Architecture Around the World
.................Poland - Table of Contents

Church of St. Mary (Kosciol Mariacki)
AKA The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary
pl. Mariacki, adjacent to the Main Market Square in Cracow (Kraków) Poland

Church built:

1355- early 16th century

Exterior style:

Primarily Gothic

Interior styles:

Gothic to 19th-century Gothic Revival
Baroque to Liberty (Italian Art Nouveau)

TEXT beneath illustrations

Click on illustrations for larger size -- and additional information

15th century asymmetrical towers

1478 Hejnal Tower. See text below.

Renaissance style dome finished in 16th century

Hand made bricks

Baroque pentagonal porch built in mid-18th century to a design by Fracesco Placidi

Gothic windows and ribbed ceiling

Gothic ribbed ceiling

Gothic ribbed ceiling

Gothic ribbed ceiling

Stained glass window detail

Trefoil and cinquefoil shapes in stained glass window tracery

Art Nouveau style

Gothic style niche and statue

Choir seating in chancel

Gilded Gothic pulpit

Gilded Gothic pulpit

Art Nouveau style wall painting ... Gothic ribbed ceiling

The church was built on the site of a Romanesque church founded at the beginning of the 13th century.

St. Mary's Basilica also served as an architectural model for many of the churches that were built by the Polish diaspora abroad, particularly those like St. Michael's and St. John Cantius in Chicago, designed in the so-called Polish Cathedral style.
The church is familiar to many English-speaking readers from the 1929 book The Trumpeter of Krakow, by Eric P. Kelly.

Upper tower

The Hejnal Tower was completed in 1478. The golden crown, symbol of the Virgin Mary as Queen of Poland, was added 1666.

The tower has served as a watchtower since the Middle Ages. In the past the guards would raise the alarm in the case of fire or of enemy attack.

Today the firemen on duty must be vigilant in the prevention of fire but have also to play on the hour a musical phrase "hejnal mariacki." Since "hejnal" is a word of Hungarian origin meaning "morning," the phrase might then be interpreted as "awake," a sort of military reveille to wake the town, a theory reinforced by the sprightly tune.

Today it is not only heard in the morning but divides the day: every hour a trumpeter sounds the hejnal to the points of the compass and at midday, Radio I Poland broadcasts the tune throughout Poland. Radio equipment was first installed in the tower in 1926. The sound of this tune, echoing as it has done for years among the old city walls around the church gives the old quarter a character that is quite unique.


The decoration of the church interior, its paintings and stained glass windows are in a range of styles: from the Gothic to 19th-century Gothic Revival, from the Baroque to Liberty (Italian Art Nouveau).