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Wawel Cathedral

Wawel Cathedral is Krakow’s pride. From 14th century this extraordinary place was a witness of coronations, royal weddings and funerals. You can admire the beautiful Sigismund’s Chapel, an emblem of the Tuscan Renaissance. At the top of the Sigimund’s Tower there is the most famous Polish bell – the massive Sigismund’s Bell. In the vaults of the Chapel, you can see the Royal Tombs, where almost all Polish monarchs and national heroes, like Tadeusz Kosciuszko are buried. For some time the bishop here was Karol Wojtyla, better known to the world as Pope John Paul II. 

 

 

 

In the cathedral, located on Wawel Hill since the 14th century, the coronations of Polish kings took place. There are also the tombs of Polish monarchs, national heroes, and famous poets.

The building of the Cathedral was finished in 1364. Due to the little space on the Wawel Hill, its size was limited, but nevertheless, its dignity and grandeur were striking. More and more new details of its interior - altars, tombstones, epitaphs, bas-reliefs, monuments, portals - were added in successive centuries, creating a unique architectural mixture. The creators of this décor are the most outstanding artists of each epoch - Wit Stwosz, Bartolomeo Berrecci, Giovanni Maria Padovano, and others. 

In the Middle Ages, there were two churches in this place - Waclaw’s and Stanislaw’s. One was destroyed by the Czechs, the other burned down. The tallest tower is Solomon - the first clock hung on it in the middle of the 14th century. 

The cathedral is surrounded by a wreath of nineteen chapels, each of which is a separate temple boasting an original interior. For example, the Swietokrzyska Chapel is decorated with a Ruthenian polychrome from the circle of nowogrodzka art from 1470, while Sigismund Chapel is considered the most beautiful work of Renaissance architects from the Alps. 

The cathedral is one of the largest royal necropolises in the world. The first of the rulers to rest in Wawel Cathedral was Wladyslaw Lokietek, who died in 1333. His sarcophagus, founded by Casimir the Great around 1350, is located opposite the entrance to the sacristy. Almost all Polish monarchs are buried at Wawel. In the cathedral and its vaults, there are tombs of kings, queens, royal children, as well as national heroes (Tadeusz Kosciuszko, Wladyslaw Sikorski, Jozef Pilsudski) and great Polish poets (Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Slowacki).

Among the numerous tombstones of the Wawel Cathedral, the one of the king Kazimierz Jagiellonczyk from the end of the 15th century stands out. It was carved by Wit Stwosz, a prominent artist of German descent (his most famous work is the altar in the St. Mary's Church on the Krakow Market Square, one of the city's biggest tourist attractions). Stwosz skillfully recreated the reclining figure of the deceased king, dressed in coronation robes, which emphasized the priestly character of the monarch. From the outside, the monarch is very dynamic as if recorded at the time of death. Open eyes, tilted head and clamped palms on the royal regalia give the sculpture an extremely intimate character. The rich sculptural frame contains a wide range of references to the role of the monarch in medieval society and the idea of the divine origin of royal power.

What is more, in 1520 the most famous Polish bell was cast under the name "Sigismund" (or "Sigmund") in honor of King Sigismund I the Old. There is a belief that the bell was cast from trophy Moldovan guns captured during the famous battle of Obertyn. The bell weighs about 12,600 kg, it rings on the most important events in Poland and is one of the symbols of the country. You can see this magnificent piece of art in the northern part of the Wawel Cathedral.

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