Wawel Castle, Krakow

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  • breughel's Profile Photo

    Dragon’s Den - Smok Wawelski

    by breughel Updated Jan 30, 2014

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    Bones from
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    I passed 4-5 times in front of the Smok Wawelski, down the Wavell Hill, expecting to film the Dragon's sculpture when breathing fire but each time my camera was ready "Smok" as he is called in Krakow ceased spurting fire to start again when I was out of reach !
    A nasty beast not only devouring sheep but also showing sexual harassment (as it is now called) of the local young ladies.
    Finally a king called Grakch or Cracus put an end to the exploits of the dragon and Cracovia was named after king Cracus.
    If you don't believe the story go to the entrance of the Cathedral. After Smok exploded eating a dummy sheep stuffed with tar and sulphur, his bones were put to hang left of the cathedral's door as you can see from my photo.

    I always wondered what historical facts, if any, are behind such legends. The oldest version is from the 13th c. A zoologist must be able to identify the bones at the cathedral. The largest of them seems to be a bone from a whale or a mammoth.
    What is sure is that in the history of Poland at the end of the 8th c. a Cracus succeeded to princes of the family Lechus and that the sculpture of the dragon is not older than 1972. A pet monster for children and a tourist attraction.

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    WAWEL CATHEDRAL

    by breughel Updated Jan 30, 2014

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    The Wawel Cathedral is with the St.Mary's Basilica the most imposing and most visited church of Krakow. The Cathedral is in fact a national monument, a Pantheon, where are the tombs of most eminent Polish personalities .

    Inside the Cathedral, as inside the Castle, there is a strict interdiction of taking photographs. It seemed to me that the management of this historical site shows some signs of "photophobia" in their way of chasing any tentative to take a picture as souvenir from the visit.
    Consequently I have no visual marks to remember me what I liked on my visit of the Cathedral .

    When entering the Cathedral I saw immediately that there was not only crowds of visitors, often groups, but that this church is really overcrowded with religious monuments of all kinds. As soon as you enter you face at a short distance the imposing mausoleum (1630) of St. Stanislav, Poland's saint patron, the 11th-century Krakow bishop murdered by King Boleslav II . The silver coffin is just amazing but this monument blocks any perspective on the remaining part of the nave .

    And that is only the start. There are nearly one hundred tombs - often real treasures of art - of saints, kings, prelates. Not one square meter is left free. Most remarkable is the tall Black Christ's Crucifix from Queen-Saint Jadwiga. There are also 18 side chapels full of treasures .

    The visit of the Cathedral took me more than one hour, nearly two hours with Crypts, Bell and Museum.
    The admission to the Cathedral is free, but a ticket at a cost of 10 PLN, reduced 5 PLN, is necessary to enter the adjoining Crypts and Bell, and is also valid for the Cathedral Museum.
    The ticket office is across from the Cathedral entrance.
    The Cathedral is open from 9h -17h (16h Oct- March), Sunday 12h30- 17h. (Cathedral museum is closed on Sunday).
    I strongly recommend hiring an audio guide (7 languages on choice) at a price of 7 PLN (+ deposit of 50 PLN) to have a full explanation on the most remarkable items to be seen.

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    Wawel Cathedral and Cathedral Museum

    by Airpunk Written Oct 21, 2013

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    Wawel Cathedral, Krakow
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    This is Poland's main Cathedral and contains what is considered to be the national mausoleum. Around 1020, the first church was built on this spot, followed by a larger building in the 12th century. The current building was finished in 1364, but there are still some elements from the predecessor buildings. The cathedral contains many pieces of arts and relics, including the tomb of Poland's patron saint St. Stanislav. Items worth to mention are the Sigismund Bell, the marble sarcophagus made by Veit Stoss and the black Christ of Queen Jadwiga. There are 18 side chapels in total. The crypt includes the tombs of many famous Polish kings and Jozef Pilsudski. Although many people did not want Lech Kaczynski's body to rest there, he was buried there as well in 2010. A statue of Pope John Paul II., once bishop of Krakow, is located in front of the Cathedral. The Cathedral is probably not the most impressive, but there are few with more single items to see.

    To see the Cathedral and Cathedral Museum (with more stuff, named after John Paul II.), there is an entry fee (12 zloty, 2009). There is an audioguide available for a small fee (desposit required). This guide is essential, if you want to know more about all the items in the Cathedral. Usually, I prefer English audioguides over any other non-native audioguide due to translation issues. As there was no English left, I took the German one which was incredibly good.

