St Mary Magdalene Square


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Walking from Wawel along Kanonicza or Grodzka street towards the Main Market Square, you come upon St Mary Magdalene Square: the history of this section of Kraków’s city centre dates back to the days preceding the Great Kraków Charter of 1257.

Walking from Wawel along Kanonicza or Grodzka towards the Main Market Square, you pass by the Square of St Mary Magdalene. It commands an impressive view of the baroque Church of St Peter and St Paul. The name of the square comes from the medieval church that used to stand here. The church, which was dismantled in the early 19th century, is recalled by the outline of its foundations marked on the square.

The history of this part of Kraków dates back to times long predating the Great Charter of the city from 1257. A fortified wooden settlement known as Okół existed here in the early Middle Ages. It stretched from Wawel Hill to today’s plac Dominikański square, and was a borough at the foot of Wawel, inhabited by merchants and craftsmen. Okół was a centre of trade developing around the Church of St Andrew. In 1241 the fortified church withstood a Tatar raid that saw Okół burnt down, thus managing to save some of its population. The church captivates with its austere, Romanesque stone form to this day.

Okół was rebuilt as Nova Civitas (new city) and it became a part of quickly developing Kraków. In the 14th century, the former castle borough was included within the perimeter of the municipal city walls. A map of the historical centre of Kraków still shows a contrast between the irregularity of the former “New City” and the order of the streets delineated around the Main Market Square in 1257.

Be sure to see:

  • monument (2001) to Fr Piotr Skarga (d. 1612), a Jesuit and leading representative of the Counter-Reformation in Poland, writer and preacher to King Sigismund III Vasa and his court; the body of the Jesuit was interred in the church of St Peter and St Paul standing opposite the square
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