Adjoining the palace is the awe-inspiring Gothic cathedral: here, kings were crowned and buried, and it is the heart of the Polish nation. It is a fabulous treasure house of historic architecture, a functioning church, and a pantheon. The present cathedral was built around 1320, the original around 1020.
Highlights of the Interior
The interior is filled with spectacular chapels, far too many to visit in one day. One of the showpieces of the church is the shrine and resting place of St Stanislas, who was martyred in 1079. This baroque chapel, with a stunning golden dome, is the first thing you see upon entering the church. A silver casket rests on a pink marble altar supported by four silver angels. The casket is extremely beautiful. This shrine is a place of pilgrimage, and crowds of tourists and the faithful gather around it. Photos are forbidden.
The Chapel of the Holy Cross I loved the Byzantine frescoes in this chapel. They cover the walls and ceiling, and there are vibrant reds, golds, and blues painted by Russian artists in 1470. They almost have a folk art look to them. This chapel also holds the tombs of King Casimir the Jagellian and queen Elizabeth of the Hapsburgs.
The gothic tomb of King Casimir the Great (d. 1370) has a wonderful renaissance canopy similar to white lace that softens the marble. The red Hungarian marble tomb was designed in 1370-82
The 17th-century choir stalls and the high baroque altar are beautiful, a setting fit for coronations of kings that took place in front of the altar.
Sumptuous Sigismund Chapel The Golden Dome, visible outside the building, is this chapel’s ceiling. Its renaissance interior holds beautiful sculptures of sandstone and marble and sarcophagi of King Sigismund and his family. Completing the chapel are two stunning altarpieces of silver artwork dedicated to the blessed virgin.
Don’t miss the"Miraculous" Crucifix. The black marble figure of Christ is purported to have spoken to Jadwiga as she knelt to pray. She had been ordered to marry the pagan Duke of Lithuania but was unwilling. Jesus asked her to go ahead with the marriage so that Lithuania would accept Christianity. Her remains are buried at the foot of this cross even though her tomb lies opposite the Sigismund Chapel. She was Poland’s most loved Queen, and although she died young, she helped found a dynasty.
The Crypts and Royal Tombs
This is the final resting place for many of the nation’s national figures and royalty. St Leonard’s Crypt is the only remnant of the 2th-century church, and it was here that Karol Wojtyla said his first mass. The Royal Crypts are very atmospheric. Several national heroes are also buried here, and some of the tombs were wreathed in flowers and flags. The royal crypts tour exits outside the cathedral, so it is best to do this tour after you have completed your visit in the cathedral and after the visit to the Sigismund Tower. Access is through the Czartorski Chapel, and you will need a ticket to see them (the cathedral admission is free).
Do climb the very narrow stairway to reach the Sigismund Tower. Your reward will be panoramic views over Krakow, and you will see five medieval bells, the largest of which (cast in 1520) weighs 11 tons. It peals on important occasions, like for Karol Wytya when he became pope, on his death, and for the new Pope (we heard its beautiful tone).
Royal Tombs includes zygmunt bell. Admission. 10 zlty. Open 9am-4pm. Sun. 12:15- 4pm