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Krakow's Churches
The Church of the Assumption
of the Virgin Mary
(The Basilica of Virgin Mary)

Kosciol Mariacki. There was a church built here in the 1220s, partly destroyed by the Tartar raids of 1241 the present basilica was built on the remaining ruins (hence its orientation).

The facade is dominated by the two unequal towers; the lowest, topped by a Renaissance dome is the bell tower holding 5 bells, whilst the taller, 81 metres high, belongs to the city and serves as a watchtower. It was given a gilded crown (c.4 metres in diameter) in 1666 - the gilded ball further up is said to contain the written history of the city.

The hejnal is played from this tower every hour and on Polish Radio at noon. Legend has it that a Tartar arrow pierced the throat of the bugler whilst giving the alarm; in commemoration the bugle call breaks off suddenly.

Inside the church the east wall of the chancel is taken up by the altar of Wit Stwosz, the Dormition of the Virgin a huge polyptych carved in 1477-89 (about 13 metres high and 11 metres wide, it is the largest piece of mediaeval art of its kind). The altar is opened daily at noon. In the right aisle is a Baroque altar with a stone crucifix (again by Stwosz).

The chancel also features original 14th century stained-glass and e.Baroque stalls. The wall paintings are by Matejko. Above the organ loft is Art Nouveau work by Wyspianski and Mehoffer.

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