The St. Peter and Paul Church in Krakow is one of the most beautiful churches in the city, located in the heart of the old town. It is set among elegant buildings ranging from the late Middle Ages to the early 19th century. Despite its stunning and imposing facade, which is protected by a wrought iron railing and a monumental gate, and adorned with dozens of late Baroque statues, this church is often overlooked. These features distinguish it from any other church in the city.
The Christian faith in Krakow has ancient origins, and during the Middle Ages this city was one of the few well-recognized and esteemed by the Pope. It is not surprising that even today dozens of beautiful churches can be visited, wonderfully preserved, and still loved and frequented by locals. The St. Peter and Paul Church in Krakow is certainly one of the most important among them, being the largest of the historic Churches of Kraków in terms of seating capacity.
What you will find in this guide to the St. Peter and Paul Church in Krakow:
St. Peter and Paul Church in Krakow: History and Interesting Facts
Walking along Grodzka Street, the main avenue that leads from Krakow’s Market Square to Wawel Castle, you can admire dozens of beautiful historic buildings. You cannot fail to notice the great St. Peter and Paul Church in Krakow – easily recognizable by its statues, the majestic entrance gate, and the style that represents one of the best examples of Polish Baroque in the heart of the city.
Tourists often underestimate it, as they are drawn to the many gems of the Krakow Old Town, such as St. Mary’s Basilica and Wawel Cathedral. This is one of the reasons why I recommend, especially for those visiting for the first time, to join a Krakow Free Tour. This way, they can discover numerous hidden gems, just like this church with its incredibly fascinating history and architecture.
The St. Peter and Paul Church in Krakow is a Roman Catholic Polish Baroque church located at 54 Grodzka Street. It was constructed between 1597 and 1619 by Giovanni Maria Bernardoni, who refined the original design by Józef Britius. Despite being more recent than other historic churches in the city, this church stands as a perfect testament to the European customs and artistic scene of the late 16th century. During this period, magnificent churches were sprouting across Europe as true artistic and architectural masterpieces. Kraków was no exception, boasting a wealth of excellent artists and architects, many of whom were Italian masters residing at the courts of Polish kings.
The Italian influence distinctly manifests in the facade’s design, which was quite original and innovative for its time. It is often considered a precursor to the Renaissance architecture that characterized a significant portion of Krakow’s historic buildings between the 16th and 18th centuries. The Baroque canons mark a distinct departure from the red-brick structures of Polish Gothic architecture. Shapes evolve into more austere and imposing forms, shedding the soaring towers and intricate friezes. This transformation becomes even more evident in the use of materials like precious Italian marble, along with the interiors adorned with stuccos and frescoes.
In the heart of medieval Grodzka Street, the St. Peter and Paul Church in Krakow immediately established itself as a major novelty, being the first building in Kraków designed entirely in the Baroque style, and perhaps the inaugural Baroque building in present-day Poland. It was constructed at the behest of King Sigismund III Vasa and donated to the Jesuit Order. The construction lasted from 1597 to 1619, and several Italian architects participated, such as Giovanni de Rossi, Giovanni Maria Bernardoni, and Giovanni Battista Trevano, the author of the facade.
Consecrated in 1635, the St. Peter and Paul Church in Krakow features an elegant dolomite facade adorned with statues of Jesuit saints. Above the main portal, there is the emblem of the Jesuit Order with saints Sigismund of Burgundy and Ladislaus I of Hungary. The pinnacle of the facade is adorned with the coat of arms of the Vasa dynasty, the church’s founders.
Its interior is well worth exploring, with a single nave and two aisles consisting of chapels. Despite the evident early Baroque modesty, particularly in the central nave, the chapels are decorated with stucco work by Giovanni Battista Falconi of Milan, along with several works of art. These include scenes depicting the life and death of Saints Peter and Paul, as well as statues of patrons of Poland – Saint Wojciech and Saint Stanisław. Notably, the Late Baroque high altar from 1735 stands as a masterpiece, crafted by local artists.
The church houses several precious sarcophagi containing the mortal remains of priests, bishops, and various notable individuals. Recently, the St. Peter and Paul Church in Krakow was transformed into one of Poland’s National Pantheons, serving as a celebratory burial place for some of the most important Polish scientists, artists, and intellectuals.
Renowned for its acoustics, the St. Peter and Paul Church in Krakow frequently hosts concerts featuring classical and Baroque ensembles. Additionally, every Thursday within the church demonstrations are held of the longest Foucault Pendulum in Poland (46.5 m), suspended to visually demonstrate the Earth’s rotation. While it takes at least an hour to observe a substantial difference in its path, the pendulum serves as a curious and fascinating testament to the local interest in astronomy and science. The origins of the pendulum in the St. Peter and Paul Church in Krakow date back to 1949, and since then, it has been exhibited intermittently. Today, this tradition is upheld by the prestigious and venerable Jagiellonian University.
How to Visit St. Peter and Paul Church in Krakow
St. Peter and Paul Church in Krakow is located on Grodzka Street, in the heart of Krakow Old Town and a short distance from Wawel Castle. It is situated in one of the prettiest corners of this main avenue, overlooking the picturesque Maria Magdalena Square, right next to St. Andrew’s Church – an 11th-century Romanesque jewel.
It is free to visit every day and is usually open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with masses held at 7:00 AM and 6:00 PM during the week, and at 8:00 AM, 9:30 AM, 11:00 AM, 12.30 PM and 6:00 PM on Sundays and public holidays.
In the evening, at 8:00 PM, according to a calendar that can be inquired about on the spot, suggestive concerts of classical music are held. Tickets start at 60 PLN (reduced: 40 PLN) and can be purchased on-site.