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    Wawel Hill and Castle

    by Airpunk Written Oct 21, 2013
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    The heart of Poland is Wawel Hill, where the castle of the former kings and the cathedral look over the city of Kraków.
    Wawel Hill can be accessed for free and you can have a look around at courts and buildings. To enter most of the buildings however, there is a visitor centre. There is a central visitor centre from which you can buy the tickets for the different attractions. This means that you have several combinations to choose from, some of them include discounts. Inside any of the exhibitions (castle and cathedral) pictures are not allowed.
    Together with Wawel Cathedral (see separate tip), the castle is the main point of interest. Wawel castle dates back to the 11th century and of course was altered and expanded several times, especially under Casimir III the Great when it gained its importance. Fires in 1499 and 1702 have given the castle a big portion of the respective time's style. From the last Polish partition (1789) until the end of WWII, it fell into disrepair. Just during the communist rule, it was restored to become today's tourist attractions. Unfortunately, I have not seen the exhibitions in the castle. The Dragon Den is a nice cave tunnel, but surely not a must-do. The Dragon sculpture from 1972 was placed there in reference to a legend that a Dragon called Smok once lived on Wawel Hill.

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    Royal Chambers - State Rooms

    by breughel Updated Oct 20, 2013

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    Entrance to the State Rooms guided visit.
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    My trip to Krakow was motivated by the famous tapestry collection of King Sigismund II Augustus on display in the State Rooms as well as the historical interiors, royal portraits, Italian Renaissance furniture, Italian and Dutch paintings of the 14th to 17th century of this part of the castle.

    From the original 350 tapestries commissioned by the King at best Brussels weavers "lissiers" 137 survived of which about 30 are shown in the Royal Chambers. There are three types of subjects: biblical scenes, landscapes with animals called "verdures" and smaller ones showing arms and grotesques .

    I must say that my visit was a bit of a disappointment. The largest tapestries with biblical scenes have somewhat faded colors but the "verdures" are beautiful. I especially admired a "verdure" made not in Brussels but in Oudenaerde .
    Irritating was the fact that our guide was pushed by some head supervisor of the museum to make it short. It was Friday afternoon and the supervisors wanted to take their week-end ! Those who participated to the visit will remember that women with a red jacket telling our guide "only 5 minutes left" .

    Furthermore no photos are allowed inside the castle and I found nowhere an illustrated catalogue of the tapestries. So if you want to admire medieval tapestries better go to the Cluny museum in Paris where you can take all your time and make all photos you want .
    The Royal Chambers were the only negative part of my visit of Krakow and my deception was amply compensated by the many marvels of art I saw in the many churches of Krakow .

    Price: normal 18 Pln, reduced 11 Pln (in winter 16 & 9 Pln).
    Tickets are issued for definite entrance hours.
    The photo of the Brussel's tapestry is from another castle.

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    Wawel Cathedral

    by shavy Written Sep 8, 2013
    Wawel Cathedral

    The Cathedral is next to the Wawel Palace one of the main churches of Poland, the church has a history of over 1000 years. All Polish monarchs were crowned here. And members of the Polish royal family who passed away most of them are buried along the side of the cathedral

    The church houses has a numerous of treasures, from Renaissance to Baroque and Classicist about modern art. The central part of the ship is occupied by the Mausoleum of Stanislav, the patron saint of Krakow. 18 chapels full of art treasures surround the cathedral. The best known are the Renaissance Sigismund Kapel with its golden dome and Baroque Vase Kapel of black marble

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    Wawel Castle

    by Pedro1965 Written Aug 14, 2013

    Wawel Castle is the best point in order to visit krakow !!!
    You can start here and then move into the old town. Inside the walls of the castle, we visited a huge group of monuments, including the cathedral. It is recommended to walk inside and around the walls, you can find interesting places (to see and to rest). Let me recomend to take your time to visit every corner.

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    Splendid Castle

    by roamer61 Written Jun 17, 2013

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    Wawel Castle is one of Krakow's main attractions. It is located on Wawel Hill, an area which it shares with the cathedral (See tip).

    The history of the castle goes all the way back to the 11th century when the first castle building was erected. It was expanded upon in the 14th until a great fire in 1499. It was during the height of the Renaissance in the 16th century that much of what we see today was built.
    In 1702, during the period of Swedish occupation, there was a second fire. It was restored, but not to its former grandeur. Towards the end of the 18th century, the castle was taken over by the Austrian Habsburgs. When they left early in the 20th century, it was returned to the Poles who restored it and eventually opened it as a state museum.

    As there is a great deal to see and do, individual tickets are available for different parts. Though its free to explore the castle exterior and the hill itself with sweeping views over the city.

    You can purchase tickets at one of 2 main ticket offices. Most people get tickets for the State Rooms, Royal private apartments and one or more of the adjacent museums. All can be seen independently with the exception of the Royal Private Apartments, which are led by a museum guide in your chosen language.
    Regardless, plan on spending at least several hours here. There is also a cafe and an excellent book and souvenir shop.

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    Wawel Cathedral

    by roamer61 Written Jun 13, 2013

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    The royal cathedral of Krakow is located on Wawel Hill, adjacent to the castle. The cathedral is 900 years old, but, the current building dates to the 14th Century as the 2 previous versions were each destroyed by fire and rebuilt.
    The cathedral has been the main coronation site for Polish Monarchs and is also the final resting place for many of them. Other notables of Polish ancestry are buried here as well. The crypt underneath the cathedral holds many other burials of royals, some dating back many centuries.

