Saint Mary's Basilica (Polish: Kościół Mariacki) is the name of a striking brick Gothic church that is near the Main Market Square in Kraków, Poland. Constructed in the 14th century, the foundations of the church date back to the early 13th century. St mary’s basilica serves as one of the finest examples of Polish Gothic architecture. It stands 80 m (262 ft) tall and is popular for its wooden altarpiece curated by Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz). Some of the polychrome murals in this church were also designed by Jan Matejko (1898-1891), Poland's leading history painter. The history of St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow narrates the additions and reconstructions this monument went through, and you can view the same on your visit.
In 1978, the church became a UNESCO World Heritage Site apart from being the Historic Centre of Kraków. Saint Mary's Basilica church has also served as a model for various churches that were constructed by the Polish diaspora abroad. They were particularly those like Saint John Cantius and Saint Michael's, inspired by the Polish Cathedral architecture.
The bells of st mary’s basilica support the mission of The Basilica by giving voice to the parish’s presence within the community. It is considered a beacon of hope and a place of worship. The bells of st mary’s basilica were shaped at the Royal Eijsbouts foundry, located in the Netherlands. Although the machine was used to curate the st mary’s basilica bells, they were created by an age-old method.
The history of St. Mary’s Basilica bells ensemble of gongs and bells is intriguing and unpopular in the world. There are four liturgical bells, namely the półzygmunt, the Tenebrae, the misjonał, and the campana Antiqua, which is the oldest. These bells are suspended within the shorter tower in the church which also acts as the bell tower.
PÓŁZYGMUNT, among the st mary’s basilica bells, was funded by Polish knights in 1438 with the support of Jan Freudenthal, the master craftsman. A Kraków bishop, named Zbigniew Oleśnicki, was its initiator and the primary funder of the bell. Among all the st mary’s basilica bells, this is the largest one and was the biggest bell in Kraków earlier. The dimension is 180 cm and the weight is approx. 4.8 tonnes. This bell is bestowed to the Virgin Mary – who was the basilica’s patron.
TENEBRAT was among the st mary’s basilica bells, which was founded by king Władysław II Jagiełło in 1388. There are many events related to the major religious and national significance that accompanied its development. A holy inscription on the shoulder of the bell bears the words: AVE MARIA and Christ’s invocation. This large bell weighs 4.1 tonnes and is 175 cm in diameter. It was the biggest bell in Kraków till the casting of the Knight’s Bell.
One of the famous bells of St Mary's Basilica, this bell was formed by an anonymous funder in 1387. Later, the bell was cast by a Master Craftsman named Jan from Nowa Wieś Spiska. The name is related to the Christianization of Lithuania and the constant need to demonstrate the term of God. A hypothesis says that Queen Jadwiga, who was also known for her piety, has added a lot to the development of the MISJONAŁ. The King of Glory is the Latin inscription written on the bell which refers to a holy call for peace to Christ. The bell weighs approx. 1.8 tonnes and is 136 cm in diameter.
Among all the other bells of St Mary's Basilica, this is one of the oldest surviving bells within the city of Poland. It was cast in 1320 by a master craftsman, whose name was not known. St. Mary’s Church was formed during the same period following its expansion and reconstruction. MIESZCZAŃSKI could have been jointly funded by the town inhabitants and the temple’s parishioners for whom St. Mary’s Church is the holiest temple. Similarly to Tenebrat and Misjonał, the inscription on its bell is a call for peace to the King of Glory.
This clock, among the other St Mary's Basilica bell, dates back to the year 1530. A fireman is there to strike it during the day an hour before playing the call of the bugle. This is manually done by making use of a device having a handle, a rod, and a lever ending with a massive steel hammer that strikes the lower portion of the waist of the bell from the exteriors. The gong weighs approximately 3.5 tonnes and is 165 cm in diameter.
Hung within the steeple of the St Mary's church tower, the smaller clock gong was constructed in 1564. A system of levers and rods linked this bell and the taller tower in the past and there was a fireman to repeat full-hour strikes on it manually after playing the call of the bugle. The bell was silenced in 1939 for 76 years and following a refurbishment, today, the bell rings during quarter hours, by an electric hammer managed by an electronic clock. The gong weighs approx. 1.7 tonnes and 140 cm in diameter.
The bell for the dying was cast by Kacper Koeber in 1736. Bearing Archangel Michael’s name, who was also the patron of a good death, the bell was funded by a lay judge named Krystian Jungling. As per European tradition, the bell rang to state the death of a parishioner. It was silent for many dozen years, and in 2015, it was refurbished, and once again, it rings during funeral ceremonies. It is the only active funeral bell in Kraków.
PÓŁZYGMUNT: The PÓŁZYGMUNT rings daily at 9.05 pm and on Fridays at 3.04 pm.
TENEBRAT: TENEBRAT rings on Sundays and holidays at 9.50 am.
MISJONAŁ: MISJONAŁ rings daily at 12.04 pm.
THE OLDEST BELL: THE OLDEST BELL rings daily at 12.04 pm.