St. Florian's Church, Kraków, Poland

This handsome church stands outside the City Walls of Kraków in what was once a separate city called Kleparz.

Legend says that in 1184 the oxen carrying the remains of St. Florian came to a halt at this point. Suddenly the remains of the saint became too heavy to move any further and eventually it was decided to build the church around them here, rather than try to move them any further. The first church was built between 1185 and 1216.

Fire has been a constant companion at this church. It burnt down in the 12th, 16th and 17th Centuries. During the Swedish siege of Kraków General Stefan Czarniecki ordered the suburbs of the city to be burnt to the ground and the church (along with the Bernardine Church) was one of the victims.

However, in a devastating fire of 1528 which destroyed pretty much everything else in the area, the church survived. Since then St. Florian has been one of the major saints in Poland and is patron saint of firefighters – ironic in a church which has burnt down so many times!

After the Swedish wars the church was rebuilt in its current Baroque style and in the 16th Century became attached to Kraków University. The coronation and funeral routes to the Wawel Cathedral began at St. Florians. In the late 1940s/early 1950s Karol Wojtla – the future Pope John Paul II – was vicar here.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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