Wawel Cathedral

Zamek Wawel, Kraków


The cathedral is a single-nave, two-aisle Gothic basilica, with straight chancel termination, a transept and an ambulatory (passage around the chancel).

The rib vault is supported by elongated pillars. This type of supporting system is typical of the Kraków Gothic. The temple is made of brick and limestone. During subsequent centuries, a set of stylistically various structures, particularly chapels, was added to the body of the cathedral. The cathedral is surrounded by three towers. The northern one, called the Sigismund Tower, contains the famous Royal Sigismund Bell and the neighbouring, taller one (the so-called Clock Tower) is topped with a Baroque roof. On the south side we can see the Silver Bell Tower, also known as the Vicar Tower.

However, the most striking element of the south façade is the Sigismund Chapel, covered with a gilded dome. It is an outstanding work of art created by Italian architects from the Renaissance, directed by Bartolomeo Berrecci. The whole structure is surrounded by a frieze with a Latin inscription that says: Non nobis, Domine, non nobis sednomini Tuo da gloriam (“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give the glory”).

Apart from kings and their families, the cathedral also contains the remains of Polish national heroes and great men of letters. The latter group has its own special place: the Bard Crypt. This small crypt in the north aisle of the church holds the sarcophaguses of Adam Mickiewicz (d. 1855) and Juliusz Słowacki (d.1849).


Among the nineteen chapels that surround the cathedral, at least some deserve a closer look. The Sigismund Chapel (completed in 1533) features a unique Italian-style décor with rich arabesque and grotesque ornaments and a silver triptych – a work of art of the Nuremberg school. Opposite the altarpiece are tombstones of the last kings from the Jagiellonian dynasty: Sigismund I the Old (Berrecci school) and his son Sigismund II Augustus (designed by Santi Gucci). The chapel is the most prominent piece of Renaissance art in Poland. It is sometimes even referred to as "the pearl of the Renaissance north of the Alps".

The Chapel of the Holy Cross was erected as a mausoleum of King Casimir IV Jagiellon and his wife, Elizabeth of Austria (1467-1477). Its most valuable element is the king's tombstone (d. 1492). Carved in marble by Veit Stoss, the figure of the monarch is one of the most outstanding examples of late-mediaeval stone sculpture. His wife (also called “the mother of kings”, as four out of six of her sons were crowned as kings), who had co-founded the chapel, was depicted with more modesty. Her tomb is merely a brass plate set in the chapel's floor.

The initially Gothic Potocki Chapel was converted into a mausoleum of Bishop Filip Padniewski by the greatest Polish sculptor of late Renaissance, Jan Michałowicz of Urzędów, called the Polish Praxiteles (1572-1575). It was him who created the alabaster tombstone of the bishop, placed in the niche. In the 1820s, the chapel was transformed to fit the Empire style, with a statue of Christ chiselled by Bertel Thorvaldsen. It is one of very few homogeneous examples of classicism in Kraków. The way from the cathedral leads to the Royal Tombs and onto the tower with the Royal Sigismund Bell.

Source: krakow.travel

Translation: Summa Linguae

Date: 2013-06-17 Show ticket
News author: Weronika Dulowska
News Publisher: Portal główny EN
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