History of the Basilica

After the Wawel Cathedral, St. Mary’s Basilica is the most important church in Kraków.

The con­struc­tion of St. Mary’s Basi­li­ca was star­ted in late 13th cen­tu­ry on the foun­da­tions of a for­mer Roma­ne­sque church. The new tem­ple was con­se­cra­ted aro­und the year 1320. Over the cen­tu­ries, the church under­went nume­ro­us recon­struc­tions of both its exte­rior and inte­rior.

The exten­ded sin­gle-aisle pres­by­te­ry under a stel­lar vault was built in late 14th cen­tu­ry. The light comes insi­de thro­ugh the high sta­ined glass win­dows. Only three win­dows have been pre­se­rved from the ori­gi­nal medie­val sta­ined glass. The rest is from the 19th cen­tu­ry and was cre­ated by indi­vi­du­als such as Sta­ni­sław Wyspiań­ski and Józef Mehof­fer.

In the 16th cen­tu­ry, stalls under cano­pies were set up on both sides the pres­by­te­ry, which was equ­ip­ped with back­bo­ards with ima­ges from the lives of Jesus Christ and the Vir­gin Mary in the fol­lo­wing cen­tu­ry.

The years 1477–1489 bro­ught the main altar to the tem­ple. It was sculp­ted by Veit Stoss and is con­si­de­red a late Gothic master­pie­ce.

In late 14th cen­tu­ry, the church assu­med the form of a Basi­li­ca with the main aisle tal­ler than the side aisles and the body under a rib vault.

The 18th cen­tu­ry saw the church equ­ip­ped with Baro­que aesthe­tics. The work was super­vi­sed by Fran­ce­sco Pla­ci­di, who cre­ated the Baro­que gali­lee leading to the church in mid-18th cen­tu­ry. The mul­ti­si­ded archi­tec­tu­ral form crow­ned with an open­work tower imi­ta­tes the Church of the Holy Sepul­chre in Jeru­sa­lem. The wooden door of the gali­lee is deco­ra­ted with sculp­ted heads of pro­phets, apo­stles, and Polish saints, which were cre­ated in 1929 by Karol Hukan.

The church ceme­te­ry was decon­struc­ted in ear­ly 19th cen­tu­ry and its for­mer gro­unds are now known as St. Mary’s Squ­are.

In late 19th cen­tu­ry, Tade­usz Stry­jeń­ski headed exten­si­ve resto­ra­tion of the tem­ple. At that time, the church acqu­ired new pain­ted deco­ra­tions desi­gned by Jan Matej­ko and cre­ated by Sta­ni­sław Wyspiań­ski, Józef Mehof­fer, and others. The vault imi­ta­tes a star-fil­led sky and the walls are cove­red by pain­tings with orna­men­tal and heral­dic the­mes, pray­ers to St. Mary, and ima­ges of angels play­ing instru­ments or hol­ding ban­de­rols with the Lita­ny of the Bles­sed Vir­gin Mary.