Religious sites in Poland

Warsaw Jewish Cemetery

The Warsaw Jewish Cemetery is one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe and in the world. It was established in 1806 and occupies 33 hectares of land. The cemetery contains over 200,000 marked graves, as well as mass graves of victims of the Warsaw Ghetto. Many of these graves and crypts are overgrown, having been abandoned after the German invasion of Poland and subsequent Holocaust. Although the cemetery was closed ...
Founded: 1806 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Holy Cross Church

The Church of the Holy Cross is one of the most notable Baroque churches in Poland"s capital. As early as the 15th century, a small wooden chapel of the Holy Cross had been erected here. In 1526 the chapel was demolished, and a newer church was erected. Refurbished and extended by Paweł Zembrzuski in 1615, the church was too small to fill the needs of the growing city. Initially located well outside the city lim ...
Founded: 1682 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Church of St. Phillip and St. Jacob

St. Philip and St. Jacob the Apostles' Church in Sękowa was built at the beginning of 16th century. It was made using manually hewed larch wood covered with shingle. The church is a one-nave one with the chancel closed off at three sides. The interior is meagre, since the church was devastated during the wartime at the turn of 1914 and 1915. Wooden elements from the church were used to build trenches and consumed as fire ...
Founded: 1520 | Location: Sękowa, 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. Peter and Paul Church

The Church of Sts. Peter and Paul is a Baroque Jesuit church known best for the statues of the 12 disciples lining the fence at the front. Commissioned for the Jesuit order, Sts. Peter and Paul was the first baroque church in Krakow. It is one of the most faithful examples of transplanting the architecture of the famous Gesu Church in Rome to foreign soil, with a fine Baroque facade and great dome. It is said that the J ...
Founded: 1597-1619 | Location: Kraków, Poland

St. Mary's Basilica

Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven (also known as St. Mary"s Church) is a Brick Gothic church famous for its wooden altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss. According to chronicler Jan Długosz the first parish church at the Main Square in Kraków was founded in 1221–22 by the Bishop of Kraków, Iwo Odrowąż. The building was destroyed during the Mongol invasion of Poland. Between 1290&ndas ...
Founded: 1290-1320 | Location: Kraków, 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

St. Andrew's Church

The Church of St. Andrew was built between 1079 and 1098 by a medieval Polish statesman Palatine Sieciech. It is a rare surviving example of the European fortress church used for defensive purposes. Built in Romanesque style, it is one of the oldest buildings in Kraków and one of the best-preserved Romanesque buildings in Poland. It was the only church in Kraków to withstand the Mongol attack of 1241. Along the lower p ...
Founded: 1079-1098 | Location: Kraków, 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

Church of St. Anne

The Church of St. Anne is one of the leading examples of Polish Baroque architecture. The church was first mentioned in 1381 in the deed of donation of Sulisław I Nawoja of Grodziec. In 1407 the church was completely destroyed during a fire, but it was rebuilt the same year in the Gothic style by King Władysław II Jagiełło. The king also attached the Church formally to the Jagiellonian University ...
Founded: 1689-1705 | Location: Kraków, Poland

Recz Church of Christ

The Church of Christ was built in Gothic style between 1352-1355. The nave was restored in the 15th century and the interior was replaced in the following centuries.
Founded: 1352 | Location: Recz, Poland

Jasna Góra Monastery

The Jasna Góra Monastery is the most famous Polish shrine to the Virgin Mary and the country"s greatest place of pilgrimage – for many its spiritual capital. The image of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, also known as Our Lady of Częstochowa, to which miraculous powers are attributed, is Jasna Góra"s most precious treasure. The site is one of Poland"s official national Histori ...
Founded: 1382 | Location: Częstochowa, Poland

The Assumption of Mary Church

The Assumption of Mary parish church is one of East Pomerania’s oldest and biggest churches. Built along the east-west axis, the construction work lasted from 1280 to 1320: a hall church consisting of three naves and two towers, each of a different height, emerged. In the 13th century the church opened a town school and a library. 1473 saw the opening of a 'studium particulare' (a secondary school), which ...
Founded: 1280 | Location: Chełmno, Poland

Church of St. Francis of Assisi

The Church of St. Francis of Assisi with Monastery of the Franciscan Order is a Roman Catholic religious complex. The Church dates back to the 13th century. Saint Maximilian Kolbe was a monk there in 1919, and led his first service at this church on Poland"s return to sovereignty. There is no consensus among historians about the church"s founder. He was probably Duke Henry II the Pious (1196–1241), son of ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Kraków, Poland

St. Florian's Church

The Collegiate Church of St. Florian was built between 1185 and 1216. It was burnt down many times in the 12th, 16th and 17th centuries. Notably, during the Swedish siege of Kraków, General Stefan Czarniecki ordered the city"s suburbs burned down. However, during the city-wide fire which consumed a considerable part of Kraków in 1528, the church – containing St. Florian"s relics – survi ...
Founded: 1185-1216 | Location: Kraków, Poland

Holy Spirit Church

Holy Spirit Church was was built in late Baroque style in the mid-18th century by the Protestants, who were dispossessed of St. Mary’s Church as a result of the Tumult of Toruń in 1724. The slender church tower was added in the end of the 19th century. Today the church is a university church affiliated with Nicolaus Copernicus University. The most finest details in the church are the mid-18th century Rococo hig ...
Founded: c. 1750 | Location: Toruń, 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

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

St. James the Elder Church

The cathedral church of St. James the Elder is situated within the old quarter next to the city walls and in the past it could fulfil a defensive function. It was built in stages from 1380 until 1445 and finally completed in its present shape during the early 17th c. The building was erected on the rectangular plan of ceramic bricks, with nave and two aisles, hall type, without separate presbytery. Late Gothic vaulting is ...
Founded: 1380-1445 | Location: Olsztyn, 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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Beersel Castle

The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.

The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.

After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.

The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.

Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.

The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.