|Province||Archdiocese of Kraków|
|Ecclesiastical or organizational status||Royal Arch-cathedral Basilica|
|Style||Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque|
The Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus on the Wawel Hill (Polish: Królewska Bazylika Archikatedralna . Stanis?awa i Wac?awa na Wawelu), also known as the Wawel Cathedral (Polish: Katedra Wawelska), is a Roman Catholic church and cathedral of the Archdiocese of Kraków, located on Wawel Hill in Kraków, Poland. More than 900 years old, it is the Polish national sanctuary and traditionally has served as coronation site of the Polish monarchs.
Karol Wojtyla, who in 1978 became Pope John Paul II, the day after his ordination to the priesthood offered his first Mass as a priest in the crypt of the cathedral on 2 November 1946, and was ordained Kraków's auxiliary bishop in the Cathedral on 28 September 1958.
The current, Gothic, cathedral is the third edifice on this site: the first was constructed and destroyed in the 11th century; the second one, constructed in the 12th century, was destroyed by a fire in 1305. The construction of the current one began in the 14th century on the orders of bishop Nanker.
The Cathedral comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. The main altar, located in the apse, was founded about 1650 by Bishop Piotr Gembicki and created by Giovanni Battista Gisleni. The altar painting of Crucified Christ by Marcin Blechowski is from the 17th century. Over the main altar stands a tall canopy of black marble supported by four pillars, designed by Giovanni Battista Trevano and Matteo Castelli between 1626 and 1629. Underneath the canopy is placed a silver coffin of national patron Stanislaus of Szczepanów (also Stanis?aw Szczepanowski) created between 1669-1671 after the previous one (donated in 1512 by King Sigismund I the Old) was stolen by the Swedes in 1655.
Sigismund's Chapel, or Zygmunt Chapel ("Kaplica Zygmuntowska"), adjoining the southern wall of the cathedral, is one of the most notable pieces of architecture in Kraków and perhaps "the purest example of Renaissance architecture outside Italy." Financed by Sigismund I the Old, it was built between 1517 and 1533 by Bartolommeo Berrecci, a Florentine Renaissance architect, who spent most of his career in Poland.
The Wawel Cathedral has been the main burial site for Polish monarchs since the 14th century. As such, it has been significantly extended and altered over time as individual rulers have added multiple burial chapels.
The crypts beneath the Wawel Cathedral hold the tombs of Polish kings, national heroes, generals and revolutionaries, including rulers of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth such as: Jan III Sobieski and his consort Marie Casimire (Maria Kazimiera); the remains of Tadeusz Ko?ciuszko, the leader of a Polish national insurrection and Brigadier General in the American Revolutionary War; W?adys?aw Sikorski, Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile and Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces; Marshal Józef Pi?sudski, founder of the Second Polish Republic. Pope John Paul II celebrated his first mass in St. Leonard's Crypt. He considered being buried at the Wawel Cathedral also at one point in time, while some of the people of Poland had hoped that, following ancient custom, his heart would be brought there and kept alongside the remains of the great Polish rulers. (John Paul II was buried under St. Peter's Basilica, a papal burial site since antiquity, instead.)
Media related to Wawel Cathedral at Wikimedia Commons