St Andrew’s Church
ul. Grodzka 54
One of Kraków’s oldest churches, St. Andrew’s captivates with its austere Romanesque form, contrasting with the baroque spires of the towers. Inside, it surprises with lavish, baroque and rococo furnishings.
Built in the 11th century, St Andrew’s is one of the oldest churches in Kraków. It captivates with its austere Romanesque form, contrasting with the baroque spires added in the 17th century. Its interior was also decorated in the baroque style.
In the first centuries of its existence, the Church of St Andrew served not only as a place of worship, but also as a fortress. Some would even call it the Lower Castle, to distinguish it from the Upper Castle standing nearby, atop Wawel Hill. The building featured thick stone walls, hard to penetrate or climb over, with loopholes that were used by archers of yesteryear. Soaring above the corpus are two octagonal towers with round arched windows, mullioned in the upper storey. According to a 15th-century chronicler, Jan Długosz (Latin: Johannes Longinus), the structure was so well fortified that it withstood the Tartar raid of 1241, providing shelter for the population, while the surrounding city was reduced to ruins.
In the 14th century, the church was entrusted to the Order of Poor Clares, who also had a convent built beside the church. The severe rule of the order enforces a life of contemplation, forbidding its nuns to contact the outside world.
They say that a mysterious figure of an old woman deep in prayer sometimes appears in the musical choir of the church. This is Sister Cassilda: a nun who died leaving a debt she incurred with a certain merchant to help her poor relatives. She retained peace after her death only when she managed to convince a rich aristocrat to pay her debt. The grateful spectral sister promised to pray for her benefactress.
In the treasury of the monastery, the Poor Clares have preserved precious relics, including mediaeval reliquaries and nativity mystery play figures from the early 14th century, offered to them, most probably by Elizabeth of Poland (Elżbieta Łokietkówna), sister of King Casimir the Great (Kazimierz Wielki) and Queen Consort of Hungary.
Be sure to see:
- baroque stucco decorations by Baldassare Fontana, a boat-shaped pulpit, high altar with a painting of St Andrew
- rococo musical choir and organ.
The church is only open during services.
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