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Places of Worship Walking Tour in Krakow (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 for tourists 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 next self-guided tour.
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Places of Worship Walking Tour in Krakow Map

Guide Name: Places of Worship Walking Tour in Krakow
Guide Location: Poland » Krakow (See other walking tours in Krakow)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.5 Km or 3.4 Miles
Author: ellen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Skalka Sanctuary
  • Church of St. Catherine
  • St. Andrew's Church
  • St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church
  • St. Mary's Basilica
  • St. Casimir's Church
  • Basilica of St. Francis. Windows of Awe
  • St. Norbert's Convent
Skalka Sanctuary

1) Skalka Sanctuary

A five minute walk from the Vistula River brings one away from the crowd of tourists and to one of the holiest sanctuaries in Poland, the Skalka sanctuary. History records the first settlement on this hill way back in 2000 B.C. after which, the hill was habited by Slavs and then a Romanesque church was constructed to mark the arrival of Christianity in the region. In 1079, King Boleslav murdered the Bishop Stanislav for reasons that are still controversial. The Bishop was later declared a martyr by Pope Innocent IV in 1253 and canonized as the Saint of Moral Order.

A Gothic Church was built on the site in the 14th century but was not maintained. In the 18th century, the building got a Baroque styled uplift which can be seen today. Although, Stanislav’s remains were moved to the Wawel Cathedral, visitors can still see three dark spots of his blood on one of the sanctuary’s walls.

Skalka then went on to become a place for penance for kings, just before their coronations where they would repent for the misdeeds of their forefathers and seek blessings for their reign. Since the 19th century, the most eminent personalities in the history of Poland have been given ceremonial burials at the Sanctuary. Czeslaw Milosz, Henryk Siemiradzki, Karol Szymanowski and many other famous artistes have made Skalka the burial place of Distinguished Poles.
Church of St. Catherine

2) Church of St. Catherine

The Church of St. Catherine stands tall as one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in Poland. Just a stone throw away from the Church on the Rock on Augustianska Street, the Church of St. Catherine, has endured quite a bit of tribulations since its inception. The Church was founded by Casimir III the Great, the last King of Poland from the Piast Dynasty. Construction of the Church commenced in the mid-14th century. However, the building was not completed as per the original design.

Although, construction continued smoothly till 1443, the Church underwent serious damage due to an earthquake. No sooner than the work on restoration of the Church had begun the city fell prey to a devastating flood and then a fire in the year 1534 and 1556 respectively. Another earthquake struck in 1786 and seriously damaged the church and a decade hence, the Church was closed for good by the Austrian authorities. The building was weakened to such an extent that authorities decided to demolish the antique structure. However, efforts were made to restore the Church and save the historic building and since the mid-19th century, the Church of St. Catherine is undergoing renovations which continue till this very day.

The church is filled with frescos, interiors- new Renaissance style with tinge of Baroque designs.
St. Andrew's Church

3) St. Andrew's Church (must see)

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.

Avoid mass times when you should not visit.
Sight description based on wikipedia
St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church

4) 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
St. Mary's Basilica

5) St. Mary's Basilica (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 all over Poland and the world.

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.

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 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)
Sight description based on wikipedia
St. Casimir's Church

6) St. Casimir's Church (must see)

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.

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.
Basilica of St. Francis. Windows of Awe

7) Basilica of St. Francis. Windows of Awe (must see)

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 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, 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. This art piece beats the artist’s previous works not only which are located elsewhere but also the ones located in the same building. The five years he put in designing six stained glass windows for the chancel and a fresco are over shadowed by the glass windows located at the entrance exactly opposite Archbishop’s Palace.

Wyspianski’s only other competitive work was not used for over a century until the completion of the Wyspianski building which was made to commemorate his work and is located at Szczepanska Street.
St. Norbert's Convent

8) St. Norbert's Convent

St. Norbert’s Convent was first built in the 12th century by Jaxa Gryfita, a Zwierzyniec knight. The Convent was victim to the Tartarian invasion of 1241. Dorota Kątska, the Prioress of the Premonstratensian nuns built the Church again in 1636 in Zwierzyniec, which was still outside the city’s limits, where it fell prey to the attack of Archduke Maximilian Habsburg. It was then decided to move the Church within the boundaries of the city to its current location, a short walk away from Wawel Castle on the Vistula River.

The Austrian authorities closed the Convent down in 1803 and a part of the building went to the Jagiellonian University while the Church was absorbed under the Uniate parish. The Fire of 1850 did not spare this closed Convent and the Church interiors got a facelift in the 19th century. In the mid-1960s, another floor was added to this Baroque structure and then the building was used as the Faculty of Chemistry by the Jagiellonian University. It is here, that in 1883 that air was liquefied by Zygmunt Wróblewski and Karol Olszewski, after whom the college is named today.

Legend has it that every year on June 24, the monastery’s old bell resurfaces and its toll is heard into the night. It is a crude reminder of the Tartarian invasion. The Convent offers a glimpse of history, mystery and science to all of its visitors and can hardly be missed when you are in Krakow.

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