Most of the Gothic churches in Poland are made of brick and characterized by the simplicity of form and the lack of 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 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 centuries. 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.
The Church of St. Mary in Krakow
The Church of St. Mary (Kościół Mariacki) in Krakow 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.
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.
Address: Plac Mariacki 5, 31–042 Kraków, Poland.
Opening hours: 11:30–18:00 (every day).
The Basilica of St. Mary in Gdansk
With its 105 m (344 ft) length and 66 m (217 ft) width, the Basilica of St. Mary (Bazylika Mariacka) in Gdansk, is the largest Gothic 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 the city, 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.
Address: ul. Podkramarska 5, 80–834 Gdańsk, Poland.
Opening hours: 08:30–17:30/18:30 (Monday to Saturday); 11:00–12:00, 13:00–17:30/18:30 (Sunday).
Admission: free; tower with a viewing point: 10 PLN (full), 5 PLN (reduced).
The Church of St. John in Gdansk
St. John’s Church (Kościół św. Jana) in Gdansk 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.
Address: ul. Świętojańska 50, 80-840 Gdańsk, Poland.
Opening hours: 10:00–18:00 (Monday–Saturday); 15:00–18:00 (Sunday).
The Wawel Cathedral
The Wawel Cathedral (Katedra Wawelska) is a 14th-century brick-and-stone church built on a hill at an altitude of 228 meters (748 feet) above sea level. It is a proud symbol of Poland’s religious Heritage and political power.
The first Polish king to be crowned there was Wladyslaw the Elbow-High (1260–1333), who was also the first ruler of Poland to be buried in the Cathedral.
Address: Wawel 3, 31-001 Kraków, Poland.
Opening hours: 09:00–16:00/17:00 (every day); Cathedral Museum is closed on Sundays.
Admission: 14 PLN (full), 8 PLN (reduced).
The Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Warsaw
Erected at the beginning of the 15th century, the Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (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 featured 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.
Address: ul. Przyrynek 2, 00-219 Warsaw, Poland.
Opening hours: 06:00–21:00 (every day).
The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Torun
The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Kościół Wniebowzięcia Najświętszej Marii Panny) in Torun 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, a Polish and Swedish princess.
Address: Panny Marii 2, 87-100 Toruń, Poland.
Opening hours: 07:30–19:30 (Monday to Saturday), 07:00–19:30 (Sunday).
Poland (Polska) is located in Eastern Europe. With regards to its area, the country ranks 63rd place in the world and 9th in Europe.
What is Gothic Architecture?
Gothic was born in France in the 12th-century and flourished in Poland during the Middle Ages; this style was widely used, especially for castles and cathedrals, until Baroque times, that is, the 16th century. Many Gothic churches have large, stained-glass windows, high towers decorated with spires and pinnacles, and are ornamented with strange, leering creatures; therefore, they look grotesque and a bit mysterious.
Torun is the most Gothic urban complex in Poland. It is located in the northern-central of the country, on the Vistula River. In 1997, the Old Town of Torun was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Even if I am not religious I enjoy visiting old churches in European countries: each building is different and more beautiful than the other. Catholic churches fascinate me with their various architectural styles and, most importantly, they are a significant part of the cultural and historical heritage of any European country.
Poland is one of the most Catholic countries in Europe and boasts many still-operating Catholic churches. Although I prefer chic Baroque, visiting Catholic churches in the Gothic style also gives me positive emotions.
I hope you enjoyed my The 6 most beautiful Gothic churches in Poland post. If you like Poland and its beautiful Catholic churches, here are a few more posts that I recommend you read next:
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