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 in the 11th century; the second one, constructed in the 12th century, was destroyed by a fire in 1305. The construction of the current one began in the 14th century on the orders of bishop Nanker.
The Cathedral comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. The main altar, located in the apse, was founded about 1650 by Bishop Piotr Gembicki and created by Giovanni Battista Gisleni. The altar painting of Crucified Christ by Marcin Blechowski is from the 17th century. Over the main altar stands a tall canopy of black marble supported by four pillars, designed by Giovanni Battista Trevano and Matteo Castelli between 1626 and 1629. Underneath the canopy is placed a silver coffin of national patron saint St. Stanislaus (Stanisław) created between 1669-1671 after the previous one (donated in 1512 by King Sigismund I the Old) was stolen by the Swedes in 1655.
The Wawel Cathedral has been the main burial site for Polish monarchs since the 14th century. As such, it has been significantly extended and altered over time as individual rulers have added multiple burial chapels.
Sigismund's Chapel, adjoining the southern wall of the cathedral, is one of the most notable pieces of architecture in Kraków and a pure example of Renaissance architecture outside Italy. Financed by Sigismund I the Old, it was built between 1517 and 1533 by Bartolommeo Berrecci, a Florentine Renaissance architect, who spent most of his career in Poland.
A square-based chapel with a golden dome, it houses the tombs of its founder and those his children, King Sigismund II Augustus and Anna Jagiellon (Jagiellonka).
The crypt beneath the Wawel Cathedral holds the tombs of Polish kings, national heroes, generals and revolutionaries.References:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.