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St Mary Basilica is a Brick Gothic church adjacent to the Main Market Square in Kraków, Poland. Built in the 14th century, its foundations date back to the early 13th century and serve as one of the best examples of Polish Gothic architecture. Standing 80 m tall, it is particularly famous for its wooden altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss. St Mary Basilica is the largest church in Krakow, and, after Wawel, the most important place of worship in Poland. Built of red brick and with two towers of unequal height and form, it is not conventionally attractive. However, like many places in Krakow, it may well grow on you.
St. Mary Basilica Visit and Tours
On every hour, a trumpet signal—called the Hejnał Mariacki—is played from the top of the taller of Saint Mary's two towers. It is one of the city's most enduring traditions. The plaintive tune breaks off in mid-stream, to commemorate the famous 13th century trumpeter, who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city. The noon-time hejnał is heard across Poland and abroad broadcast live by the Polish national Radio 1 Station. It is a must thing to do at St Mary Basilica; don't miss it. Mariacki Tower (from which the hejnał is played) is open to tourists from April until end of December (including September and October, when the rest of the church is closed), but a separate ticket is required.
No matter how many times you see them - the altarpiece, stained glass windows of the nave, and the blue, starred ceiling on St. Mary's will take your breath away. The magnificent wooden altarpiece was the principal work of 15th century German artist Veit Stoss (aka Wit Stwosz) for 12 painstaking years, and depicts the Virgin Mary's Quietus among the apostles; note, however, that gradual conservation work on the altar is currently underway (projected to last until 2020), and not all elements may be on display during your visit. Surrounding the altar are polychrome paintings by Polish masters Matejko, Mehoffer and Wyspiański done in the late 19th century.
Inside, the church may not be to everybody's taste. Crammed with gold and blues and studded with tombs and memorials in every conceivable corner, it is a complete assault on the senses. The recent restoration, although done with great care, nevertheless heightens this excessive quality. The church is well worth exploring, however, and if you are put off by first impressions, stay a while and have a look at some of the individual works of art. For there are some real treasures here; be they paintings, tombs or sculptures. The stained-glass windows are magnificent, at their most impressive at noon on a sunny day, when light floods in from outside. They were constructed in the late fourteenth century, and are masterpieces in their own right. But perhaps the most famous of all the monuments here, and understandably so, is Veit Stoss's extraordinary altar-piece.
How to Get Tickets?
The church is available for worship without paying an entry ticket via the main entrance. Tourists are asked to use a side entrance, however, and not visit during services. Tickets are purchased in a separate building across from the tourist entrance. You should visit the official website and check the tourist visiting hours before buying your tickets.
How To Get Around?
The church can be explored by walking. You can admire its architecture and history by touring around.
What Should I Wear?
There is no dress code at St Mary Basilica. You can wear whatever you want but still be respectful.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit is in the morning before it gets crowded. When the sun is up, you can see the beautiful sunlight from the windows inside the church, it's really beautiful.
Will I Need a Guide?
No, this website provides all the information you need. You won't get lost in the church and it's easy to get around.
How To Get There?
St Mary Basilica is located in the Main Square of Krakow. It's easy to get there by walking from the square. If you come from the airport or another part of the city, tram is the best choice to get here. Take the tram number 3 or 18, they stop just outside Main Square. From there, you can walk and find your way to the church.
St. Mary's Church is open to individual visitors and tourist groups every day when no Mass is being conducted. Half of the church is open to tourists, including the presbytery and its main altar.The second part of the church with the main entrance is limited to personal prayer in front of the Eucharist exhibited in the monstrance and to confession. During the visit, please keep silence.