Wawel Cathedral

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Wawel Cathedral
Królewska Bazylika Archikatedralna Św. Stanisława i Wacława na Wawelu
Wawel katedra2.jpg
Wawel Cathedral on Wawel Hill: Sigismund's Chapel (right, with a gold dome) and Vasa Dynasty chapel (to the left)
Basic information
Location Kraków, Poland
Geographic coordinates 50°03′17″N19°56′07″E / 50.0546°N 19.9354°E / 50.0546; 19.9354 Coordinates: 50°03′17″N19°56′07″E / 50.0546°N 19.9354°E / 50.0546; 19.9354
Affiliation Roman Catholic
Province Archdiocese of Kraków
Ecclesiastical or organizational status Royal Arch-cathedral Basilica
Architectural description
Architectural type Church
Architectural style Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque
Completed11th century

The Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus on the Wawel Hill (Polish : Królewska Bazylika Archikatedralna śś. Stanisława i Wacława na Wawelu), also known as the Wawel Cathedral (Polish : Katedra Wawelska), is a Roman Catholic church located on Wawel Hill in Kraków, Poland. More than 900 years old, it is the Polish national sanctuary and traditionally has served as coronation site of the Polish monarchs as well as the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Kraków. Karol Wojtyla, who in 1978 became Pope John Paul II, the day after his ordination to the priesthood, offered his first Mass as a priest in the Crypt of the Cathedral on 2 November 1946, and was ordained Kraków's auxiliary bishop in the Cathedral on 28 September 1958. [1]

Stanislaus of Szczepanów Polish Catholic bishop, saint, the principal patron of Poland

Stanislaus of Szczepanów, or Stanisław Szczepanowski, was a Bishop of Kraków known chiefly for having been martyred by the Polish king Bolesław II the Bold. Stanislaus is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as Saint Stanislaus the Martyr.

Wawel district

Wawel is a fortified architectural complex erected over many centuries atop a limestone outcrop on the left bank of the Vistula river in Kraków, Poland, at an altitude of 228 metres above sea level.

Polish language West Slavic language spoken in Poland

Polish is a West Slavic language of the Lechitic group. It is spoken primarily in Poland and serves as the native language of the Poles. In addition to being an official language of Poland, it is also used by Polish minorities in other countries. There are over 50 million Polish language speakers around the world and it is one of the official languages of the European Union.


The current, Gothic cathedral, is the third edifice on this site: the first was constructed and destroyed in the 11th century; the second one, constructed in the 12th century, was destroyed by a fire in 1305. The construction of the current one began in the 14th century on the orders of bishop Nanker.

Gothic architecture style of architecture

Gothic architecture is a style that flourished in Europe during the High and Late Middle Ages. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture. Originating in 12th-century France, it was widely used, especially for cathedrals and churches, until the 16th century.

Nanker Roman Catholic bishop

Nanker was a Polish noble of Oksza coat of arms, bishop of Kraków (1320–1326) and bishop of Wrocław (1326–1341).


The Cathedral comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. The main altar, located in the apse, was founded about 1650 by Bishop Piotr Gembicki and created by Giovanni Battista Gisleni. The altar painting of Crucified Christ by Marcin Blechowski is from the 17th century. [2] Over the main altar stands a tall canopy of black marble supported by four pillars, designed by Giovanni Battista Trevano and Matteo Castelli between 1626 and 1629. Underneath the canopy is placed a silver coffin of national patron saint St. Stanislaus (Stanisław) created between 1669-1671 after the previous one (donated in 1512 by King Sigismund I the Old) was stolen by the Swedes in 1655. [3]

Nave main body of a church

The nave is the central part of a church, stretching from the main entrance or rear wall, to the transepts, or in a church without transepts, to the chancel. When a church contains side aisles, as in a basilica-type building, the strict definition of the term "nave" is restricted to the central aisle. In a broader, more colloquial sense, the nave includes all areas available for the lay worshippers, including the side-aisles and transepts. Either way, the nave is distinct from the area reserved for the choir and clergy.

Aisle architectural element

An aisle is, in general (common), a space for walking with rows of seats on both sides or with rows of seats on one side and a wall on the other. Aisles can be seen in airplanes, certain types of buildings, such as churches, cathedrals, synagogues, meeting halls, parliaments and legislatures, courtrooms, theatres, and in certain types of passenger vehicles. Their floors may be flat or, as in theatres, stepped upwards from a stage.

Transept architectural term

A transept is a transverse part of any building, which lies across the main body of the edifice. In churches, a transept is an area set crosswise to the nave in a cruciform ("cross-shaped") building within the Romanesque and Gothic Christian church architectural traditions. Each half of a transept is known as a semitransept.

The main gilded altar established in about 1650 Katedrawawel.jpg
The main gilded altar established in about 1650
Cenotaph of king Wladyslaw of Varna Warnenczyk grob CP.jpg
Cenotaph of king Władysław of Varna
Tomb of king Casimir III the Great Krakow nagrobek Kazimierza W.jpg
Tomb of king Casimir III the Great
Sarcophagus of St. Stanislaus Sarkofag Sw. Stanislawa w Katedrze na Wawelu.jpg
Sarcophagus of St. Stanislaus
Sacristy Wawel-Zakrystia.JPG

Chapels and burial chambers

The Wawel Cathedral has been the main burial site for Polish monarchs since the 14th century. As such, it has been significantly extended and altered over time as individual rulers have added multiple burial chapels.

