Polish Catholic church is divided into 14 metropolis, 14 archdioceses and 27 dioceses. There are around 60 cathedrals in Poland and more than 140 basilicas.
We have already described some of the most interesting Polish churches in our articles Catholic Pilgrimage Sites in Poland and Religious Attractions of Cracow and its Vicinity. This time we want to concentrate on the most interesting Polish cathedrals.
It was built by Cistercians, who had been present in the area from 1186. The present shape dates back to 1350, when both the Cathedral and the Monastery were rebuilt after a great fire. In 1976 the Cathedral was raised to Basilica Minor by Pope Paul IV and in 1996 it became an Arch-cathedral. The Cathedral in Oliwa can be visited throughout the whole year and it is especially renowned for the organ music concerts and International Organ Music Festival that takes place every summer.
It is one of the most recognisable buildings in Gdańsk. With its sheer size it is towering over the old town and is the biggest brick church in Poland. Its full name reads Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Basilica was built between 1346 and 1506 in Gothic form. In its history, it was both Catholic and Protestant church. Today the visitors may marvel on the Middle-age décor of the interior.
Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Pelplin is a gothic church, originally a temple of the Cistercian monastery and from 1824 it has been the seat of the local bishop. From the former monastic complex, the cathedral and some of the monastic buildings centered around the four-sided patio have been preserved. The cathedral is one of the largest brick Gothic churches in Poland. It has a rich interior design from the 15th and 18th centuries, including monumental, 25-meter high altar, numerous side altars, a set of stalls, a pulpit and side organs.
It has been a cathedral church since 1992. It is one of the tallest sacred buildings in Poland (tower height is 97 m). The most valuable elements of the interior are: a gothic bronze baptismal font from 1387 made by master Bernhauser, wooden figures of the apostles, a large gothic sculpture of St. Nicholas and the late Gothic altars transferred from other churches in Elbląg (altars of the Three Kings, malt makers, Virgin Mary, raftsmen).
The Royal Gniezno Cathedral is located on the Lech Hill in Gniezno. It’s one of the oldest and most precious sacral monuments in Poland. The building dates from the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries and is the third church built on that Hill. The contemporary temple is a three-nave basilica with an ambulatory and a wreath of fourteen chapels. Most tourists come to the cathedral to see the famous Gniezno Doors, considered a masterpiece of Romanesque casting art in Poland. The side chapels are very interesting, especially the Potocki Chapel and the Łubieński Chapel, where several Polish primates are buried. The temple is one of Poland's national Historical Monuments, as designated on September 16, 1994 and tracked by the National Heritage Board of Poland.
The Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul in Poznań is the oldest church in Poland – dating back to the 10th century. Throughout the history the church was rebuilt and restored multiple times and possibly in all styles. With restoration works in the 1950’s led by Franciszek Morawski the church received its original Gothic look of the 15th century building with the exception of Classical tented roofs on both steeples. Poznań Cathedral is a burial place of some of the first Polish kings and quite possibly of the first ruler of Poland Mieszko I as well.
The neo-gothic cathedral is modeled after Notre Dame in Chartres. It is the work of the "Wende i Zarske". The construction of the church from the distinctive bright yellow brick (imported from Upper Silesia) lasted from 1901 to 1912. The 104 m high tower, giving the temple a slender shape, was not erected until 1927 due to financial problems and the outbreak of war. The cathedral is decorated with rosettes, stained glass windows (the oldest made in Saxony) and ogival windows. The beautiful altars were founded by factory owners (including Heinzl), merchants and workers.
The Church of Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, often referred to as Johns’ Cathedral, is a red-brick, Gothic church in Torun’s Old Town. The first buildings excavated during archaeological works dates back to early 13th century. Construction of the second building began in 14th century with numerous further modifications and expansion. The church building took its final form in late 15th century and more-less as such remains up until this day. The basilica is filled with countless Gothic, Baroque and Rococo works of art, it holds the largest mediaeval church bell Tuba Dei (God’s Trumpet) cast in 1500.
Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist is located in the Old Town of Warsaw at 8 Świętojańska street. It is one of the oldest temples in Warsaw. It was here that the coronation of King Stanisław August Poniatowski in 1764 took place, as well as the swearing in of the first European Constitution of May 3 in 1791. In the crypts of the basilica there are the tombs of Mazovian dukes, Warsaw archbishops, the last king of Poland Stanisław August Poniatowski, the first Polish president Gabriel Narutowicz, writer and Nobel Prize winner Henryk Sienkiewicz, and musician and statesman Ignacy Jan Paderewski. In 1980, Basilica was included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.
Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a baroque temple with remnants of the Romanesque style, located in the center of Kielce on the "Castle Hill" just by Kielce Bishops’ Palace. It is one of the most valuable monuments of the city. Currently, the church, belfry and towers of the neighboring Palace of the Krakow Bishops tower over the low buildings of the city center. The temple, the garden chapel from 1760 and the belfry from the mid-17th century as the cathedral complex were entered in the Polish register of monuments. The building has many movable monuments, incl. altars, chalices and monstrances. Some of them are located in the treasury and in order to visit it, you must make an appointment in advance. The monument is the organ built in 1912 by the Rieger company, while the organ cabinet is from the 18th century.
It is a neo-gothic temple located at Henryka Sienkiewicza 16 in Radom. Built in the years 1894–1911 according to the design of Józef Pius Dziekoński. The church is a three-nave basilica with a transept with a richly fragmented facade dominated by a rosette and three portals. The design refers to the French Gothic, also through the use of a system of buttresses and resistant arches. The shape of the 72-meter towers is a reference to the taller tower of St. Mary's Church in Kraków.
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Wrocław, located in the Ostrów Tumski district, is a Gothic church with Neo-Gothic additions. It is the most important temple in Wrocław, the church of the Wrocław Archbishop. A beautiful gothic building, built in the 13th / 14th century as the fifth church in this place (the first Wrocław cathedral was founded by king Bolesław Chrobry in 1000), rebuilt after the destruction in 1945. Inside the cathedral there are valuable monuments of sculpture and painting: the triptych of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary from 1552, a brick pulpit (1723), oak stalls created in the years 1662-1665, as well as numerous tombstones from the Middle Ages, mannerism and baroque. The cathedral has 21 chapels. Worth seeing is the chapel of St. Elizabeth (1680-1686) and Elector's Chapel (1716-1721), the work of the outstanding Viennese architect J.B. Fischer von Erlach.
Cathedral Basilica of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Sandomierz is a Gothic church erected around 1360 and expanded in the middle of the 15th century. The baroque facade of the temple dates from 1670. In the years 1708–1776, the interior was baroque. At the end of the 19th century, the cathedral was renovated according to the guidelines of Fr. Józef Karsznicki (e.g. brick facade cladding). The interior is furnished in late Baroque and Rococo style (the main late Baroque altar is made of black inlaid marble, the Rococo side altars were carved by M. Polejowski). The polychromes in the presbytery and on the walls are in the Byzantine-Ruthenian style from the first half of the 15th century.
St. Stanislaus the Bishop and Martyr and St. Wacław Martyr Cathedral in Świdnica is a Gothic church. Since 2004 it has been the cathedral of the Świdnica diocese. It is located at John Paul II Square, in the south-eastern part of the medieval city. It is one of the most important monuments of Świdnica. Moreover, it is one of the largest churches in Lower Silesia. The tower with a height of 103 m is currently the highest in the whole of Silesia and the fifth largest in Poland.
The cathedrals are bishops' churches. Hence the bishops teach the faithful of the dioceses. Cathedrals in Poland are beautiful because they were built with faith, prayer and love. It is really worth to discover these places during your tours around Poland. The above examples are just a mere fraction of interesting Polish religious attractions. To find out more interesting sites check ITS Poland website. Check with ITS Poland group coordinators which of the destinations you can visit during your stay in Poland.
Author: Agnieszka Szwedzińska