Most of the Gothic churches in Poland are made of brick and characterized by the simplicity of form and the lack of towers, stained glass windows, and rich décor. In the south of the country, there are a few examples of wood and stone constructions, but brick was usually the material used.
The Church of Saint Mary, or Kościół Mariacki, is an aisled Gothic basilica with a transept, erected in the early 14th century. Two towers rise above the façade of the church on the Market Square side, the taller of which is called the Bugle Call Tower – it is 80 meters (262 feet) high and is topped with a late-Gothic cupola from 1478.
The earliest Gothic churches in Poland date from the first half of the 13th century. These were erected by the Dominican and Franciscan orders. Brick began to replace the hitherto ubiquitous stone; unplastered walls became a distinguishing mark of the architecture of that period.
Late Gothic in Poland comprises the 15th and early 16th century. Fewer new churches were then erected in the towns, but greater importance was attached to their elaborate vaulting and sculptural elements. In the countryside, beautiful wooden churches were built, bearing an imprint of the individual talent of local carpenters.
Toruń is the most Gothic urban complex in Poland. It is located in northern-central of the country, on the Vistula River. In 1997, the Old Town of Toruń was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Planning a trip to Poland? In this article, you will find information about the 6 most beautiful Gothic churches in Poland: from historical facts to opening hours, entry fee and more.
Visiting Gothic churches in Poland
I like visiting old churches. They are some of the great examples of the various kinds of architecture.
As you may know, I live in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. It is the largest Baroque city north of the Alps, so Baroque surrounds me every day and this Italian style of architecture is the most beautiful to me – it is highly ornate and extravagant.
You might also like: Ljubljana Cathedral: The most beautiful Baroque church in Slovenia
Gothic was born in France in 12th-century and flourished in Poland during the Middle Ages; this style was widely used, especially for castles and cathedrals, until Baroque times: the 16th century. Many Gothic churches have large, stained-glass windows, high towers decorated with spires and pinnacles and are heavily ornamented with strange, leering creatures; therefore, they look grotesque and a bit mysterious to me.
The 6 most beautiful Gothic churches in Poland
The Church of Saint Mary in Kraków
You can hear a solitary bugle call from the taller tower at the beginning of each hour. In summer, visitors can climb to the observation deck of this tower. The deck offers stunning views of the city.
Opening times & Ticket prices: http://mariacki.com
Address: Plac Mariacki 5, 31–042 Kraków
The Basilica of Saint Mary in Gdańsk
With its 105 m (344 ft) length and 66 m (217 ft) width, the Basilica of Saint Mary, or Bazylika Mariacka, is the largest church in Poland and the second-largest brick church in the world after San Petronio Basilica in Bologna, Italy. The massive tower (405 steps above the city), commanding a magnificent panorama of Gdańsk, has a height of 82 m (269 ft).
The church was built between 1343 and 1502. Upon completion, it could hold a congregation of twenty-five thousand! The austere church interior with exquisite vaulting, supported on 26 huge octagonal pillars, houses many valuable works of art.
Opening times & Ticket prices: https://bazylikamariacka.gdansk.pl
Address: ul. Podkramarska 5, 80–834 Gdańsk
The Church of Saint John in Gdańsk
Saint John’s Church, or Kościół św. Jana, may not be one of the most popular for tourists, but it is certainly one of the most beautiful. It was built between 1360 and 1465. The length of the church is 55 meters (180 feet) and the width is 20 meters (65 feet). The four-story tower has a height of 47 meters (154 feet).
In subsequent centuries the church was renovated several times. After bombing the city during WWII, the building was almost destroyed and several decades later, it was rebuilt in the style we know today. In 2006, the dark and overwhelming interior of the church was used as the scenery for the theater performances of the 10th Shakespeare Festival.
Opening hours & Ticket prices: http://centrumswjana.pl
Address: ul. Świętojańska 50, 80–840 Gdańsk
The Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus in Kraków
The Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus, or Wawel Cathedral, is a brick-and-stone church, built on the hill, at an altitude of 228 meters (748 feet) above sea level, in the period from 1320 to 1364. It is a proud symbol of Poland’s religious Heritage and political power.
The first Polish king to be crowned there was Władysław the Elbow-High (1260–1333), who was also the first ruler of Poland to be buried in the Cathedral.
Opening times & Ticket prices: http://www.katedra-wawelska.pl
Address: Wawel 3, 31-001 Kraków
The Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Warsaw
Built between 1409 and 1411, the Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Kościół Nawiedzenia Najświętszej Marii Panny, is one of the oldest buildings and one of the few surviving examples of Gothic architecture in Warsaw. Its most striking characteristic is the tower, features in many historic panorama paintings of the city.
Behind the church is a small park with a set of steps that lead down to the Vistula River.
Opening times & Ticket prices: http://www.przyrynek.waw.pl/
Address: ul. Przyrynek 2, 00-219 Warszawa
The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Toruń
The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Kościół Wniebowzięcia Najświętszej Marii Panny, was erected by the Franciscans at the end of the 13th century. According to the Franciscan rule, the church does not have a tower but three rather small ave-bell towers instead.
Between 1557 and 1724, it was used by the Protestant community. In 1636, a Baroque chapel was built in the church as the mausoleum to Anna Vasa, Polish and Swedish princess.
Opening times & Ticket prices: The church is in religious use thus the visit is possible outside the mass hours only. It is open for visitors all year round, all day long. No admission fee.
Address: Panny Marii 2, 87-100 Toruń
Have you been to Poland? Have you visited these 6 beautiful Gothic churches? If so, what did you think of the experience? Feel free to post a comment below.
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