Sigismund's Chapel, or Zygmunt Chapel ("Kaplica Zygmuntowska"), [4] adjoining the southern wall of the cathedral, is one of the most notable pieces of architecture in Kraków and perhaps "the purest example of Renaissance architecture outside Italy." [4] Financed by Sigismund I the Old, it was built between 1517 and 1533 by Bartolommeo Berrecci, a Florentine Renaissance architect, who spent most of his career in Poland.

Renaissance European cultural period, 14th to 17th century

The Renaissance is a period in European history, covering the span between the 14th and 17th centuries and marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity. The traditional view focuses more on the early modern aspects of the Renaissance and argues that it was a break from the past, but many historians today focus more on its medieval aspects and argue that it was an extension of the middle ages.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Italian Alps and sorrounded by several islands. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and traversed along its lenght by the Appenines, Italy has a largely temperate seasonal climate. The country covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and shares open land borders with France, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.

Bartolommeo Berrecci Italian architect

Bartolommeo Berrecci was an Italian renaissance architect who spent most of his career in Poland.

A square-based chapel with a golden dome, it houses the tombs of its founder and those his children, King Sigismund II Augustus and Anna Jagiellon (Jagiellonka).

Sigismund II Augustus King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania

Sigismund II Augustus was the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, the only son of Sigismund I the Old, whom Sigismund II succeeded in 1548.

Anna Jagiellon Queen Consort of Poland

Anna Jagiellon was Queen of Poland and Grand Duchess of Lithuania from 1575 to 1586. She was a daughter of Polish King Sigismund I the Old and his Italian wife Bona Sforza. Despite multiple proposals, she remained unmarried until the age of 52. After the death of King Sigismund II Augustus, her brother and the last male member of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Anna's hand was sought by pretenders to the Polish throne to maintain the dynastic tradition.

The iconic three towers: Sigismund Tower, Clock Tower, and Silver Bell Tower WiezeKatedryWawelskiej-POL, Krakow.jpg
The iconic three towers: Sigismund Tower, Clock Tower, and Silver Bell Tower
Main gate between the Holy Cross Chapel (right) and Holy Trinity Chapel (left) Katedra front.jpg
Main gate between the Holy Cross Chapel (right) and Holy Trinity Chapel (left)
Vasa chapel Vasa Chapel, Wawel Cathedral.jpg
Vasa chapel
Holy Cross chapel Tomb of Kajetan Soltyk in Wawel Cathedral.PNG
Holy Cross chapel
Entrance to the Wawel cathedral, from the west Entrance, Wawel cathedral.jpg
Entrance to the Wawel cathedral, from the west

St. Leonard's Crypt beneath the Cathedral

The crypt beneath the Wawel Cathedral holds the tombs of Polish kings, national heroes, generals and revolutionaries, including rulers of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth such as Jan III Sobieski and his consort Marie Casimire (Maria Kazimiera), the remains of Tadeusz Kościuszko – the leader of a Polish national insurrection and Brigadier General in the American Revolutionary War; the national bards: Adam Mickiewicz (laid to rest there in 1890) and Juliusz Słowacki (1927), as well as Władysław Sikorski – Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile and Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces, along with Marshal Józef Piłsudski – founder of the Second Polish Republic. [5] Pope John Paul II considered being buried there also at one point in time, while some of the people of Poland had hoped that, following ancient custom, his heart would be brought there and kept alongside the remains of the great Polish rulers. (John Paul II was buried under St. Peter's Basilica, a papal burial site since antiquity, instead.)

Poland Republic in Central Europe

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.

Hero person who displays characteristics of heroism

A hero (masculine) or heroine (feminine) is a real person or a main fictional character of a literary work who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, bravery or strength; the original hero type of classical epics did such things for the sake of glory and honor. On the other hand are post-classical and modern heroes, who perform great deeds or selfless acts for the common good instead of the classical goal of wealth, pride and fame. The antonym of a hero is a villain.

Marie Casimire Louise de La Grange dArquien Queen of Poland

Marie Casimire Louise de La Grange d'Arquien, known also by the diminutive form "Marysieńka" was queen consort to King John III Sobieski, from 1674 to 1696.

Schematic of Wawel Hill showing the location of the Wawel Cathedral Wawel Hill - Katedra.svg
Schematic of Wawel Hill showing the location of the Wawel Cathedral
Polish kingsPolish saints
Other notables

See also

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  1. George Weigel (2005). Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. Harper Perennial. p. 81. ISBN   0-06-073203-2.
  2. "Wawel". www.integracja.org (in Polish). Retrieved 2010-09-11.
  3. (in English)(in German)Adam Bujak, Stanisław Bogdanowicz (1997). Die polnischen Kathedralen (Polish Cathedrals). Biały Kruk. p. 32. ISBN   83-907760-1-4.
  4. 1 2 CODART, an international network of curators of art from the Low Countries, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-12-02. Retrieved 2007-12-23. Accessed 2007-12-23
  5. Marek Strzala. "Royal tombs" (in Polish). Krakow-info.com. Retrieved 2010-09-11.

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