During World War II, St. Mary’s Church suffered considerable losses. Some of its works of art have not been recovered to this day.
The Altar of Veit Stoss during the war
As the war was about to start, action was taken to protect the most valuable historical artefact of St. Mary’s Basilica. In late September of 1939, the Altar of Veit Stoss was taken down. The statues were transported to Sandomierz and the ornamental segments were hidden in Kraków, but, after intensive investigation, the Nazis were able to find it and ship it to Nuremberg. After the end of the war, the altar was recovered and returned to Kraków in 1946. It underwent conservation and was subsequently set up at the Wawel Castle. It was returned to St. Mary’s Church in 1957.
Stolen works of art
The Nazis stole nine paintings of brilliant German painter Hans Suess von Kulmbach, who created a series dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, three painted panels of the altar of the Conversion of St. Paul by Michael Lancz von Kitzingen, and numerous gilded artefacts.
Missing works of art:
Michael Lancz von Kitzingen, altar of the Conversion of St. Paul, 1522
There is a unique colour photo of this piece, which was taken before the war by Adolf Guzik. Its initial colours were recreated through computer conservation.
Main stage of the altar of the Conversion of St. Paul
Hans Suess von Kulmbach, Conversion of the Empress, oil on wood, 118 x 62 cm
The painting was a part of the series dedicated to St. Catherine of the Boner chapel triptych. According to monographers, the most prominent features included the way the attire was painted and the posh clothing of the empress with refined colour composition: blue dress and red headdress.
Hans Suess von Kulmbach, Execution of the Empress, oil on wood, 118 x 62 cm
The painting was a part of the series dedicated to St. Catherine from the Boner chapel triptych. According to monographers, the painting was a harmonious composition of red, orange, light green, and pink. The colour layer indicated influence of the Venetian school.