St. Mary’s Basilica is one of the main attractions in Krakow. It is situated right in the heart of the Old Town, on the Rynek Glowny, the main city square. This is an ancient church built in the early 13th century, and the second main church in Krakow. While it is a widely known tourist attraction, it also lures crowds of Catholic pilgrims every day.
This Basilica is widely known thanks to its two towers of different design and height. The legend tells that the towers were built by two brothers. They were both architects, and each one was responsible for his own tower. One brother was more successful, and built the tower quicker. Another one got envy, took his brother to his tower and killed him there. After that, he had enough time to make his tower higher and more beautiful.
Actually, Krakow is full of legends. Whether you believe them or not, St. Mary’s Basilica is a fascinating place. The first thing that charms you is the sound of trumpet which is played every hour from the higher tower. A trumpeter plays a short melody in four directions – that tradition is called Heynal. The noon Heynal is broadcasted daily via the Polish radio.
When you come inside, the first thing you feel is the atmosphere of the old, charming Poland. The high vaults are blue with numerous stars to resemble the sky. The stained-glass windows and richly gilded elements impress you with elegance and pomposity. The huge crucifixion seems to soar in the air above the sanctuary of the church.
In the Altar you can see the Altarpiece of Veit Stoss, the national treasure of Poland. Standing there from the 15th century, it is the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world. It is much appreciated by all Catholics as a sacred object. It is made of wood, 13 meters high and 11 meters wide, and the smallest sculpture there is 2.7 meters high.
Lots of tourists and pilgrims gather each day to see the ceremonial opening of the Altarpiece which is held at 11:50. Half of the church can be entered free of charge. If you want to wander in the other half of it and see the Altar closer, you should pay 10 PLN. If you want to hear organ and Polish chants, it is better to visit the church as a pilgrim in the Sunday morning.
By the way, earlier it was possible to climb the higher tower of the church and see the Old Town from the 80 meter height. Unfortunately, now it is closed for repairs. However, you still will admire its gorgeous interiors and unforgettable atmosphere.