St. Mary's Church, Kraków, Poland

This most distinctive of Kraków’s many churches stands overlooking the Rynek Głowny, the main market square of Kraków. The first church here was built in the 13th Century, but this was destroyed during the Mongol Raids of the 1240s. In the 14th Century the church was rebuilt in more or less the same style it has now.

The reason for the different heights for the two towers is not known, but legend tells that two brothers were responsible for a tower each. As is the way of these things an intense rivalry emerged between them and when one brother finished his taller tower earlier, the other brother was so enraged he killed his sibling and then remorsefully killed himself. This is, of course, rather fanciful but the uneven towers do make St. Mary’s very recognisable. The style of the church has inspired a whole school of architecture known as “Polish Cathedral style” which is particularly prominent amongst the Diaspora in the Americas, particularly in and around Chicago.

Inside the Church is the famous pentaptych wooden alter piece carved by Viet Stoss which is the centre of an elaborate opening and closing ceremony during evening mass and is monumental in its scale.

St. Mary’s is also the home of the Hejnal trumpet call. This goes out on the hour, every hour and at noon is broadcast on Polish national radio. The tune, played live each time, cuts off suddenly midway through. This is because its origins are as a warning signal for attack and when the tune was played in 1241 halfway through the trumpeter was shot in the throat by an arrow from the invading Mongols. Ever since the tune stops in that exact same place.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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and Shaun Runham
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