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Churches 1 - St Mary's Part 1

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St Mary's Church

The 'Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven' (also known as 'St Mary's Church' is a brick Gothic church. According to chronicler Jan Dugosz the first church on the Market Square site was founded in 1221-22 by the Bishop of Krakow but the building was destroyed during the Mongol invasion of Poland.

Between 1290 and 1300 the new early Gothic church was built on the remaining foundations. It was consecrated twenty years later in 1320.

The church was completely rebuilt under the reign of Casimir III the Great between 1355 and 1365 with substantial contributions from wealthy restaurateur Mikoaj Wierzynek. The presbytery was elongated and tall windows added. The main body of the church was completed in 1395-97 with the new vault constructed by Nicholas Werhner from Prague.The vault over the presbytery collapsed in 1442 due to a possible earthquake.

In the first half of the 15th century, the side chapels were added. Most of them were the work of master Franciszek Wiechon. At the same time the northern tower was raised and designed to serve as the watch tower for the entire city.

On every hour a trumpet call is played from the top of the taller of St. Mary's two towers. The plaintive tune breaks off midway to commemorate a 13th century trumpeter who was shot in the throat while sounding an alarm before the Mongol attack on the city.

The noon trumpet call is broadcast live by the Polish national Radio One Station and heard across Poland and abroad.




St. Mary's Basilica also served as an architectural model for many of the churches that were built by the Polish diaspora abroad particularly those similar to St Michael and St John Cantius in Chicago which were designed in the so-called Polish Cathedral style.

The baroque porch (above and right) was constructed between 1750-52 and designed by Francesco Placidi.

In 1478 a helmet was put on the shorter tower and later, in the 17th century, a gilded crown was placed upon the taller tower. Both of these are still present today (see the picture below).



Brass sculpture of a boy situated over a fountain on Mariacki Square (right).

Ghoulish tourists will appreciate the set of metal neck restraints displayed on the side door of St Mary's shown in the two pictures below. These were formerly used to punish philandering women.







In the 18th century, following a decision by the vicar, Jacek Augustyn Opacki, the interior of the church was rebuilt in the late Baroque style. The designer of this work was Francesco Placidi. All 26 altars, equipment, furniture, benches and paintings were replaced and the walls were decorated with polychrome, the work of Andrzej Radwanski.

In the years 1887-1891, under the direction of Tadeusz Stryjenski a neo-Gothic design was introduced into the church. Murals were funded by Jan Matejko who worked with Stanislaw Wyspianski and Jozef Mehoffer, also the authors of the stained glass in the presbytery.



          One of the pulpits (left) and small altar (below).




          Ciborium with Reserved Sacrament (left and below)





          The Grand Organ (left and below).





          Side Chapel (left and below).





          The basilica possesses many pictures and small
          sculptures similar to those seen here (left and below).



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