The towering edifice of St. Mary’s Cathedral, at over 260 feet tall, dominates the landscape of Rynek Glowny, the vast open space of Old Town Square in Krakow.
Originally built in the early 13th Century, St. Mary’s was rebuilt in brick Gothic style in the 14th century and completed in 1347 during the reign of Casimir III the Great.
As impressive as the exterior is, it’s when you step inside that St. Mary’s reveals its greatest glories. Take a couple of minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darker interior and then let them feast on the most splendid, ornately decorated cathedral interior you’ve ever witnessed. Virtually every square inch is painted, carved, frescoed, tiled, draped or otherwise covered in the most fabulous and colorful decorations imaginable. Words truly cannot do it justice.
The most famous piece is the main altar, carved from wood by a man named Veit Stoss. The altarpiece is done in a triptych, or three-panel design and is, in fact, the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world at 40 feet wide by 34 feet tall when fully open and extended. It’s covered in richly detailed figures carved from oak and linden wood depicting various Biblical characters and events, most prominently the Assumption of the Madonna, which makes sense for a church named for that event. Side panels depict other scenes from Mary’s life, mostly with Jesus, including the Nativity, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.