Gothic Architecture: St. Mary’s Basilica in Gdansk, Poland

by Arūnas
Saint Mary's Basilica – Visit the largest Brick Gothic church in Poland

The Basilica of St. Mary (Polish: Bazylika Mariacka) is the largest Brick Gothic church in Poland and the third-largest in the world after San Petronio Basilica in Bologna, Italy and the Frauenkirche in Munich, Germany. It can accommodate about 25 000 people.

Interesting historical facts about the church:

  • It was built between 1343 and 1502, so the construction took 159 years!
  • In the 16th century, the Reformation arrived in Gdansk, and the Protestants took over the temple. Until 1945, it was the second-largest Lutheran church in the world.
  • Tragically, the church was heavily damaged at the end of World War II, during the storming of the city by the Red Army, and what can be seen today is the result of restoration.

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St. Mary’s Basilica Architecture

A church, whose construction began in 1343, already in 1379 turned out too small to satisfy the ambition of the local oligarchy, who accordingly commissioned the Danzig architect Heinrich Ungeradin to build a new one. In the same year, the construction of the present church was begun. The architecture of the building most likely was inspired by the St. Mary’s Church in Lubeck, Germany – the first great example of the Brick Gothic style. 

The length of the church is 105 meters (344 feet), the width of the transept is 66 meters (217 feet), and of the body of the church – 44 meters (144 feet).  The vaults in the ceiling are 30 meters (98 feet) high and are carried up by 26 pillars in white.

The austere church interior houses many valuable works of art, including a 15th-century “Beautiful Madonna” and a copy of “The Last Judgement” by the German painter Hans Memling (the original can be seen in the National Museum). There are 31 chapels, 300 tombstones, 36 large windows, a great astronomical clock, and a beautiful organ. The high altar has an immense Gothic polyptych (1511–1517) from the workshop of Master Michael of Augsburg, with the Coronation of the Virgin depicted in its central panel.

Next to the sacristy is the reconstruction of a 12-meter astronomical clock (1464–1470), the work of German clockmaker Hans Duringer. It is the largest astronomical clock that was constructed in medieval Europe. 

The clock contains a majority of its original elements and shows not only the time and date but also the calendar of saints, the moon phases, the positions of the sun and moon in relation to the Zodiac, with Adam and Eve ringing in the hours.

The massive square tower, clearly visible on the Gdansk cityscape, is 82 meters (269 feet) high. In the old days, it served an important function but today it is just an observation platform. To get to the top you have to climb 405 steps

The Basilica of St. Mary is one of the famous objects of Poland’s cultural heritage. Now it is the most visited church in Gdansk.

Address: ul. Podkramarska 5 80–834, Gdansk, Poland

Official website: Bazylika Mariacka Gdańsk

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