Cathedrals in Poland

St. John's Archcathedral

St. John's Archcathedral in Warsaw stands immediately adjacent to Warsaw's Jesuit church, and is one of the oldest churches in the city. St. John's Archcathedral is one of Poland's national pantheons. Along with the city, the church has been listed by UNESCO as of cultural significance. Originally built in the 14th century in Masovian Gothic style, the Cathedral served as a coronation and burial site for numerous Dukes o ...
Founded: 1390 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Wawel Cathedral

The Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus is a Roman Catholic church located on Wawel Castle hill. More than 900 years old, it is the Polish national sanctuary and traditionally has served as coronation site of the Polish monarchs as well as the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Kraków. The current, Gothic cathedral, is the third edifice on this site: the first was constructed and destroyed ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Kraków, Poland

St. Mary's Church

St. Mary's Church (Bazylika Mariacka) is the largest brick church in the world. According to tradition, as early as 1243 a wooden Church of the Assumption existed at this site, built by Prince Swantopolk II. The foundation stone for the new brick church was placed on on 25 March 1343. At first a six-span bay basilica with a low turret was built, erected from 1343 to 1360. Parts of the pillars and lower levels of the turre ...
Founded: 1343 | Location: Gdańsk, Poland

Wroclaw Cathedral

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is a landmark of the city of Wrocław in Poland. The current standing cathedral is the fourth church to have been built on the site. A first church at the location of the present cathedral was built under Přemyslid rule in the mid 10th century, a fieldstone building with one nave about 25 m in length, including a distinctive transept and an apse. After the Polish conquest of ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Wrocław, Poland

Torun Cathedral

Church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, since 1935 Minor Basilica, since 1992 the Cathedral of Toruń Diocese, is former main parish church of Old Town of Toruń. One of three Gothic churches of the town, built from brick, an aisled hall with a monumental west tower. The first church from the 13th century was a small hall without aisles and with polygonal presbytery. This was replaced by aisled ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Toruń, Poland

Oliwa Cathedral

Oliwa Cathedral is dedicated to The Holy Trinity, Blessed Virgin Mary and St Bernard. The first Cistercian monastery on the site was founded by Sambor I of Gdánsk, Duke of Pomerania, in 1186. The first Romanesque oratory was burnt down in 1224 during the pagan Prussians crusade. It was rebuilt in 1234-1236, but destroyed again by Prussian crusade. In 1350 fire that was caused by chimney soot excess completely cons ...
Founded: 1578-1594 | Location: Gdańsk, Poland

Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul

The Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul in Poznań is one of the oldest churches in Poland and the oldest Polish cathedral, dating from the 10th century. It stands on the island of Ostrów Tumski north-east of the city centre. The cathedral was originally built in the second half of the 10th century within the fortified settlement of Poznań, which stood on what is now called Ostrów Tumski ('Cathedral Islan ...
Founded: 968 AD | Location: Poznań, Poland

St. Martin & Nicholas Cathedral

Bydgoszcz"s oldest remaining church is a truly exquisite example of the so-called Vistulan Gothic style, and is, in a word, breathtaking. Parts of the building date back to middle of the 15th century, and the exterior is worthy of more plaudits than many comparable churches, but what really sets this church apart from the rest is its glorious interior. Those who"ve visited St. Mary"s Basilica in Krak&oacut ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Bydgoszcz, Poland

Szczecin Cathedral

The Cathedral Basilica of St. James the Apostle was built by the citizens of the Szczecin city and modeled after the Church of St. Mary in Lübeck. It is the largest church in Pomerania and for many years after the reformation was part of the Pomeranian Evangelical Church, but since World War II and the handing over of Stettin to Poland it has been rebuilt as a Roman Catholic cathedral. The church was established in ...
Founded: 1187 | Location: Szczecin, Poland

Frombork Cathedral

The Archcathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Andrew in Frombork was constructed during 1329-1388. The astronomer and mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus worked there as a canon (1512–16 and 1522–43). He wrote his epochal work, De revolutionibus orbium cœlestium in Frombork. Shortly after its 1543 publication, Copernicus died there and was buried in the cathedral where his grave was ...
Founded: 1329-1388 | Location: Frombork, Poland

