The current Bäl church was built during the first half of the 13th century and replaced an earlier stone church on the same site, fragments of which still remain in the wall between the choir and nave. Of the presently visible church, the choir is the oldest part, with the nave and tower being built successively. Paintings were added in the 13th century through 15th centuries. For some reason, the tower was never finished and does not reach its originally intended height.
The church has two portals on the western façade, one leading to the choir and a larger main portal, located on the south side of the nave. The smaller is the older and still Romanesque in style, while the main portal is Gothic, and more profusely decorated. Additionally, there is an entrance on the north façade. The window openings are all original, and have not been enlarged during later centuries.
Inside, the church is decorated by frescos, uncovered in the early 21st century. They depict the Passion of Christ and scenes from the Bible. The church has some medieval items: a triumphal cross (late 13th century), a baptismal font (13th century), and a wooden sculpture depicting Mary. The altarpiece is Baroque, executed in 1664, and the pulpit is from 1744.References:
The Cloth Hall in Kraków dates to the Renaissance and is one of the city's most recognizable icons. It is the central feature of the main market square in the Kraków Old Town (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978).
The hall was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, the hall was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the east – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Kraków was Poland's capital city and was among the largest cities in Europe already from before the time of the Renaissance. However, its decline started with the move of the capital to Warsaw in the very end of the 16th century. The city's decline was hastened by wars and politics leading to the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century. By the time of the architectural restoration proposed for the cloth hall in 1870 under Austrian rule, much of the historic city center was decrepit. A change in political and economic fortunes for the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria ushered in a revival due to newly established Legislative Assembly or Sejm of the Land. The successful renovation of the Cloth Hall, based on design by Tomasz Pryliński and supervised by Mayor Mikołaj Zyblikiewicz, Sejm Marshal, was one of the most notable achievements of this period.
The hall has hosted many distinguished guests over the centuries and is still used to entertain monarchs and dignitaries, such as Charles, Prince of Wales and Emperor Akihito of Japan, who was welcomed here in 2002. In the past, balls were held here, most notably after Prince Józef Poniatowski had briefly liberated the city from the Austrians in 1809. Aside from its history and cultural value, the hall still is still used as a center of commerce.
On the upper floor of the hall is the Sukiennice Museum division of the National Museum, Kraków. It holds the largest permanent exhibit of the 19th-century Polish painting and sculpture, in four grand exhibition halls arranged by historical period and the theme extending into an entire artistic epoch. The museum was upgraded in 2010 with new technical equipment, storerooms, service spaces as well as improved thematic layout for the display.
The Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art was a major cultural venue from the moment it opened on October 7, 1879. It features late Baroque, Rococo, and Classicist 18th-century portraits and battle scenes by Polish and foreign pre-Romantics.