It is hard to skip it while going sightseeing. Its characteristic feature that is mainly admired by the tourists is its two characteristic towers that overshadow the market area. From them, the famous hourly bugle-call is played.
St. Mary’s Basilica is considered to be the most important and biggest tourist attraction, aside from the Wawel.
History of St. Mary’s Basilica
The object was built between 14th and 15th century in the gothic style. It replaced an old Roman church built there in the 13th century and destroyed during the Tatar invasion of Cracow. The construction of the basilica started from its base, which was later on extended by individual chapels, windows, and decorations. In the 15th century, the height of one of the towers was increased, as it was to serve the role of a watchtower, from which guards could observe the area for possible threats.
In 1443, Cracow was affected by earthquake, which caused the entire ceiling of the basilica to fall down and destroy the altar. The citizens decided to make a new one, which would make them famous worldwide.
At the end of the 15th century, the object was fitted with the unique, biggest, and most prominent gothic altar made by Veit Stoss. The altar was made from oak wood and all the figurines – out of lime wood, which is durable, as well as flexible. The said item is of the height of 13 m and all the figurines – of about 3 m.
The face of St. Mary was made in accordance with medieval, idealized canons of beauty. A watchful observer may also find the faces of Stoss’ contemporaries as the saints. It has to be indicated as well that the items of apparel are also typical for the citizens of the 15th century Cracow. Stoss was paid with an amount of money that was enough to purchase at least a dozen of tenement houses. However, at the end of his life, he struggled with poverty.
In the 18th century, the interior of the church was decorated in line with the principles of late baroque art – especially by adding numerous altars and golden decorations to it.
Between 1887 and 1891, the interior design of the church was changed to a neo-gothic one. It was made by the most prominent Polish artists, such as a designer, Józef Stryjeński, a painter, Jan Matejko, as well as Stanisław Wyspiański and Józef Mehoffer.
In the 19th century, the municipal cemetery located at the back of basilica was liquidated. The figurine that was till then used to decorate the entrance to the cemetery can now be found at the end of Jagiellońska Street.
Cracow’s Bugle Call tower
The higher of the two towers is called the bugle-call tower. Its height is equal to 82 meters. At its side, there is an entrance by using which one can climb to the top and admire the landscape of Cracow. The height of the second tower is 62 m. Here you can read the legend about Cracow’s bugle call.
At the entrance to the basilica, from the St. Mary’s Square (which was formerly the main entrance to the object) one can see a metal ring that was attached to the neck of criminals in the past. It was attached at such a height that a convict could neither stand still nor kneel. Throughout consecutive years, the level of the square remarkably increased and that is why the ring is now in a close proximity to the ground.
While going along the right side of the basilica, one will come across a mourning bell located under a small roof. In the past, when someone died, the family went to the church and rung the bell.
Tourists can visit the church between 11:30 A.M. and 6 P.M. It is highly recommended to see the celebratory reveal of the altar, which takes place every single day at 11:50 A.M. The entrance is paid: 10 PLN for the normal ticket and 5 PLN for the reduced one.