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Krakow's Churches
Krakow
St Wencelas and St Stanislas
Royal Cathedral

The construction of present Gothic cathedral was begun in 1320. By 1346 the presbytery was completed and the entire church was consecrated in 1364. Cathedral's location on the edge of the Wawel Hill and partial use of earlier-existing walls resulted in few irregularities of the ground plan. Through the almost 700 years of its existing the cathedral was surrounded by chapels, founded by members of the ruling dynasties, bishops and some magnate families. In the 17th century the cathedral was fenced with a wall with three gates. The top of the clocktower was built in th 18th century and the vaults of the ambulatory was risen in that times. Remodelling continued into the 19th and 20th century.

As a result, the original Gothic cathedral has been largely overshadowed. The fašade of the temple retained its original form only in the upper section, in its triangular gable of stone blocks, decorated with Gothic windows, a eagle in relief and the figure of St Stanislaus. The lower part of the fašade is hidden by two Late Gothic burial chapels. The main features of view from south side are the partly Romanesque Silver Bells Tower, the gable of the south wing of the transept and the sequence of Renaissance chapels: the Sigismund Chapel capped with a goldleaf dome designed in 1517 by Bartolomeo Berecci, the Vasa Chapel its replica and the more modest chapels of the bishops Padniewski, Zadzik and Zaluski.

The cathedral was built at the beginning of the classical era in Cracow's Gothic architecture and was overshadowed later by more spacious Gothic city churches. One of the most interesting features is the presbytery, built on a plan of rectangle, with an ambulatory.

The interior of the cathedral was radically changed in the 17th century, when a series of triumphal arches was built along the main axis. In the centre of the church in the crossing of the nave and transept stands St Stanislaus confession built by Jan Trevano from 1620 to 1629. It has a form of a dome based on four pillars, spanning over an altar with a silver coffin. On the pillars surrounding St Stanislaus' shrine four funerary monuments of Cracow bishops were placed. The low and dark aisles of the presbytery contrasts with the ambulatory, which is much higher and full of light.

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