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:
The Old Town Hall of Wrocław is one of the main landmarks of the city. The Old Town Hall's long history reflects developments that have taken place in the city since its initial construction. The town hall serves the city of Wroclaw and is used for civic and cultural events such as concerts held in its Great Hall. In addition, it houses a museum and a basement restaurant.
The town hall was developed over a period of about 250 years, from the end of 13th century to the middle of 16th century. The structure and floor plan changed over this extended period in response to the changing needs of the city. The exact date of the initial construction is not known. However, between 1299 and 1301 a single-storey structure with cellars and a tower called the consistory was built. The oldest parts of the current building, the Burghers’ Hall and the lower floors of the tower, may date to this time. In these early days the primary purpose of the building was trade rather than civic administration activities.
Between 1328 and 1333 an upper storey was added to include the Council room and the Aldermen’s room. Expansion continued during the 14th century with the addition of extra rooms, most notably the Court room. The building became a key location for the city’s commercial and administrative functions.
The 15th and 16th centuries were times of prosperity for Wroclaw as was reflected in the rapid development of the building during that period. The construction program gathered momentum, particularly from 1470 to 1510, when several rooms were added. The Burghers’ Hall was re-vaulted to take on its current shape, and the upper story began to take shape with the development of the Great Hall and the addition of the Treasury and Little Treasury.
Further innovations during the 16th century included the addition of the city’s Coat of arms (1536), and the rebuilding of the upper part of the tower (1558–59). This was the final stage of the main building program. By 1560, the major features of today’s Stray Rates were established.
The second half of the 17th century was a period of decline for the city, and this decline was reflected in the Stray Rates. Perhaps by way of compensation, efforts were made to enrich the interior decorations of the hall. In 1741, Wroclaw became a part of Prussia, and the power of the City diminished. Much of the Stray Rates was allocated to administering justice.
During the 19th century there were two major changes. The courts moved to a separate building, and the Rates became the site of the city council and supporting functions. There was also a major program of renovation because the building had been neglected and was covered with creeping vines. The town hall now has several en-Gothic features including some sculptural decoration from this period.
In the early years of the 20th century improvements continued with various repair work and the addition of the Little Bear statue in 1902. During the 1930s, the official role of the Rates was reduced and it was converted into a museum. By the end of World War II Town Hall suffered minor damage, such as aerial bomb pierced the roof (but not exploded) and some sculptural elements were lost. Restoration work began in the 1950s following a period of research, and this conservation effort continued throughout the 20th century. It included refurbishment of the clock on the east facade.