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 1290–1300 the new early Gothic church was built on the remaining foundations. It was consecrated twenty years later, in 1320.
The church was completely rebuilt under the reign of Casimir III the Great between 1355 and 1365 with substantial contributions from wealthy restaurateur Mikołaj Wierzynek. The presbytery was elongated and tall windows added. The main body of the church was completed in 1395–97 with the new vault constructed by master Nicholas Werhner from Prague. However, the vault over the presbytery collapsed in 1442 due to a possible earthquake, which never happen before nor after in Kraków.
In the first half of the 15th century, the side chapels were added. Most of them were the work of master Franciszek Wiechoń. At the same time the northern tower was raised and designed to serve as the watch tower for the entire city. In 1478 carpenter Maciej Heringh funded a helmet for the tower. A gilded crown was placed on it in 1666, which is still present today. At the end of the 15th century, St Mary's church was enriched with a sculptural masterpiece, an Altarpiece of Veit Stoss (Ołtarz Mariacki Wita Stwosza) of late Gothic design.
In the 18th century, by the decision of vicar Jacek Augustyn Łopacki, the interior was rebuilt in the late Baroque style. The author of this work was Francesco Placidi. All 26 altars, equipment, furniture, benches and paintings were replaced and the walls were decorated with polychrome, the work of Andrzej Radwański.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the city has decided that a cemetery near the Basilica was to be shut down and made into a public square. Today it is known as Plac Mariacki (The Marian Square). In the years 1887–1891, under the direction of Tadeusz Stryjeński the neo-Gothic design was introduced into the Basilica. The temple gained a new design and murals painted and funded by Jan Matejko, who worked with Stanislaw Wyspianski and Józef Mehoffer - the authors of stained glass in the presbytery.
On every hour, a trumpet signal—called the Hejnał mariacki—is played from the top of the taller of St. Mary's two towers. The plaintive tune breaks off in mid-stream, to commemorate the famous 13th century trumpeter, who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city. The noon-time hejnał is heard across Poland and abroad broadcast live by the Polish national Radio 1 Station.
St. Mary's Basilica also served as an architectural model for many of the churches that were built by the Polish diaspora abroad, particularly those like St. Michael's and St. John Cantius in Chicago, designed in the so-called Polish Cathedral style.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).