ul. Franciszkańska 2
Austere Gothic architecture on the outside conceals gentle arches and an explosion of colours in the Art Nouveau polychrome wall decorations by Stanisław Wyspiański, the same artist who designed stained glass decoration for eight of the church’s windows.
The construction of a church designed for the Franciscan Order began thanks to the support of High Duke Boleslaus the Modest (Bolesław Wstydliwy), the monarch to whom Kraków owes its charter of 1257. The church became the final resting place of the Blessed Salomea, sister of the duke and founder. Frequent changes in the structure and decoration resulted among others from a number of great fires. Decisive for the exceptional atmosphere of the Franciscan Church are the works by Stanisław Wyspiański, representative of the Young Poland style. The artist designed the impressive Art Nouveau polychrome paintings and stained-glass windows. Most of the paintings on the walls of the choir and transept consist of geometrical and vegetal motifs, including common Polish flowers. The windows of the chancel feature the four elements and figures of the Blessed Salomea and St Francis. Dominating the entire church is the monumental stained glass window God the Father – Let There Be! situated above the main entrance to the church.
Services of the Archbrotherhood of the Passion of the Lord have been celebrated since 1620, and they are sung in the Chapel of the Lord’s Passion (taking the place of the northern aisle, i.e. situated on the right hand from the nave). The brethren cherish ancient customs: dressed in black habits with hoods covering their faces, they celebrate the so-called Jerusalem Procession, being a passion service held on every Friday of Lent. The two oldest among the brethren carry the skulls of a man and a woman fixed on wooden staffs. Time seems to slip back a few centuries when one observes these rituals.
The monastery of the Franciscan Order is adjacent to the church. According to legend, this is where Jadwiga of Poland of the House of Anjou (crowned here the King (!) of Poland in 1384) would secretly meet the Austrian prince William Habsburg, who she was originally to wed, before her hand was promised to Ladislaus (Władysław) Jagiełło of Lithuania.
In 2005, a picture of Karol Wojtyła in pontifical robes was unveiled in the monastery’s cloisters. Before becoming Pope, Wojtyła frequently prayed in the Franciscan Church, as commemorated by a specially marked pew he used when, as the Archbishop of Kraków, he lived in the Palace of Kraków Bishops, situated on the other side of Franciszkańska Street.
Be sure to see:
- the painting of Our Lady of Dolours famous for the graces and known as the Sorrowful Lady of Kraków (or the Sorrowful Benefactress, in the chapel on the left-hand side, i.e. replacing the southern aisle)
- Gothic cloister with fragments of contemporary wall painting
- gallery of portraits of Kraków Bishops from the 15th century (in the cloister)
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