Church of Sts Peter and Paul
ul. Grodzka 52a
Kraków’s first church inspired by the sacred architecture of Roman baroque; with a magnificent stone façade and masterly designed dome, provides a key element in the panorama of the city.
In the second half of the 16th century, after the Council of Trent, Jesuits arrived in Kraków, bringing the ideas of the Counter-Reformation and a new vision of baroque church architecture. Initially, they made use of the modest church of St Barbara, soon, however the idea of erecting a more imposing church took hold. To carry out the Counter-Reformation mission of the order, the church was to be raised in the centre of the city and dominate its urban tissue. After successful fundraising – including a donation by King Sigismund III Vasa (Zygmunt III Waza), a committed figure when it came to religious matters, Poland’s first baroque church was built in 1597–1619. Its design was modelled on the Jesuit mother church Il Gesù in Rome, considered the paradigm of early baroque.
The construction was not easy: once raised, the walls began to crack and the reinforcement of their foundations required taking them down. It was only the third architect employed, Giovanni Trevano, who managed to introduce appropriate amendments to the design, cover the church with a dome, and put the impressive façade of stone blocks in front of it. The monumental architecture of the interior is sparing, almost austere. Attention is primarily drawn to the high altar with a painting depicting the presentation of keys to Rome to St Peter.
The crypt under the chancel is the resting place of a Jesuit, Piotr Skarga (d. 1612), the leading representative of the Counter-Reformation in Poland, writer and court preacher to King Sigismund III Vasa. In 2012, on the 400th anniversary of the priest’s death, the first part of a new national pantheon opened in the vaults of the church. The first earthly remains to be interred here belonged to the writer Sławomir Mrożek (2013).
Be sure to see:
- the railing with late baroque figures of the 12 Apostles (copies)
- interior stucco-decoration by Giovanni Batista Falconi
- gilded figures of the four evangelists in the drum of the dome, another work of Falconi
Foucault’s Pendulum demonstrations: Thu 10am, 11am, 12pm (midday)
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