Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the first Carmelite Church in Kraków, hence the name of the street on which it stands. According to legend, the earliest church on the same site was founded in the 11th century by Duke Władysław I Herman after a vision led him to this spot northwest of the city walls, where he found blooming violets in sand which cured him of a disfiguring case of scurvy. The sand gave the church its alternative name, the Carmelite Church in Piasek. However, the first attested church building was begun in 1395 on the initiative of Jadwiga of Poland and Władysław Jagiełło. On the outside wall of the church along Garbarska Street there's a stone with a footprint carved into it, allegedly set by the Queen herself.
The church was handed over in 1397 to the Carmelite Order recently invited by the Polish monarchs from Prague. The Gothic church was largely destroyed during the Swedish Deluge and was rebuilt in a Baroque style in the second half of the 17th century and consecrated in 1679. On August 15, 1683, Jan III Sobieski said his final prayers in Kraków at this church before setting out for his victorious Battle of Vienna against the Ottoman Empire. When the Confederacy of Bar seized control of the Old Town of Kraków in 1772, Russian troops used the church (just outside of the Old Town walls) as an artillery sighting platform, leading to considerable damage. In 1997, Pope John Paul II raised the church to the status of a minor basilica.
The Baroque facade of the church is based on the design of Il Gesù in Rome. On the south-side wall of the church, at the corner of ul. Garbarska, there is the 18th century sculpture representing Golgotha with its central Crucificion. The main altar depicts the Visitation of Saint Elizabeth by Virgin Mary, and is one of the largest examples of Baroque woodcarving in Kraków. The most famous work of art in the church is the icon of Our Lady of Piasek, which can be found in a chapel on the south side of the nave. According to legend, the icon is reputed to have been miraculously completed when left unfinished by its original artist in the 15th century. It survived unscathed even during the destruction of the majority of the walls around it by the Swedes. It was later fitted with a crown designed by the artist Jan Matejko, whose own wedding was held here in 1864.
Behind the church, now completely hidden from outside view by the surrounding buildings, there is still a surviving fragment of the old Carmelite orchard.References:
Royal Palace of Naples was one of the four residences near Naples used by the Bourbon Kings during their rule of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1734-1860): the others were the palaces of Caserta, Capodimonte overlooking Naples, and the third Portici, on the slopes of Vesuvius.
Construction on the present building was begun in the 17th century by the architect Domenico Fontana. Intended to house the King Philip III of Spain on a visit never fulfilled to this part of his kingdom, instead it initially housed the Viceroy Fernando Ruiz de Castro, count of Lemos. By 1616, the facade had been completed, and by 1620, the interior was frescoed by Battistello Caracciolo, Giovanni Balducci, and Belisario Corenzio. The decoration of the Royal Chapel of Assumption was not completed until 1644 by Antonio Picchiatti.
In 1734, with the arrival of Charles III of Spain to Naples, the palace became the royal residence of the Bourbons. On the occasion of his marriage to Maria Amalia of Saxony in 1738, Francesco De Mura and Domenico Antonio Vaccaro helped remodel the interior. Further modernization took place under Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. In 1768, on the occasion of his marriage to Maria Carolina of Austria, under the direction of Ferdinando Fuga, the great hall was rebuilt and the court theater added. During the second half of the 18th century, a 'new wing' was added, which in 1927 became the Vittorio Emanuele III National Library. By the 18th century, the royal residence was moved to Reggia of Caserta, as that inland town was more defensible from naval assault, as well as more distant from the often-rebellious populace of Naples.
During the Napoleonic occupation the palace was enriched by Joachim Murat and his wife, Caroline Bonaparte, with Neoclassic decorations and furnishings. However, a fire in 1837 damaged many rooms, and required restoration from 1838 to 1858 under the direction of Gaetano Genovese. Further additions of a Party Wing and a Belvedere were made in this period. At the corner of the palace with San Carlo Theatre, a new facade was created that obscured the viceroyal palace of Pedro de Toledo.
In 1922, it was decided to transfer here the contents of the National Library. The transfer of library collections was made by 1925.
The library suffered from bombing during World War II and the subsequent military occupation of the building caused serious damage. Today, the palace and adjacent grounds house the famous Teatro San Carlo, the smaller Teatrino di Corte (recently restored), the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III, a museum, and offices, including those of the regional tourist board.