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Wawel Castle and Cathedral in Krakow | A travel guide to Poland

Wawel Castle and Cathedral in Krakow

wawel hill in krakowThe mythical aura that surrounds Krakow can be traced back to Wawel….Poland’s own Camelot. Standing on a fortified hill on the banks of the Vistula, Wawel castle is an imposing sight. To many Poles it serves as a romantic reminder of their country’s rich heritage and acts as the very symbol of their national identity. Fables, myths and legends have surrounded Wawel over the centuries and as Krakow once used to be the capital of Poland then many kings and queens were coronated or buried here.

Both Wawel Castle and Cathedral date back to the 11th Century and since that time have suffered multiple sackings and invasions from Poland’s neighbours. Despite being buffetted by the winds of war Wawel still stands proud something which many Poles can identify with. The Castle now houses several important museums and exhibitions and to see everything it’s worth setting aside a few hours. Tickets for guided tours can be purchased at the top of the cobbled slope with only a set number of visitors being allowed in each day.      

Wawel’s reputation as a spiritual touchstone is further enhanced by the Hindu faith. Hindu thinkers believe that “chakra” is part of a powerful, supernatural energy force that connects all living things together. They claim that there are seven points on Earth where this force is most concentrated-Delhi, Delphi, Jerusalem, Mecca, Rome, Velehrad and……….Krakow.

The seventh chakra is said to reside in the north west corner of Wawel’s courtyard, centred in the chancel of St Gereon’s Church.

Smok the DragonKrakow even has it’s own Dragon. Legend has it that the town derived it’s name from Prince Krak who saved his people from a dragon that had been terrifying local virgins and livestock. The Dragon’s Cave (Smocza Jama) is located at the Western edge of Wawel hill next to the Thieves Tower. Tickets can be purchased for the descent into the bowels of Wawel hill. For those who are brave enough to descend the 135 steps to the cave you will be rewarded with a sighting of Smok the Dragon !

The current building that is Wawel cathedral is actually the 3rd church on this site, erected between 1320 and 1364. The interior is filled with sarcophogi, tombs and spectacular chapels. Perhaps the most famous of these chapels is the Sigismund Chapel (Kaplica Zygmuntowska), said to be the “most beautiful Renaissance chapel north of the Alps”.

Climb the Sigismund tower (accessed via the sacristy) to view the Sigismund Bell (otherwise known as Zygmunt). The 500 year old bell measures 2m high and these days it is very rarely sounded. It was most recently used as a death knell to announce the death of the late John Paul II.

In May 1973, future pope Karol Wojtyła consented to a team of historians and conservationists to open King Kazimierz’s tomb. Within weeks 16 people who had been present at the exhumation had dropped dead. A best selling book titled “Curses, Microbes and Scholars” drew comparisons to the curse of the pharoahs.

At the back of the church is the entrance to St Leonard’s Crypt which is the sole surviving remnant of the 12th Century Romanesque cathedral (the 2nd church erected on this site). Through here you can access the Royal Crypts where Polish royalty, military and cultural heroes are buried.

 

Tickets (together with the Zygmunt Bell & Royal Tombs):

Normal = 12 zloty Concession = 7 zloty

Opening Hours

Mon-Sat 9am – 3pm Sun & Holidays 12.30 pm – 3pm

Admission times and fees may be subject to change.

For further inquiries and bookings ring the Tourist Service Office in Krakow on

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