Major Sites in Krakow
WORLD YOUTH DAY EVENTS
Błonia Park will host the main events during the week of World Youth Day: the Opening Ceremonies, the Papal Welcome Ceremony, and the Stations of the Cross. A vast meadow with an area of 48 hectares, Błonia Park is directly adjacent to the historic center of Kraków.
PILGRIM & TOURIST SPOTS
Kraków is a wonderful pilgrim city with a walkable Old Town and Major Shrines within the City.
While you are there, be sure to visit these points of interest:
Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny)
It’s the center of Kraków’s community life, bustling with activity and festivals. Within this main market square you will see: St. Adalbert, St. Mary’s Basilica, Cloth Hall, and the Town Hall tower.
St. Mary’s Basilica
The current basilica, with stunning Gothic architecture, is from the 14th century, though a church stood on the site more than 100 yrs even before that. The top left tower has a crown, representing royalty and Mary as the Queen of Heaven and of Poland.
Listen for the Hejnal, a bugle song, which is played from the tower every hour. It commemorates the watchman who long ago sounded this song to alert Krakow during a Tartar invasion. His alarm was broken midway as an enemy arrow pierced his throat. Every hour it is played by firemen who man the tower in 24 hr shifts, and it always ends abruptly mid tune, in remembrance of the watchman who gave his life.
This is the oldest church in Kraków, dating from the 10th century. It may look crooked to the square, but it is not. It is built facing east as all churches traditionally were. In that time the priest led the faithful in Mass, all facing east toward the rising sun, looking toward the Second Coming of the Son and our final judgement day.
In this estimation, it is the square that is crooked, not the church.
This is a great market for traditional Polish wares, and a prime place for souvenirs, tourists, and pickpockets alike. It has been a permanent structure since the 14th century, as a place for merchants. This structure however is from the 16th century built after a fire leveled the previous one. The “S” in the entry gable is for King Sigismund the Old, who built this “new” structure in the Italian Renaissance style. You can see marks of his renovations throughout the nation in the same style. (There are WC’s at either end! Important note for travelers)
Town Hall Tower
Very little remains of the 14th century town hall after the fire that also leveled the first Cloth Hall.
A symbol of Polish royalty and independence, it is the most visited site in the nation. A castle has stood here since the beginning of Polish history, and was the seat of the kings for over 500 years. The Wawel Cathedral was the site of most of the royal coronations and funerals for the last 1000yrs. It houses the tombs of nearly all of Poland’s most important rulers and historical figures, including the tomb of the 1st Polish Saint, St. Stanislaus (directly beneath the altar).
The Cathedral is very ecclectic with centuries of additions, unique to the style of the times. There is 12th century Romanesque, 14th c. Gothic, 16th c. Renaissance, 17th c. Baroque, and 18th/19th c. Neo Classical. One can still see bits of the original Romanesque structure made of white limestone.
Much of this area is free to enter, including: the main level of the Cathedral, the inner courtyard of the Castle, and the field of ruins from earlier structures. There are also several areas and museums for which there is an entrance fee, such as: the crypt and the JPII Cathedral Museum, the Sigismund tower, and the castle interior and exhibits.
“Have No Fear” Pope St. John Paul II Shrine
The church and center were officially consecrated June 2013, and there are great plans for its continued expansion. It is currently an important place to encounter “the person of John Paul II, his thoughts, his spirit, and his sanctity,” says Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz.
The lower church houses relics of JPII, while his body is entombed at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. The bronze door of the church depicts Pope St. John Paul II accompanied by saints and the blessed consecrated.
Divine Mercy Shrine at Lagiewniki
Built upon the convent where St. Faustina received the messages and image of the Divine Mercy, the 19th century convent of the sisters of Our Lady of Mercy has now become a part of the vast sanctuary. Pope St. John Paul II consecrated the new basilica in 2002. The original image of the Divine Mercy and St. Faustina’s relics are now housed at the altar of the new basilica.
There are frequent Masses held daily in both the convent church and new basilica. The chaplet of Divine Mercy is prayed daily at 3pm in both locations.