Krakow, Poland the “City of Churches” and Music

Franciscan Church and Monastery in Krakow, Poland

The travel blog series on Krakow, Poland continues with a must see church in the historical downtown, plus finding a musical concert to go to in Krakow.

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Krakow, Poland the “City of Churches”

 Krakow is known as the “city of churches” with over 120 churches, basilicas, etc. The city of Krakow also has an abundance of monasteries and convents and is sometimes referred to as the “Northern Rome.”

The churches and basilicas in Krakow are some of the most beautiful I have seen! The churches in Krakow have elaborate carvings, beautiful stained-glass windows, and detailed painting on the walls and ceilings.

Earlier in this travel series on Krakow, Poland I covered the St. Mary’s Basilica and Church of St. Adalbert in the main square, along with the Wawel Cathedral.

Below is information on another church that should not be missed when visiting Krakow, especially if you appreciate architecture and art nouveau.

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1 – The Franciscan Church and Monastery is on Franciszkanska Street where it’s set back from the street and looks like a rather ordinary church with a brick façade and a stepped roof, which is very common in Krakow. But once you enter the Franciscan Church in Krakow you see how different it is! The church was founded in the 13th century but has painting and stained-glass windows designed by the Polish artist Stainslaw Wyspianski. What makes the Franciscan Church so interesting, at least to me, is that every inch is covered in paintings but not those typical to church interiors but instead has intricate flowers interwoven with geometrical patterns.

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2 – Stainslaw Wyspianski was a 20th century Polish artist who created monumental church murals, stained-glass windows, paintings, graphic art, and interior decoration. Wyspianski also designed stage sceneries and costumes; he also restored old murals and stained-glass windows in Krakow churches. You can see work by Wyspianski in the Stainslaw Wyspianski Museum, which I highly recommend as it shows you a great deal of his work. The Museum dedicated to Wyspianski’s work is just off the Main Market Square on Szczepanska Street in a historic tenement house built in 1904. The National Museum of Krakow created the Wyspianski Museum due to their rich collection of the artist’s work and for the high position he held in Polish culture. I was unable to visit the National Museum of Krakow, short on time, but hope to get back to see it and discover more Polish artists to admire, as I have come to admire Wyspianski’s work!

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 Music in Krakow, Poland

Krakow is a city of classical music. During the summer (I do not know about the winter schedules) you can enjoy concerts in numerous venues, mostly churches. I highly recommend attending at least one concert during your visit to Krakow. You will find signs in front of most churches about the concerts, where you can buy tickets at the time of the performance or reserve tickets ahead of time.

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The next post will give tips on how to get to Krakow and include airport information.

** Interested in a photo on this travel blog about Krakow? You can purchase a photo of Krakow, Poland on The Monica Store by clicking here.

*** For more photographs about Krakow, Poland click here for stock images of Krakow which are also available as prints.

 

Visiting Wawel Castle and Cathedral in Krakow, Poland

Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, Poland by Monica Goslin

The travel blog series about Krakow, Poland continues with: Visiting Wawel Castle and Cathedral in Krakow, Poland

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After seeing the main square in Krakow, Poland you should set off to see the Wawel Castle.

 The Wawel Castle was built for King Casimir III the Great and rebuilt by Jadwiga of Poland (late 14th century monarch of Poland) who made many additions including more towers and defense walls. The 16th century brought about more reconstruction and additions to the castle. After World War I the Polish Second Republic designated the Wawel Castle as a building of the Polish state to be used by the Governor and President. In 1921 the castle became the official residence of the President of Poland until it became a national museum after World War II.

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Visiting the Wawel Castle – You can actually see a lot of the castle by walking around the grounds. I actually only visited the castle cathedral and the small historical museum across from the cathedral. The signs and ticket booths for the Wawel Castle were complicated and involved having a reservation (seemingly days in advance) and tickets were sold out right in the morning. Unfortunately I found this to be the case in a few other locations as well. Nevertheless getting tickets to see the Wawel Cathedral was much easier and doable, see details below. I highly recommend seeing the cathedral if you aren’t able to get tickets to the castle, and if you figure out how to get castle tickets let me know!

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 Wawel Cathedral – Cathedral Basilica of St. Stainslaw and Vaclav in Krakow

 The Wawel Cathedral is right in the heart of the Wawel Castle grounds and appears to be a jumble of small buildings and towers with an interesting interior with hundreds of years of history.

