St. Mary's Church

2 min read    16 comments

By nightfall, the Church of St. Mary's is lit up, and it dominates the Cracow skyline. Its steeple, much like a crown of black icicles, thrusts up to the stars. On foggier nights, all that one can see is this cupola, hovering like an apparition in the darkness. From here, on the hour, every hour, (come rain or snow), a bugle call rings out across the city.

The Mariacki church is the largest in Cracow, and, after Wawel, the most important place of worship in Poland. Built of red brick and with two towers of unequal height and form, it is not conventionally attractive. However, like many places in Krakow, it may well grow on you.

Inside, the church may not be to everybody's taste. Crammed with gold and blues and studded with tombs and memorials in every conceivable corner, it is a complete assault on the senses. The recent restoration, although done with great care, nevertheless heightens this excessive quality. The church is well worth exploring, however, and if you are put off by first impressions, stay a while and have a look at some of the individual works of art. For there are some real treasures here; be they paintings, tombs or sculptures. The stained-glass windows are magnificent, at their most impressive at noon on a sunny day, when light floods in from outside. They were constructed in the late fourteenth century, and are masterpieces in their own right. But perhaps the most famous of all the monuments here, and understandably so, is Veit Stoss's extraordinary altar-piece.

Whatever qualms one might have about St. Mary's, a visit to the basilica during mass might prove to be a revelation. Regardless of one's faith, to see the church packed to the doors, the altar-piece gleaming in the sunlight, and to hear the roar of the organ above, is a truly uplifting experience.


not shown
Melinda Hoskins
United States

to the father of the church of St.Mary's my grand father Walter Safian was born in Krakow before world war one! an his father live an work there a wife as well ,Michael safian ,the only thing i was told form my 1 cousin in poland that my family live there we have no records of if he was love there or born there "could you help me in thoese records , my God Speed yr secure Melinda. Safian 'Hoskins ia

Reply Sep 13th, 2020

why is there a new church bell in one of the side chapels. On a trolley.

Reply Sep 22nd, 2019
Jerzy Kulik
United Kingdom

The legend of the two brothers , not sure about the names ) is a well known one. Apparently each brother was commissioned to build a tower. Overcome by jealousy on seeing how much more beautiful his brother's tower was, one brother killed the other. He was captured and sentenced to death. The knife with which he killed his brother can be seen hanging under one of the central arches in the cloth hall, Sukiennice, in the Market square.

Reply Jun 15th, 2015
Jerzy Kulik
United Kingdom

I am travelling to Krakow on the 29th of June 2015 with my brother and three friends. St Mary's is a church that always holds a special place in my heart. The constant adoration of the Blessed Sacrament close to its entrance to the fantastic work of art that every inch of its interior is! The unusual heights of its two towers are indeed unusual, mysterious as to why, and yet undeniably charming and beautiful in their own right! A gem not to be missed and recommended to all.

Reply Jun 15th, 2015
melinda j.wladyslaw'safian
United States

looking a my grandfather walter ,wladyslaw'safian was bathies an made this coummier it bring me to teasts a make me proud to be apart of the royla family at wawel castel

Reply Nov 22nd, 2012
Eamon Dallett

One of the most beautiful churches I have ever visited. One of the highlights of my visit to Krakow.

Reply Mar 1st, 2012
Rob Herpst
United States

I visited St. Marys during the time of communist rule. At that time I was a lapsed Lutheran. I wanted to see the famous alterpiece, which is opened only during mass. Mass at St, Marys is an incredible experience which begins with a procession that makes even an agnostic tingle and feel like a member of the Communion of Saints. The alter piece is huge and heavy and it is opened slowly befitting its great size and weight.but when its great hinges have spread the wings of that sculpture it is a magnificent site to behold! I converted to Catholicism many years latter and this church may have been one of the many subtle influential seeds that impelled me towards full communion with the Church.

Reply Apr 16th, 2011

Awesome!! had my last visit 24hours ago & miss the place already, fantastic priests & sisters, the sung mass is amazing, can't wait to visit Krakow again just for St Mary's >>hotel tip

Reply Apr 5th, 2011
United Kingdom

Amazing church. Try to catch the opening of the altar - bizarre but breathtaking.

Reply Nov 7th, 2009

I was there only last week (early Oct 2008) for the second time in my life (and definitely not the last). To see and feel the history of the Mariacki Church is life changing. My (Polish) father told me a story about the building of the two towers. I am not sure about the accuracy of it, but it does add an extra detail. Two brothers (Peter and Paul) designed and built the towers and they were extremely competitive as to who could build the tallest and most beautiful construction. Each tried to outdo his sibling and in the end, in a fit of jealous rage one brother murdered the other.

Reply Oct 7th, 2008

That's my church :]

Reply Sep 4th, 2008
United States

Our son and daughter in law were married there in May 08. It was breath taking. What a magnificent church.

Reply Jun 30th, 2008
Hi Mr
United Kingdom


Reply Feb 19th, 2008
United Kingdom

The interior of St Mary's Basilica is breathtaking! Being Catholic and having grown up having a high mass said in Latin, it was extradordinary to experience the mass here in both Latin and Polish! What a wonderful experience.

Reply Dec 8th, 2007
Leonard Bajor
United States

Krakow continues to be the favorite city of my wfe and I. The last time we were there was in 1983 indeed a very different time for Poland then now. Even then the brilliance of the Old City with its churches and monuments overwhelmed us. So did the spirit of the people.

Reply Nov 11th, 2007
United Kingdom

St. Mary's Basilica in Krakow must be one of the most wondrous churches in the world. It has so much romance to it, and such a brilliant, commanding position of the Main Square.

Reply May 10th, 2007