Main page>Monuments of Krakow> Wawel Cathedral

   The Wawel Cathedral is one of the most visited temples in Krakow. Its history begins in 1000, when the king Bolesław the Strong creates four dioecesis, among others one in Krakow. Soon, he builds the first, probably wooden cathedral, this unfortunately was demolished by Czech prince Brzetysław.
   After the conquest the duke Kazimierz the Restorer moves with his court from Gniezno to Krakow – Krakow becomes the capital of Poland. His successor Władysław Herman builds second cathedral made of limestone. Until today some of the elements exists, like the Tower of Silver Bells and Saint Leonard Crypt.
   The present Cathedral is the third building standing at this place. It was build by the kings Władysław the Elbow and his son Kazimierz the Great in 14-th century. They build beautiful ghotic temple, that in the following years was surrounded by 19 chapels.

  The cathedral possess two tapestry series given by bishops of Krakow from the 17th century. In the nave there are four tapestries presenting the history of Jacob from the Old Testament, in the chancel there are six tapestries presenting green nature.

  The altar of Saint Stanislaw
  In the cross of the cathedral there is an altar dedicated to Saint Stanislaw. The altar was found by Marcin Szyszkowski and made by John Trevano. The altar is decorated with 8 figures of saints related with Poland: Stanislaw, Adalbert, Wenceslaus I duke of Bohemia, Casimir Jagiellon, Hyacinth Odrowąż, Florian, Sigismund, Ignatius of Loyola... more

  The sarcophagus of Władysław Jagiello
  In the cathedral the king Władyslaw Jagiełło and four his wives rest: Hedwig, Anna from Celje, Elisabeth Granowska and Sofia Holszanska. The monument presents real face of the king, the masterpiece was made by order of the king when he was alive. The monument is decorated with several coat of arms: Poland, Lithuania, Ruthenia, Major Poland, Land of Dobrzyń and Land of Wieluń. The sarcophagus is covered by renaissance style canopy, gift of Wladyslaw Jagiello's grandson Sigismund the Old.

  Sarcophagus of Władysław the Elbow
  The sarcophagus contains the body of the king Władysław the Elbow, the first that was crowned in Krakow in 1320. He opens the chain of royal coronations in the Wawel cathedral. In total the cathedral was the witness of 37 ceremonies – 17 men and 20 woman obtained crone in the cathedral. The sarcophagus does not present real face of the king, unfortunately the monument was remodeled in 19th century and any information about the former shape of the figure survived. Besides, this is the last sarcophagus that never has been opened – we really don’t know the looks of the king. The only information bring us the story that he was as short as an elbow, hence his nick-name.

  Sarcophagus of Casimir the Great
  He was the second king crowned in the Wawel cathedral. Casimir is the only king who got the assumed  name “Great”. We owe to him establishing the first university in Poland (second old in this part of Europe), enlarging the defensive walls, building lots of castles, creating the city Kazimierz (today one of the districts of Krakow), and several gothic churches. Polish say about him "He found Poland made of wood, he left Poland made of bricks".
  The statue of the king does not present real face of the king. The sarcophagus was created in Hungary by the order of the Hungarian king Luis the Great. The artists did not know the king, the monument patterned on the sarcophagus of Rudolph IV burried in Vienna. In 1869, so almost 500 years after his death the grave was accidentally opened and his bones examined.

  The Cross of Saint Hedwig
  This is 14th century cross brought from Hungary by the queen Hedwig. The queen was beatified and canonized by the pope John Paul II...more

  The monuments of the royal couples:
    a) Michael Korybut Wiśniowiecki with Eleonora,
    b) John III Sobieski with Maria Kazimiera

   The twin monuments present the kings of 17th century Poland. Both were made by Francisco Placidi. The first one shows symbolical coffin and obelisk with the royal couple Michael Korybut Wiśniowiecki and Eleonora. On the symbolical coffin the battle of Chocim in 1673 was presented. The second one presents the couple John III Sobieski and Maria Kazimiera, and below the coffin decorated with presentation of the battle of Viena in 1683. As the battles were waged against the Turkish, both coffin are hold by Turkish captives.