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Fun Facts about the Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, Poland

 –          The Wawel Cathedral was the coronation site of Polish monarchs.

–          The current Wawel Cathedral was constructed in the 14th century with two previous churches occupying the site in the 11th and 12th century.

–          Over the main alter is a black marble canopy; underneath it lies the silver coffin of St. Stainslaw. Stainslaw was a Bishop of Krakow in the 11th century who was martyred by King Boleslaw II the Bold.

–          The Wawel Cathedral is the burial site for Polish monarchs. You can visit the crypts and see the tombs of the Polish monarchs as far back as the 14th century. The crypt also holds the tombs of generals, national heroes, poets, revolutionaries, and other important leaders.

–          In front of the Wawel Cathedral is a monument to John Paul II.

The overall church is impressive and steeped in history. Each chapel is different and the artistic quality is astounding.

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*My favorite chapel is Queen Sophia’s Chapel, with murals by Wlodzimierz Tetmajer, which reminded me of Alphonse Mucha’s work. You are not permitted to take photos in the Wawel Cathedral and sadly I was unable to find any postcards or books on it that fully covered the church and especially highlighted the Queen Sophia Chapel, so I simply have to remember it. But if you are an art history buff or a fan of Mucha’s work, make sure you see Queen Sophia’s Chapel.

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The Bell Towers of the Wawel Cathedral – Your tour of the Wawel Cathedral is along a directed route and includes a climb up the bell tower. Note that the climb up the bell tower is narrow, dark, and steep!

There are actually two towers with 8 bells, the most famous is the Sigismund Bell at the top, and there is a clock tower as well. The bells were all made at different times but dates range from the 12th to the 17th centuries. Each bell has a plaque next to it which tells you the technical data such as the weight and dimensions of the bells.

The Sigismund Bell has a total weight of 12,600 kg and has to be rung by twelve bell-ringers! The sound range of the Sigismund Bell is said to be 186 miles/30km! Read more about the Sigismund Bell by clicking here for the official website of the Wawel Cathedral where you can also hear a sample of the tolling bells!  The bells are still used today to mark special occasions and holidays.

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* Ticket to see the Wawel Cathedral – Admission to the Wawel Cathedral is free but you need tickets to enter the bell tower, the royal tombs, and the Cathedral Museum which is the building across from the cathedral. Tickets are 12zt for one person.

For the official website of the Wawel Cathedral click here and read more about it! The website is very informative and full of great photos!

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The next post will talk about the University of Krakow!

** Interested in a photo on this travel blog about Krakow? You can purchase a photo of Krakow, Poland on The Monica Store by clicking here.

*** For more photographs about Krakow, Poland click here for stock images of Krakow which are also available as prints.

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Fun Facts about Krakow, Poland

Main Market Square and St. Marys Basilica in Krakow, Poland by Monica Goslin

Visiting Krakow, Poland Travel Series – starting with a few fun facts

Krakow is an interesting city to visit and there is a lot to see and do. Krakow has an old-world charm to it and could be the next Prague, becoming a popular destination.

This and the next few posts will highlight what to see and do in Krakow. Overall I really enjoyed my visit there and hope to visit again as there is always more to see. I recommend the main sights and a few lesser known stops that are still in the historic city center. If you are interested in art and architecture (especially gothic architecture and art nouveau) you should visit as many of the churches in the city as you can as they are all extremely distinctive, plus Krakow is known as the “city of churches.”

So keep reading and find out more about Krakow, Poland!

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A few fun and interesting facts about Krakow, Poland:

–          Krakow is one of the oldest cities in Poland, dating back to the 7th century.

–          Krakow was the capital of Poland for over 500 years

–          The city of Krakow is an important academic and artistic center.

–          Krakow’s historical city center is a UNESCO world heritage site.

–          Pope John Paul II was the first Slavic pope ever, and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years! He became pope in 1978.

–          The University of Krakow is the second oldest university in central Europe, founded in 1364 by King Casimir II the Great. (Read more about the University of Krakow in a later post).

–          After World War II, with the creation of a giant steel mill, the city became an industrial center with a new working class and a jump in population growth.

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Next post will feature the main sights to see in Krakow, Poland – so stayed tuned!

** Interested in a photo on this travel blog about Krakow? You can purchase a photo of Krakow, Poland on The Monica Store by clicking here.

 *** For more photographs about Krakow, Poland click here for stock images of Krakow which are also available as prints.