St Barbara’s Church
Mały Rynek 8
The small, Gothic church of St Barbara is situated in the heart of the city, where it is huddled between buildings that used to stand – believe it or not – in the centre of a cemetery. How come?
The small, Gothic Church of St Barbara was built in the 14th century, and its construction was partially financed by Queen Jadwiga; today a saint and patron of Poland. Initially, it must have played the role of a cemetery chapel, as it stands within the former cemetery that used to surround Saint Mary’s Church (today’s Mariacki Square).
The church is connected to the compound of the Jesuit monastery (the corner of the Small Market Square and ul. Sienna). Late in the 18th century it housed the University’s clinical hospital. Its head was Professor Rafał Józef Czerwiakowski, father of Polish surgery and anatomy, who conducted post-mortems and exercises on cadavers on the premises. The materials used were the bodies of executed prisoners, and of poor people bought in secret from gravediggers. The news that the professor “cuts up dead bodies” resulted in such an outrage among the people of Kraków that for a time the medic had to be escorted by the municipal police so as to be able to walk about the city!
Be sure to see:
- the outdoor Gothic Garden of Olives from the school of Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz) from the end of the 15th century (western wall of the church, from the side of pl. Mariacki)
- the stone pieta from the early 15th century, a work of a sculptor from the circle of the Master of the Beautiful Madonnas (inside, in a chapel-niche, on the left hand from the high altar)
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