St. Mary’s Church is the second most important church in Krakow, after the Wawel Cathedral. The gothic masterpiece was consecrated in 1320 in the Krakow Rynek, on the site of an earlier Romanesque style church. The church was later recreated as a gothic style church, which you see now. St. Mary’s church is a popular tourist attraction because of its location in Krakow’s Main Square and because it is home to the famous bugle call, hejnal, played at the beginning of every hour.

 

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History

Did you know that St.Mary’s church existed before the main square? The church is located on the northeast corner of the Main Square. It is a gothic church finished in 1397 after the original was destroyed by Tatar (Mongol) raids in the 13th Century. The towers were added in the 15th century. The main entrance to the church features a baroque vestibule, which is used by worshippers.  Tourists use the southeast entrance.

Architecture

St.Mary’s church has a beautiful, Gothic exterior that is made out of brick. The red color of the brick adds a lot to the rustic style that the gothic architecture offers. The monumental altar is 13 m high and 11 m wide ( 36 times 43 ft). There are also many different gargoyles and buttresses that cover the exterior of the church. The vault of the chancel of St. Mary’s caved in and fell, destroying the altar. But when you walk into the church, you see an overwhelming amount of blues, golds, and stained glass. This might not be your taste of style, but this is not all that makes the church unique and beautiful. The veit cross altarpiece is a national treasure of Poland. It is located behind the high altar of St. Mary’s. The altarpiece was carved between 1477 and 1484 by a German man known as Wit Stwosz.

The Towers

The north tower is 82 meters high and also called the Trumpeter’s Tower. The tower is crowned with a Gothic Cupola (which is a Gothic rounded roof) from 1478. Every hour, St.Mary’s trumpet call is played from the top of the taller tower. The shorter tower is 69 m high. The tower is topped with a Renaissance Cupola made in 1592.

Artwork

The Stained Glass of St. Mary’s is from the 19th century and was made by Stanislaw Wyspianski and Josef Methoffer and has pictures of legends from the 14th century.  Wit Stwosz was a sculptor who lived in Nuremberg, he created the famous high altar in the church.

Legends

There are many legends about St.Mary’s church. These legends are connected with  people that stood up and made big decisions that have changed the history of Krakow. Many of the tourists that visit the church have questions about why things are a certain way.  For example: Why are the towers different heights? These legends explain why.

Why is there a person playing the trumpet at the beginning of every hour?

Hundreds of years ago, the Tatar troops invaded the city of Krakow. The trumpeter was the guardian of the city to keep it safe from troops. If there was any danger around, he would play on his trumpet for two minutes to warn the city. One day when the Tatar troops were invading the city the bugler played the hejnal song and in mid-note, his throat was pierced with an arrow. Now there is a tradition to play the hejnal at the beginning of every hour to give respect to the bugler who gave his life to save Krakow.     

Why are the towers different heights ?

As you can see, the two towers are different heights. The towers were planned to be the same, but there was an unexpected event that caused a change to the plans.  There were two brothers and they were hired to build a church that was out of this world. Each brother would build one tower since the plans called for two. One tower was taller than the other, and the brother who had made the shorter tower was very jealous. During the night he killed his brother with a knife and threw his body into the Wisła river.  He then finished his tower and got all the credit and while everyone was cheering, nobody noticed that there was only one brother. A couple weeks passed and the brother was feeling guilty. He decided that he should kill himself and jumped off the top of his tower of the church to his death. Now, you can find the infamous knife hanging from the east entrance of the Sukiennice. ( Find out more on the Sukiennice page).

St. Mary's church from the arches of the Sukiennice
The altar of St. Mary's
The cross of Jesus Christ
Decorative walls and ceiling of St. Mary's
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