Wawel Hill seems to be on every visitor’s list when visiting Kraków, and one of the most important structures on top of the the hill is Wawel Cathedral. The first iteration of the cathedral was built and destroyed in the 11th century, a second built was destroyed by fire in the 13th century, and the current one we have today was built in the 14th century.
As you enter the cathedral, the first thing you notice is the outstanding alter. However, I don’t have any photos of it as the main altar area did not allow photographs. The highlight of the alter area is the magnificent sarcophagus to St. Stanislaus who was martyred in the 11th century.
Even though I came here fairly late in the day, I was still able to go down and visit the crypt. This is where the kings and queens of Poland were laid to rest, mostly from the 16th- to 18th-centuries. The one who started this was King Sigismund I the Old, who laid his wife to rest in the new crypt in 1533. He followed in 1548, and over the next two hundred years 8 more monarchs were interred here. Other Polish heroes were buried in the vaults.
I’m not sure why, but I don’t often visit the crypts when visiting cathedrals. Given my interest in all kinds of burials and memorials, this is something that I will try to rectify in the future, as these (and other) crypts were a lot more interesting than I expected. Even though the sterile nature of a church provides a very different experience to visiting an outdoor cemetery, it’s still worthwhile.
Monuments: Many royal sarcophaguses both above in the cathedral and in the crypt below.
Grounds: The cathedral doesn’t take that long to visit, I spent at least twice as long in the crypt below, even though it is a smaller space.
Visitors: Wawel Cathedral is on Wawel Hill, the main tourist site of Kraków, so it’s safe to say that there will be a fair number of visitors at any time of day. However, I noticed that the crypt did not attract as many people, and save for a school group that was down there when I was there, I mostly had the place to myself.
Notes: Photography is more restricted within the cathedral in certain locations.
Site: The Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus on the Wawel Hill (Królewska Bazylika Archikatedralna śś. Stanisława i Wacława na Wawelu)
Established: It’s over 900 years old – the first was established in the 11th century, the current one is from the 1300s
Notable Internments: The royals of Poland, most notably King Sigismund II Augustus and Anna Jagiellon and their children, as well as other national heroes, artists, politicians and generals.
Location: Wawel 3, 31-001 Kraków
Hours: Cathedral (Mon-Sat 09:00-17:00, Sun 12:30-17:00), Crypt (Mon-Sun 09:00-17:00). The Cathedral is free, but the crypt and museum will cost 12 zlotys.
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