Church of the Virgin Mary
The basilica of the Virgin Mary's (or Kosciol Mariacki) at Krakow’s central Grand Square has been traditionally the temple of choice of the city’s burghers. It also seems to be the most famous of all Poland's churches.
The Gothic edifice of the present St. Mary's church replaced its Romanesque predecessor by the end of the 13th century. In 1365 a chancel was added and soon its splendid big stained-glass windows, of which three are still in place, were ready as well.
By the end of the 14th century the body of the church got its current form of a basilica. The taller (81 meters) of its two towers, with a fantastic Gothic spire of 1478 and a gold-plated crown of 1666, curiously belongs to the municipality and the Krakow signal is played from it every full hour. The lower tower (69 meters), with the 1592 Renaissance roof, accommodates five bells. Two of them date back to the late 14th century. In the Baroque front porch of the mid-18th century one finds two early-Gothic holy-water basins.
The basilica of the Virgin Mary's is home to an unmatched Oltarz Mariacki, giant Gothic altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss, Europe's greatest sculptor of the period, between 1477 and 1489. In 1491 he also sculptured a stone crucifix that now is part of the late-Baroque altarpiece in the south aisle, and possibly the magnificent huge crucifix above the nave as well.
Sepulchral monuments of the Krakow rich and worthy fill every corner of the basilica and its twelve chapels. Ornate stalls in the chancel appear an outstanding achievement of the early-Baroque woodwork. The wall paintings by famous Jan Matejko date back to the 1888-1891 renovation. The treasure-house of the basilica of the Virgin Mary's is rich in priceless objects of art, including some 300 masterly embroidered ancient vestments.