mary. A true symbol of Krakow, located in the heart of the Main Market Square, its stunning Gothic architecture and impressive altarpiece place it among the top tourist sights in the city.

Saint Casimir's Church, dedicated to one of the patron saints of Poland, is another notable religious site. It boasts a Baroque interior adorned with exquisite frescoes and sculptures, offering a glimpse into the city's artistic past.

Also renowned for its Baroque design, and picturesque façade, is the Church of Saint Anne. Inside, visitors can admire the intricate stucco decorations.

The Basilica of Saint Francis, with its modest yet elegant exterior, is an important religious center. It is associated with the Franciscan order and contains valuable religious art and artifacts.

The Basilica of Holy Trinity, situated in the Old Town district, is a testament to the city's diverse history. Gothic on the outside, it showcases a fusion of styles on the inside, including Baroque and Renaissance elements.

Saint Peter and Paul's Church, known for its two-color (red-and-white) façade, is a masterpiece of the early Baroque period. Its opulent interior and stunning frescoes are a sight to behold.

Finally, Saint Andrew's Church, a Romanesque gem, dates back to the 11th century. It is one of the oldest churches in Krakow, featuring a simple yet charming design.

Visiting these historical churches in Krakow not only provides insight into the city's rich religious past but also offers a chance to appreciate the artistic and architectural marvels that have stood the test of time. Checking out these acclaimed places of worship on our self-guided journey is bound to give you an enriching experience that connects you with the city's enduring spiritual legacy.
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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
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 Saint 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.

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)
St. Casimir's Church

2) St. Casimir's Church

Standing quaintly in the Old Town District of Krakow is the Church of Saint 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 Saint 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.

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.
Church of St. Anne

3) Church of St. Anne

Located on Saint Anny Street in Kraków, the Church of Saint Anne is a UNESCO-protected Roman Catholic building. An iconic example of Polish Baroque style, it was designed by Tylman van Gameren. Yet, the origins of this ecclesiastical monument trace back to the 14th century.

In 1381, records show the church's first mention under Sulisław I Nawoja of Grodziec's donation documentation. A fire destroyed the church in 1407, but it was rebuilt in Gothic style in the same year under King Władysław II Jagiełło's patronage. King Jagiełło also linked the church with Jagiellonian University, allowing it to appoint the parish priest. The choir was reconstructed and expanded in 1428. Saint Anne's became a collegiate church on October 27, 1535, through an official decree, marking its highest ecclesiastical achievement.

In 1689, the old Gothic structure was taken down as it couldn't support the increasing devotion to Saint John Cantius, the patron saint of Jagiellonian University. From 1689 to 1705, a new Baroque cathedral was built, influenced by Rome's Sant'Andrea della Valle. Tylman van Gameren, a Dutch architect integrated into Polish culture, led this under John III Sobieski's patronage.

The church's lavish interior features intricate stucco work by Baldassarre Fontana, complemented by captivating polychromatic elements from notable painters like the Monti brothers, Karl Dankwart of Nysa, and Jerzy Siemiginowski-Eleuter. The high altar showcases Siemiginowski-Eleuter's skill with a portrayal of Saint Anne. Szymon Czechowicz's 18th-century masterpieces adorn the stalls, depicting the life of Saint Anne. A cross-dedicated altar stands out in the transept's left, while John Cantius' sepulcher holds a solemn presence on the right.
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 Saint 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 Saint Francis is the first church visited by Pope John II after arriving in Krakow.
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 Saint 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.
St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church

6) St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church

Adjacent to the modest Saint Andrew's Church stands the Saint Peter and Saint Paul's Church in Krakow, a striking contrast to its neighboring structure. Distinguished by its impeccable facade and renowned collection of life-sized sculptures depicting the 12 disciples, the church's sculptures are prominently displayed along its fence.

This architectural gem was commissioned by King Sigismund III Vasa to house the Jesuit Order, whose presence in Poland aimed to counter the influence of the Reformation and its ideologies. Spanning the 16th and 17th centuries, the church's construction was guided by an ambitious vision. As a result, it became Poland's inaugural example of Baroque architecture. Notably, historical speculation suggests that the lavish expenditure on the ornate facade led to the utilization of plain brick for the entire building's structure. The endeavor was spearheaded by Italian architect Giovanni de Rossi, later continued by Józef Britius, with the lion's share of credit for the church's completion attributed to Giovanni Maria Bernardoni.

Evident influences from Rome's Church of Gesù are observable in the church's architectural style. While the interior may not match the exterior's grandeur, it nevertheless bears its own remarkable qualities. Noteworthy among its features is Poland's lengthiest Foucault pendulum, designed to visually demonstrate the Earth's rotation. This intriguing device is exhibited every Thursday, adding to the church's array of attractions.
St. Andrew's Church

7) St. Andrew's Church

Nestled modestly within Krakow's historic district is the Church of Saint Andrew, a hidden gem overshadowed by the grandeur of the neighboring Church of Saints Peter and Paul. While it might not immediately captivate attention like its illustrious counterpart, the Church of Saint Andrew holds within its walls a precious piece of the city's history.

Exhibiting a quietly elegant pale Romanesque facade, Saint Andrew's Church stands as one of Krakow's ancient edifices. Its origins trace back to the 11th century, a creation attributed to Palatine Sieciech, a notable figure of medieval governance. The church proudly stands today as an exemplary model of pristine Romanesque architecture, a testament to its enduring preservation. A touch of modern Baroque flair was bestowed upon its tower rooftops in the early 17th century, a delicate addition that harmonizes with the existing structure.

Beyond the unassuming exterior, the church's interior unfolds into a realm of captivating contrast – a lavish Baroque aesthetic that ensnares the senses. This transformation was orchestrated in the early 18th century by Baltazar Fontana, an accomplished sculptor and stucco artist of Italian descent. Adorning the walls with intricate paintings is the hand of Karol Dankwart. Noteworthy beyond its artistry, the Church of Saint Andrew also stands as a sanctuary, a haven sought by those seeking refuge during times of military strife. A resilient survivor, it stood steadfast during the onslaught of the Mongol invasion, defying the destruction that befell many other structures.

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.

Avoid mass times when you should not visit.

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