Church of Corpus Christi
ul. Bożego Ciała 26
For Kazimierz, this church was to be what St Mary’s was for Kraków. After six centuries of history marked by fires, restorations, and pillage, the monumental structure of the Corpus Christi Church still stands in the heart of Kazimierz and serves its parishioners.
There is a legend enshrouding the beginnings of the Corpus Christi Church standing behind its brick wall. They say it was King Casimir the Great (Kazimierz Wielki) himself who decided that he would build a church to honour the body of Christ (Latin: Corpus Christi) in the place where a stolen monstrance holding the host was miraculously retrieved: this is how the Polish chronicler Jan Długosz (Johannes Longinus) described the foundation of the church. The truth, however, is that Kazimierz, which was granted a charter in 1335, needed its own church. And it duly received one: situated on a large plot of land, far away from other developments, and surrounded by a cemetery. In 1405, it was entrusted into the care of the Canons Regular of the Lateran, brought here from Lower Silesia, who still carry out the mission.
This is where King of Sweden Charles Gustav made his headquarters during the Swedish invasion of 1655 (called the Swedish Deluge), and it is from here that he commanded the siege of Kraków. The monks were rounded up and practically imprisoned in a single cell and the sacristy. At the time the church’s interior and treasury, and the order’s library suffered great losses. This is the reason why the magnificent Gothic church has survived to this day with nearly solely baroque (added later) furnishings. The lavish decor was perfectly designed to match this most sublime manifestation of austere Gothic architecture.
An Italian architect and sculptor, Bartolomeo Berrecci – the artist to whom we owe the Sigismund Chapel in Wawel and many other Renaissance works – found his final resting place amidst the cool tranquillity of this church (in St Anne’s Chapel, to be precise). His place of burial is no coincidence, as he was a citizen and councillor of Kazimierz. He died in mysterious circumstances, when a dagger, most probably propelled by the hand of an jealous compatriot, reached Bartolomeo’s heart in the Main Market Square.
Be sure to see:
- a mid-17th-century portrayal of the Garden of Gethsemane with a late Gothic crucifix and a baroque figure of Christ stands outside the church, on the left by a side door
- the pulpit is in the highly original shape of a boat supported by two mermaids, and is a good example of Polish carpentry of the 18th century
- the paintings above the headrests of the choir stalls portray scenes from the life of the canons and of St Augustine
- the towering high altar with a painting of the Nativity of Christ, which literature refers to as The Homage of the Shepherds, with a baroque 17th-century tabernacle in the shape of a polygonal temple in its lower section
- the city’s largest organ, designed for 83 stops, 5950 pipes, and 25 bells (two octaves)
- the Chapel of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the Icon of Our Lady with an Apple famous for the graces by a side entry on the right side (southern aisle)
- a picturesque covered walkway, connecting the church to the intricate monastic compound
The church is open to visitors daily except during services.
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