St. Mary's Cathedral

Koszalin’s most distinctive landmark is St. Mary"s Cathedral (Katedra Niepokalanego Poczecia N.M.P), a Gothic church erected between 1300-1333. Initially serving as a Catholic church, the building was from the 16th century till the end of World War II a temple for the Protestant faith. Since 1945 it again is a Catholic house of worship.
Founded: 1300-1333 | Location: Koszalin, Poland

Gniezno Cathedral

The Royal Gniezno Cathedral served as the coronation place for several Polish monarchs and as the seat of Polish church officials continuously for nearly 1000 years. Throughout its long and tragic history, the building stayed mostly intact making it one of the oldest and most precious sacral monuments in Poland. The cathedral played an outstanding role in the history of Poland, serving as the stronghold capital of the f ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Gniezno, Poland

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

The Greek Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Przemyśl serves as the mother church of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Peremyshl-Warsaw. The church was built in the 17th century by the Jesuit order and dedicated to St. Ignatius. After Przemyśl fell under Austrian rule and the suppression of the order in 1773 it slowly fell into ruins and in 1820 was closed by Austrians and turned into a storeh ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Przemyśl, Poland

Przemysl Cathedral

The Cathedral of Przemyśl is the main church of the Archdiocese of Przemyśl, located at the Cathedral Square in the Old Town. The first cathedral of the Diocese was a wooden church which existed from 1375 to 1412, standing in the square beside the present church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. From 1412 - 1460 a Ruthenian Orthodox cathedral built of stone stood in the courtyard of Przemyśl Castle which it was strongly as ...
Founded: 1495 | Location: Przemyśl, Poland

St. Florian's Cathedral

St. Florian"s Cathedral with its 75-meter towers dominates eastern Warsaw"s Praga district and highlight the cathedral’s role as a form of protest against the erstwhile Russian domination of Poland. There has been a Catholic church presence in or around the site of the future church since 1583, but the impetus for creating a lasting and substantial church did not arrive until the late 19th century. The ma ...
Founded: 1897 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

St. Nicholas Cathedral

St. Nicholas Cathedral is a Gothic church established in circa 1247. When the burghers of Elbing (Elbląg) first attempted to adopt the Protestant Reformation in 1525, the provost of St. Nicholas Church maintained Catholic practice. Since 1539 the city council tacitly tolerated and gradually openly promoted Lutheranism, so that St. Nicholas Church had become a Lutheran church by 1573. Following King Sigismund III&quo ...
Founded: 1247 | Location: Elbląg, Poland

Plock Cathedral

Płock Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Masovia, is an example of Romanesque architecture. The bishopric in Płock was founded about 1075. The first definite reference to the cathedral is in 1102, when Władysław I Herman was buried there. The present Romanesque cathedral was built after 1129 by prince Bolesław III and Bishop Aleksander of Malonne. This was a rebuilding following a fire and took ...
Founded: c. 1129 | Location: Płock, Poland

Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Cross

The Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Cross (Bazylika Katedralna Podwyższenia Krzyża Świętego) was built in the 15th century on the site where before there was a structure of the 11th and 13th centuries. It was rebuilt several times. With towers with a height of 73 meters is the tallest structure in the city. In the temple there is a painting of the Virgin of Opole, brought there permanently in 1702.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Opole, Poland

Sosnowiec Cathedral

The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary  was built in 1899 on the plan of a Latin cross basilica type. As of 25 March 1992 is the cathedral of the Diocese of Sosnowiec. The most important Catholic shrine of Sosnowiec was built between 1893 and 1899. In 1896 there was put into operation for the faithful the lower chapel. In 1899 the Bishop of Kielce Tomasz Kulinski erected a new parish, freein ...
Founded: 1899 | Location: Sosnowiec, Poland

Lomza Cathedral

Łomża Cathedral was built between 1504-1525 and inaugurated in 1531. According a legend there was a church near the current cathedral already in c. 1000 AD. After the cathedral was damaged in Swedish wars it was restored to Gothic Baroque style in 1691-1692. The southern sacristy was added in 1886. Łomża Cathedral was again damaged in Second World War and rebuilt between 1952-1958. The most precious t ...
Founded: 1504-1525 | Location: Lomza, Poland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.