Saints Peter and Paul Church is a Roman Catholic church built in the early 17th century. Located at Grodzka Street right next to St. Adrew’s Church and about half-way between Krakow’s Main Market Square and Wawel Castle.
The Church was built for the The Society of Jesus by Polish king Sigismund III Vasa and it is the very first Baroque Styled building in Krakow. The dolomite façade with statues of Jesuit saints carries some resemblance of Church of Santa Susanna in Rome. More statues of apostles are placed of fence posts in front. The interiors are characterised by their stucco decorations and scenes from the life of Saints Peter and Paul and the late-Baroque altar with statues by Antoni Fraczkiewicz and Jozef Brodowski painting.
The church has a longest Foucault’s pendulum in Poland, reaching as long as 46.5 metres. Each Thursday there is a display allowing visitors to observe the Earth’s rotation.
Much like Wawel’s Cathedral, as well as St. Stanislaus Church at Skalka, Saints Peter and Paul Church is a burial place for some of the most notable Polish people, such as Polish Jesuit and a preacher Piotr Skarga or Enigma Code Breaker Marian Rejewski.
The Church of Saints Peter and Paul seems to be one of the biggest historical churches in the city. It is also one of the first examples of Baroque architecture in Poland and dominates among the other buildings on Krakow’s Grodzka street competing with the second such a big church which is St. Anna’s church.
The Saints Peter and Paul Church in Krakow was constructing in the 16th and the 17th centuries for Jesuits order coming to Krakow at that time. After arrival, they settled by St. Barbara’s church, however, shortly afterwards this temple became too small for the order growing in its religious power. One of the Jesuits, Piotr Skarga, found the perfect place to build the new temple for it and due to its endeavors the Polish king Zygmunt III Waza founded the edifice.
The church was designed and then built by Italian architects, among them the most famous one Giovanni Trevano who was inspired by the roman church Il Gesu. In the 18th century, the Saints Peter and Paul Church was destroyed in fire. In its history, the temple was operating as an orthodox church. It houses the epitaphs and crypts where noble people are buried.
The most recognizable epitaph belongs to the 17th century aristocratic Branicki family and commemorates the family’s political achievements as well as its military power. The work made of black marble was designed by Kacper Bażanka who additionally decorated it with family members’ portraits. Between them, there is a historical painting depicting one of the 17th century battles that the Branicki family participated in and eventually won.
The Saints Peter and Paul Church in Krakow is also famous for the crypts where the prominent characters from the world of Polish literature and scientific are buried including e.g. well-known Polish writer Sławomir Mrożek. After his burial, the place was hailed as the new National Pantheon. Lately, sarcophagi of two Polish scientists, Karol Olszewski and Zygmunt Wróblewski, have been placed in the crypt.
What makes the place attractive is Foucault pendulum, the demonstrations of which are held every Thursday. The apparatus consists of a tall pendulum free to swing in any vertical plane. When it is set in motion, people are able to observe a simple proof of the Earth’s movement. It takes one hour to see the difference in the path of the 25-kilogram pendulum.
Piotr Skarga was a Jesuit preacher as well as Polish monarchs’ advisor who worked as a professor at the Kraków Academy (now the Jagiellonian Univeristy). The priest became famous for such works as “Lives of the Saints” or “The Sejm Sermons”. In Polish history, he seems to be an advocate of reforms who criticized governing classes and its religious tolerance. Today, history sees him as the most famous character of the Polish Counter- reformation and a patriot who predicted the Partitions of Poland in the second half of the 18th century. His analytic mind made him one of very few aware figures in Polish history who realized the political mistakes of Polish monarchs.