  The Sigismund Bell
  The Sigismund Bell is the biggest bell in Krakow. It was made by Hans Behem from Nuremberg in 1520 by the order of the king Sigismund the Old...more

   Saint Leonard's Crypt
  This is the oldest part of the Wawel cathedral. The crypt is a part of not existing cathedral of Władysław Herman from XI century. In the crypt the oldest grave of the bishop Maurus was found (1118)... more

   Sigismund's Chapel
   This chapel was made by order of the king Sigismund the Old after the death of his first wife Barbara. The king employed an architect Bartolommeo Berecci who erected the chapel as the king’s burial temple. Indeed, Sigismund the Old is burried in the chapel basement and his statue adorns its right wall. Next to Sigismund the Old's monument, there are monuments of his children – Sigismund August and Anna Jagiellon. Anna dedicated about 50 kg of gold to cover the chapel and founded an altar, today staying on the left side of the chapel.

   Vasa's Chapel
   This chapel was erected by Sigismund the Old's grandson - Sigismund III Vasa as the place of his ethernal dream. Indeed, here, in the crypt below the chapel the king, his second wife Konstancja, his son John Casimir and Ludwika Maria Gonzaga are burried. The walls are decorated with black marble and epitaphs of the kings from the dynasty: Sigismund, Władysław and John Casimir. Above the entrance door there are rests of blessed Jan Prandota, bishop of Krakow living in 13th century. The altar is decorated with painting presenting st. Pedro and Pablo. Worth mentioning are beautiful door decorated with angels holding baners with inscription ''memento mori' and Vaasa's coat of arms and Golden fleet below.

   Saint Cross Chapel
   This chapel was made by order of the king Casimir Jagiellon as his burial chapel. The king employed Russian painters from Psków who decorated the chapel in Byzantic style. One entering the chapel feels like in an orthodox church. The polychromies are the oldest preserved in the cathedral. They come from 1470.
   On the left side Casimir Jagiellon is burried. His cenotaph was made by Veit Stoss, creator of the main altar in the Our Lady Church. Being in Krakow, Veit Stoss made such beautiful monument to the monarch.
   On the right side Elisabeth Habsburg is burried. Her sarcophagus doesn’t exist. She is called ‘Mother of the Kings’, because four of her sons became monarchs.

  Holy Trinity Chapel
  The chapel was erected by order of the queen Sofia Holszańska, the fourth wife of Władysław Jagiełło, as her burial chapel. At the beginning of 20th century the chapel was painted by Włodzimierz Tetmajer...more

   Czartoryskis' Family Chapel
   Small chapel, its name comes from the protectors - Czartoryski's family. The most precious monument here is an altar made by the order of the queen Elisabeth, mother of John Albert. Here, in the altar, the king presents his real face. Next to him stays st. Stanislaw and st. Peter.

   Józef Piłsudski's Crypt
   The crypt is a basement of the Silver Bell Tower. Here in 1937 marshal of Poland, Józef Piłsudski was burried. For Polish Piłsudski is one of the most important heroes. Due to him Poland got independence after the I World War in 1918.
   In 2010, after the airplane crash in Smoleńsk, Maria and Lech Kaczyński were buried. In the eastern wall names of all pasangers of the flight are mentioned.

  Literature in English:

  • Miezian Maciej, Krakow's Old Town. Retracing Kings, Artists and Alchemists, Krakow 2004, chapter 6 'Wawel', p. 119-132.

   Pay attention to :

 • St. Stanislaw's altar
 • Sigismund's Chapel
 • Vasas' Chapel
 • St. Jadwiga's cross
 • Sigismund's Bell
 • Stained glasses by Józef Mehoffer
 • Royal Tombs
 • 17-th century tapestries

People related with the cathedral:

• St. Stanislaw (bishop)
• Kings of Poland
• Bishops of Krakow
• blessed Wincenty Kadłubek
• Adam Mickiewicz (writer)
• Juliusz Słowacki (writer)
• Tadeusz Kościuszko (soldier)
• Józef Poniatowski (soldier)
• blessed John Paul II (pope)


tel. +48 885 616 358

tel. +48 885 616 358