About Wawel Cathedral
Wawel Cathedral (Cathedral Basilica of Saints Stanisław and Vaclav) is an iconic 14th century gothic building in Krakow in Poland steeped in the country’s history. Consecrated in 1364, Wawel Cathedral is located on Wawel Hill, one of the most historically significant areas in Poland, renowned as being the centre of the country’s power for hundreds of years.
History of Wawel Cathedral
In fact, the current Wawel Cathedral is not the first to be built on this site. King Bolesław Chrobry built the first Wawel Cathedral at the beginning of the first millennium. In approximately 1140, this building was succeeded by a new Wawel Cathedral which was destroyed by a fire in 1305. Today’s Wawel Cathedral was then built as a replacement.
Wawel Cathedral itself has played an important role in Poland’s past as the site of the majority of its coronations and royal funerals. It is also where many prominent Poles have been laid to rest. The crypts, tombstones and sarcophagi of these national icons are visible throughout the cathedral, including those of kings Władysław I, Casimir III the Great and Sigismund I and Saint Queen Hedwig, to name a few.
Wawel Cathedral’s chapels are fascinating in their own right, the most famous of which is Sigismund Chapel (Kaplica Zygmuntowska). In fact, every aspect of Wawel Cathedral seems to be immersed in history, from the prehistoric animal bones hanging on the door in the entrance to the shrine to Poland’s former bishop and current patron saint, St Stanislaus, the Konfesja Św Stanisława. Even the bell of Wawel Cathedral tells a story.
Known as the Sigismund Bell (Dzwon Zygmunta), this vast sixteenth century bell is the largest antique bell in Poland and weighs an astonishing eleven tonnes. Visitors can view the bell by climbing the seventy steps to where it resides.
Today, Wawel Cathedral is the seat of the archdiocese of Krakow. It also forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Wawel Cathedral today
The cathedral is something of a maze inside – the audio guide is extremely good (and helpful!) when it comes to navigating inside. You’ll have to pay to climb the 70 steps up to the Sigismund Bell, Poland’s largest historic bell which needs 8 men in order to ring it. The views across the city are fabulous. The Royal Crypts and Wawel Cathedral Museum opposite are also included in the fee.
Getting to Wawel Cathedral
Wawel Cathedral is located in central Krakow as part of the Wawel Royal Castle complex, just outside the Stare Miasto (Old Town). It’s an easy 15 minutes walk from the Old Town or you can catch the tram (stop Wawel) if you’re coming from further afield. Most visitors enter via Podzamcze
Explore the diverse history of Poland, from the great Barbakan to the beautiful Wilanow Palace, through our guide to 10 historic sites, landmarks and monuments to see when in Poland.