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St. Mary's Basilica, Krakow, Poland

The church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary or St. Mary's Church (Kościół Mariacki) already for 7 centuries stands near the Market Square of the former capital of Poland - Krakow. The long history of this church is associated with numerous legends. Traces of these legends can be seen or heard even today.

This Catholic Church was built in the best traditions of Polish Gothic architecture. The construction of existing building began in 1290 on the site of an old wooden church. The building was partially completed in 1320, but 35 years later a presbytery was added to it. Some parts - such as the side chapels were added even later.

The façade of this Gothic basilica is crowned with two towers - one slightly higher than the other. According to the legend, the towers were built by two brothers-masons: each of them wanted to build a tower higher than the one built by the other. After the work was done, brother, whose tower was lower killed the second one, and then committed suicide by jumping from the higher tower. Today in the building of Cloth Hall, located not far from the Mariacki church, a knife is exposed, which, according to the locals, is the same knife that was used for the crime. The height of the higher tower is 82 meters. This square tower at the end turns into octagon. In 1666 a huge gilded crown was added to the spire of the tower. The height of this crown is 1.3 meters and the diameter - 2.4. Every day, successively four times on the hour, an alarm rings from the highest tower by a trumpeter. It is the St. Mary's Trumpet call or so-called Hejnal Mariacki (means Saint Mary's dawn). This tradition goes back to the 13th century, when, according to the legend, one of the city’s guards warned about the attack of the Tatar hordes to Krakow from this tower. He blew his trumpet up to the moment, when enemy’s arrow pierced his throat. Since then the same short melody he played can be heard in Krakow. Today Hejnal Mariacki is one of the main symbols of Krakow. The second - lower tower’s height is 69 meters. It serves as a belfry.

The interior of the building contains elements from different architectural styles. From outside Mariacki church looks beautiful but strict, while inner walls are amazingly colorful and bright. The murals of Mariacki church were created by famous Polish painter Jan Matejko in 19th century. The windows of the church are high and arched. They are decorated with stained glass, which was created by the design of the same Jan Matejko. As a result, wall murals and stained glass windows blend harmoniously, making the interior of the building unforgettably colorful.

The church contains numerous old paintings and statues. The pearl of the church is the wooden altar created by Wit Stwosz (also Veit Stoss) in 1477-1489. According to the locals, at the moment of its creation, the altar’s price was equal to the annual budget of the entire Krakow. During the Second World War, the altar was stolen by Germans. After the war, he was found in the dungeons of the Nuremberg castle and returned to Mariacki church.

Since 1962, the church holds the title of basilica.

On 18 April 2010, a funeral ceremony for Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria was held here. The coffins were later transported and buried in one of the crypts of Wawel Royal Castle’s Cathedral.

By Anna Pambukhchyan,


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