Wawel Cathedral, Krakow
The Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus, better known as the Wawel, is the Polish national sanctuary and was the coronation site of the Polish monarchs.
The Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus, better known as the Wawel, is the Polish national sanctuary and was the coronation site of the Polish monarchs. Established in the 11thcentury, the present Gothic structure is from the 14thcentury.
The facade exhibits elements in different styles from different eras, primarily due to the addition of chapels over time. The Cathedral has 9 bells in its two towers, of which the most famous is the 12.6 tonne Sigismund Bell in the Sigismund Tower. The Silver Bells Tower has 4 bells. The Clock Tower is a limestone and brick tower topped by a Baroque dome, and has 2 clock faces.
The grand interiors feature striking stained glass windows, 15thcentury Gothic triptychs, and Giovanni Battista Gisleni's high altar with a painting of Crucified Christ by Marcin Blechowski. Over the altar is a tall canopy of black marble supported by four pillars, below which is the silver coffin of patron saint St. Stanislaus.
The Wawel Cathedral has been the main burial site for Polish monarchs since the 14th century. Originally, the kings were buried in chambers under the floor, but starting with King Kazimierz IV Jagiellon in 1492 they were buried in separate chapels. Kazimierz IV's Late-Gothic style Chapel of the Holy Cross has a marvelous sarcophagus by Wit Stwosz. The sarcophagus of King Jan Olbracht by Francesco the Florentine as well as Sigismund's Chapel by Bartolomeo Berrecci are both striking works in Renaissance style. The Romanesque Crypt of St Leonard under the cathedral contains the tombs of other Polish kings, national heroes, generals and revolutionaries.
The Cathedral Museum (Muzeum Katedralne) exhibits the significant collection of treasures of the Basilica. The array of objects is overwhelming – there are fancy reliquaries, ornate gilded monstrances, liturgical vessels, chalices, precious ancient crosses, and other vestments from the 15th century to the 19th century, along with ecclesiastical art.
The Royal Room houses the regalia associated with coronation ceremonies and funerals of the Polish monarchs. Highlights include St Maurice’s spear presented by Emperor Otto III to Bolesław the Brave that was the first royal insigne used by Piast dynasty kings, coronation mantle of Stanisław II August, coronation sword of August III Wettin, crown, sceptre and orb of Kazimierz IV, and orb of Anna of Jagiellon withreplicas of her crown and sceptre.
The Cathedral Treasury Room displays items gifted by kings, clergy, and aristocrats to the church.