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St. Mary’s Basilica (in polish)

The year 2020 marks the 700th anniversary of the consecration of the Gothic St. Mary’s Basilica in Kraków. The history of the church goes back to the 1220s. According to chronicler Jan Długosz, the first parochial church was founded at the site in 1221–1222 by the Bishop of Kraków Iwo Odrowąż. He established the parish by transferring it from the Church of the Holy Trinity, allocated to the Dominican friars when they arrived in Kraków.

In 1290–1300, a new church in early Gothic style was erected partly on its foundations and consecrated in 1320 by Bishop Nanker. Over the following centuries the building underwent numerous alterations. An extended single-nave presbytery under a stellar vault was built in the second half of the 14th century. Stalls under canopies were added on both sides of the presbytery in the 16th century, and in the following century they were equipped with backrests decorated with low reliefs featuring scenes from the lives of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.

In 1477–1489, Saint Mary’s church was enriched with a grand altarpiece, a late Gothic sculptural masterpiece by Master Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz). The polyptych (pentaptych) was consecrated to the Mother of God and her role in the work of salvation through the Messiah, Her Son Jesus.

In the 18th century, in the time of Mitred Prelate Jacek Łopacki, the church interior was thoroughly modernised in the late Baroque style. In 1795, the church cemetery was deconstructed and St. Mary’s Square was built on its grounds. Some of the extant epitaphs were transferred onto the church walls.

In the late 19th century, Tadeusz Stryjeński headed another extensive restoration of the temple. At that time, Jan Matejko designed painted decorations for the presbytery, which were created by Stanisław Wyspiański, Józef Mehoffer and other artists. The vault imitates a starry sky, and the walls are covered by paintings with ornamental and heraldic motifs, prayers to the Virgin Mary and figures of angels playing musical instruments or holding banderoles with the Litany of Loreto.

The last thorough renovation of the church interior was carried out at the turn of the 21st century. The Veit Stoss Altarpiece and the organ are currently under restauration.

Katarzyna Pakuła-Major