Wawel Cathedral – the scene of the crowning of almost every Polish king and queen throughout history. The current cathedral is the third to be built on the site – the first was built of wood, probably around 1020. After it was destroyed by fire, it was replaced but the second cathedral also burnt down. Obviously, wood is not an appropriate material for buildings that are meant to survive. The current building was consecrated in 1364 and was built on the order of Poland’s first king to be crowned at Wawel – Wladyslaw the Short (also known as Wladyslaw the Elbow-high). It would appear he was of short stature, although since he was born in 1306 and crowned in 1319, it might be he had not yet grown to full height. He was crowned in the rubble of the second cathedral and died in 1333, so the current cathedral would not have been completed until well after his death.
The bell tower of the cathedral contains the largest bell in Poland. The bell is called “Zygmunt” and was commissioned by King Zygmunt I, later nicknamed Stary (the Old). The bell was hung in the tower of the cathedral on July 13, 1521 and is still rung by 11 Wawel bellringers on religious holidays. Attempts to operate the bell electrically failed.
Inside the cathedral is an incredible amount of history. At the center is the tomb of the former Bishop of Krakow, St. Stanislaw (1030-1079). The cathedral boasts 18 chapels, one of which is the 15th century Chapel of the Holy Cross which features some wonderful Russian murals as well as Veit Stoss’ 1492 marble sarcophagus to Kazimierz IV. There are Royal Crypts which are the final resting places of kings and statesmen – the most recent being former president Lech Kaczynski. Unfortunately, I am reading this history now, not when I was taking the pictures so I am unable to identify with any sense of surety what is what. Perhaps as I upload some of the photos, we can make guesses.
This completes our tour of Krakow. In our attempts to catch our train to return to Warsaw, Phyl reminds me that we found ourselves in the wrong area of the station and had to race to get to where we were supposed to be. That’s what happens when you can’t read signs, I guess!
Update: Somehow I skipped a photo when I originally did this post – turns out I had photos of three chapels. I suspect this one is actually the tomb of Bishop Stanislaws.