St Mary’s Basilica

St Mary’s Basilica (Kosciol Mariacki), which is situated in Cracow’s Old Town Square is one of the city’s most well-known landmarks. For this reason, it is often the meeting point for locals and for free walking tours around Cracow. Perhaps you may recognise the basilica from it’s appearance in Schindler’s List?

The gothic church, which was rebuilt in the 14th century after being destroyed, is known for its red face brick facade and its asymmetric, square towers: the tallest tower is 82 metres high, while the other is 69. It’s possible to admire the Old Town Square from the tallest tower. If you’re brave enough to climb 239 steps that is, to the 54th floor. Entrance will cost you around 5zl (zloty), which is roughly equivalent to $1.50.

St Mary’s Basilica is also known for its intriguing history. As legend has it, the trumpeter, who was signaling an impending attack on the city, was shot in the throat with an arrow, causing the alarm to end midway. Centuries later, the alarm is still played from the tower on the hour (and at noon on some radio stations) to commemorate his sacrifice, which saved the city and its residents.

Right, so I did something naughty, as you’re not allowed to take photographs inside St Mary’s Basilica, but you won’t tell anyone, right? (If it helps you to conceal my secret: I didn’t use flash).

I just really wanted you to have a look inside. St Mary’s Basilica provides a glimpse into the intricacies of Polish gothic-era catholic churches.

The altar piece (by Veit Stoss) is the world’s largest gothic altar piece, measuring 13 metres high and 11 metres across, so it comes as no surprise that it is also one of Poland’s national treasures. The altar is visible at the bottom of photographs one and two, when closed (as in the pictures) it depicts 12 scenes from the life of Mary and Jesus. It took the sculptor 12 years to carve, and depicts more than 200 figures including Jesus, Mary and the 12 apostoles.  The altar has a fascinating history: it was dismantled in 1939, in an attempt to protect it from destruction during the impending Second World War. It was discovered in 1941 in Sandomierz, where it had been secretly stored and transported to the third Reich. It was found in Bavaria five years later. After undergoing major  restoration works it was relocated in its rightful place in 1957.

Have a look at THIS amazing 360 degree virtual tour of the interior of the St Mary’s Basilica (turn on your speakers).


Address: Plac Mariacki 5, Krakow

Tel: +48 12-422-05-2


Entrance: Free. Closed during holy mass

Tip: Have a look at the website for upcoming classical music concerts

Iga Motylska

Iga Motylska is a Johannesburg-based freelance writer, photojournalist, sub-editor and blogger. She is published in numerous local and international publications, including: Forbes Africa, Forbes Woman Africa, Forbes Life Africa, CNBC Africa, Ventures Africa, Marie Claire, Sawubona, AA Traveller, Fastjet inflight magazine and Seoul Magazine among numerous others. Her editorial interests range from documenting the entrepreneurial spirit to women's and human rights issues, environmental affairs and of course travel writing.

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