Church of St Peter and St Paul, and the Church of St Andrew

ul. Grodzka, Kraków

On the oblique surface of the model, parallel to Grodzka Street, are descriptions in Braille separated with the coat-of-arms of Kraków. The model presents two churches: St Peter and St Paul's, and St Andrew's together with the building of the convent of Poor Clares.

Standing on the right hand of the model, over the English description in Braille, is the Church of St Andrew. The church is Kraków's best preserved Romanesque building, raised in the second half of the 11th century. The façade of the three-aisled church is crowned with two towers, octagonal in their upper parts, and quadrilateral in the lower run. They are both covered with baroque steeples. The lack of windows in the lower sections and embrasures is a testimony to the former defensive character of the building. It was a part of the motte of Wawel Castle, known as Okół. In case of danger, it provided shelter for the locals, as during the Tatar raid in 1241.

The upper storeys of the towers are decorated with typical Romanesque windows known as biforia. Individual windows ending in semicircles are present on the lower floors. Yet another type of Romanesque windows, divided by two columns (triforium), decorate the upper part of the façade of the church in Grodzka St. The construction of the roof marks the distinction between the nave and the chancel enclosed from the east with a much lower apse. The entrance from Grodzka Street is surrounded by a low wall with a model showing a Romanesque biforium. Adjacent to the church are the buildings of the convent of the Order of Poor Clares, who came here in the first quarter of the 14th century. To this day, the nuns observe the austere Rule of St Clare, and do not allow strangers into their enclosure.

Standing over the description in Polish is the early baroque Church of St Peter and St Paul topped with a huge dome covering the interconnection of the nave with the transept, that is the crosswise nave. It is one of the accents dominant in the panorama of the ancient city of Kraków. Built on the plan of a Latin cross for the Jesuits, the church is among the greatest achievements of 17th-century Polish architecture. Modelled on the Il Gesù Church in Rome, it was the city's first baroque building. Its construction continued under Giovani Trevano, the court architect of Sigismund III Vasa, brought to Poland late in the 16th century to revive Wawel Castle after the fire. A large role was also played by the court preacher, Father Piotr Skarga, the initiator of the construction of the church, known also as the Royal Basilica, buried in the crypt under the central part of the chancel.

A characteristic element of the architecture is the façade of St Peter and St Paul's: typical of the baroque, it is decorated with magnificent stonework. An exemplar for many churches built in the following years all over Poland. The upper storey is crowned with a cartouche bearing the Snopek coat-of-arms of the Vasas. In the niches on both sides of the windows providing light to the nave are figures of St Sigismund and St Ladislaus – patron saints of the Polish kings of the Vasa dynasty and benefactors of the church. The niches in the lower section of the façade are occupied by figures of four saints from the Jesuit Order. Both levels are decorated with numerous pilasters, that is flat pillars sunk into the wall.

The square in front of the church, formerly its cemetery, is separated from Grodzka Street with a line of 12 late-baroque sculptures of the Apostles, put up early in the 18th century on high stone plinths connected with a metal balustrade. Our model is situated at the foot of the first figure from the left. Destroyed by the atmosphere, the original sculptures were replaced by contemporary replicas. The figure of St Peter was founded by John Paul II, soon after being elected pope.

The church experienced changing fortunes. After the dissolution of the Jesuit Order in the latter half of the 18th century, it was a garrison church, and – however improbable today it may seem – belonged to the Orthodox Church for a time. The Austrians planned to transfer the cathedral and royal tombs here, so that the Wawel Cathedral could become the garrison church, yet their designs were never completed. After the demolition of the parish Church of All Saints, the parish moved its seat here. In 2010, the church became the third – after the Wawel Castle and the Church "na Skałce" – National Pantheon.

Between the Poor Clares Convent and the Church of St Peter and St Paul, there is a small courtyard accessible from Grodzka Street through a late baroque gate. On its far end stands a former accessory building constructed late in the 16th and early in the 17th centuries. In the 19th century it was a school, and after the second world war it housed state archives. Today it is used for office purposes.


Church of St Peter and St Paul, and the Church of St Andrew (mp3)

Date: 2013-06-17 Show ticket
News author: Weronika Dulowska
News Publisher: Portal główny EN
  • Send to a friend
  • Add to favourites