    Notable monarchs at rest here include Casimir III called the Great, Augustus II the Strong and many others.

    Admission is charged and tickets can be purchased in the cathedral ticket office across the road.
    The cathedral, along with the adjacent castle, is one of Krakow's primary historic sites.

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    Wawel Castle

    by Jetgirly Written Dec 9, 2012

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    Wawel Castle & Cathedral
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    Wawel Castle was built in the 1300s by Casimir III the Great, and for the next two hundred years or so the castle was decorated sumptuously. Unfortunately, when the Polish capital was moved to Warsaw the site fell into disrepair, and it wasn't until after WWII that the castle became an important touristic attraction. The castle is home to the Crown Treasure and Poland's crown jewels, and it also serves as a temporary home for one of Leonardo da Vinci's three oil paintings: Lady with an Ermine. Entrance to much of the grounds, including a beautiful courtyard, is free, though those wanting to enter the castle interior, or the Cathedral's museum, tombs or bell tower will have to pay.

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    The Wavel Cathedral.

    by Askla Updated Dec 4, 2012

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    The impressing cathedral we can see today is the third church on the same spot, built between 1320 and 1364. The first one was built by the first Polish king, Boleslaw Chrobry, in around 1020. It was replaced by a larger Romanesque church in the 12th century. The only remnant of this one is the St. Leonard's Crypt. You can reach it through the Cathedral, just remember that the exit is outside so better finish off your church visit by this.
    In the nave there is a mausoleum of St. Stanislaus, the patron saint of Poland. The silver coffin was made in ~1670, the baldachin in 1625 - 30.
    There are some 18 chapels surrounding the church, the most famous being the Sigismund Chapel, but also the Chapel of the Holy Cross, to the right just inside the entrance, is famous due to its frescoes from 1470 and the marble sarchophagus made in 1492 by Veit Stoss (the creator of the altar in St. Mary's Church). When I visited there was a TV program recorded by the national TV company, TVP Polonia, on this chapel, so I could'n see the sarchophagus because it was too crovded. When I left the chapel I was told that we were not allowed to take photos inside the church, so these are the only pictures I have to show.

    There are lots to see in the church, but it takes much too far to write about it all here when I can't refer to any pictures. Instead I post some links (in Polish) where you can 1) see a plan of the cathedral and 2) get the visiting hours.

    Plan of cathedral.
    Visiting hours.

    In the latter page "Dla turystów indywidualnych" means individual tourists.
    "Kwiecien – Wrzesien" means April - Sept, "Padziernik – Marzec" means October - March.
    "Pon. - Sob." are abbrevations for Mon - Sat, "Niedz." is for Sunday.

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    Wavel Castle - the city symbol.

    by Askla Updated Dec 4, 2012

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    The first building on the Wavel hill, a Romanesque stone building, was built in the middle of the 11th century. Remains are located in the northern wing of the present-day castle.
    In the 14th century the castle was expanded by Wladislaw the Short, and his son Kaziemirz Wielki (Casimirs the Great, who grounded the Kaziemirz city).
    After a fire in 1595 King Sigismund III Wasa had it rebuilt and what we can now see dates from that time.

    When you visit the castle and the exhibitions you have to be aware that not all rooms are opened at the same time, the number of visitors are in some cases limited and that there might be free entrance to some of the rooms on certain days during the week. The link I have posted will help you in planing your visit. It also has a very good map of the hill.

    For more pictures, please see my Travelogues.

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    Monument of Saint Jadwiga

    by fachd Written Oct 31, 2012

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    Monument of Saint Jadwiga is located at Wawel Cathedral I am not sure why she’s a saint and according to the story she‘s always prayed at the black crucifix at Wawel Cathedral and one day whilst she was praying Christ on the cross spoke to her. Also there are many story regarding miracles. She was canonized in 1997, by Polish-born Pope John Paul II.

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    Tomb of King Kazimir III the great

    by fachd Updated Oct 31, 2012

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    Tomb of King Kazimir III the great
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    Tomb of King Kazimir III the great is located at Wawel Cathedral. He was the last king of Poland from Piast dynasty. He did many great thing for Poland including built many castles, reformed the Polish law and army, expand the Polish land.

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    Wawel Cathedral

    by fachd Updated Oct 31, 2012

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    Entrance to the cathedral
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    Wawel Cathedral this 900 years catholic cathedral is located on Wawel Hill Krakow. It has been rebuilt throughout her career and originally it was built in gothic style. The interior of the cathedral is ornate. Inside the two Kings tomb can be found and of them is tomb of King KazimirIII the great. It is also important burial place of Polish national heroes. In my opinion Wawel cathedral is not the best I’ve seen.

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