Węcławowicz Tomasz

Abstract

The first part of this paper aims to analyze the pattern of the network of Krakow town churches in the Romanesque and Gothic periods and studies the
role of these individual components of urban landscape taking into account the significance of their dedications (patrocinia) in the symbolic space of the town.
The rocky (Wawel) Hill, rising among the meanders of the Vistula River, constitutes the centre of Krakow. Since the very end of the 10th century it was the seat of the bishops and the ducal residence, and later it became the
main residence of the Polish kings. In the Romanesque period ten churches and chapels were built here: the cathedral complex consisted of the baptistery
chapel and two basilicas, and seven other small churches and chapels according to the concept developed in the early Middle Ages following the exegesis
of the apocalyptic vision of St John the Evangelist.
Beneath the castle, along the main trade routes, four churches were founded in modo cruces. Some historians have suggested that the idea of a cruciform layout came from Prince Kazimir, known as the Restorer. In the
second half of the 11th century the prince intended to re-create in his capital the layout of the imperial seat in Aachen, an arrangement rich in powerful association.
At the end of the 12th century, three more churches dedicated to the Roman Martyrs were founded in Krakow simultaneously as an attempt to reinvent the city as a similitudo Romae in its Early Christian glory.
The second part of this paper explains the distinguishing features of the cathedral church and other churches in town and argues that iconographic analysis of their architecture helps to explain their unique character and
appearance.
During the 14th century the cathedral church was quickly becoming one the most important in the Kingdom, the true Königskirche. The idea of Christian Kingship was an important part of their iconographic program. Also
the monumental basilical churches in town can be seen as a manifestation of Kingdom and Kingship. In contrast to the importance of the monumental basilical churches, the meanings of the small hall churches concentrated
more on the devotion aspects.
Towards the end of the Middle Ages the city space gradually took on new symbolic meanings connected with the cathedral church as the sanctuary of St Stanislaw, Pater Patriae – the primary political patron of Poland.

Keywords

Middle Ages; Krakow; Meanings of Architecture

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The city of Krakow is unique in that its many medieval monuments - ecclesiastical

as well as secular - have been preserved and still dominate the townscape.

The medieval agglomeration can be clearly discerned in the centre of the

contemporary city. A lot has been written about the history of Krakow and its

monuments but the meaning of the structure of the medieval town still awaits

a proper study. Most important is an analysis of the network of Krakow town

churches in the Romanesque and Gothic periods together with the role of

these individual components of urban landscape and the signifi cance of their

dedications (patrocinia) in a symbolic space of the town. There are also some

important architectural elements which help create the sacral space of these

monumental dominant features.

The rocky Wawel Hill, rising among the meanders of the Vistula River,

constitutes the centre of Krakow. From the very end of the 10th century it was

the seat of the bishops and the ducal residence, and later it became the main

residence of the Polish kings.

In the Romanesque period ten churches and chapels were built herethe

cathedral complex consisted of the baptistery chapel and two basilicas, and

seven other small churches and chapels according to the concept developed

in the early Middle Ages following the exegesis of the apocalyptic vision of St

John the Evangelist. Probably the tallest among these structures was the double

storey tetraconchos - the palace chapel of St Mary placed in the middle of

the hill (Pianowski 1995; Węcławowicz 2005b). (ill. 1)

Beneath the castle, along the main trade routes, four churches were

founded in modo crucisThe Holy Saviour in the West, St Adalbert to the North,

St Nicholas in the West and St Benedict on the South side. No sources shed

any light on the circumstances of these four foundations, but their relics suggest

that they were built in the second half of the 11th century. Some historians

have suggested that the idea of a cruciform layout came from Prince Kazimir,

known as the Restorer, but was realized only later by his son King Boleslaus.

Prince Kazimir was related to the Emperor Otto III and spent his youth in

Aachen and Cologne. In Aachen he might have seen the realisation of a similar

imperial foundation - Otto III built three churches around the Carolingian

palace complex with the chapel of St Mary. Just as in Krakow, these were dedicated

to the Holy Saviour, St. Adalbert and St Nicholas (Michałowski 1989;

Skwierczynski 1993, pp. 36ff). It is important to emphasise that the Christian

name of Prince Kazimir was Carolus, and it was given to him to stress the relation

between the young Piast dynasty and the rulers of the Sacrum Romanum

Imperium. The Restorer was strongly supported by his uncle, the archbishop of

Cologne, in his campaign to renovate the Church organization in Poland. All

these links make it feasible for the prince to recreate in his Polish capital the

layout of the Imperial seat in Aachen, an arrangement rich in powerful association.

(ill. 2 and 3)

One hundred years later, at the end of the 12th century, three more churches

were founded in Krakow simultaneously. These were St Florian, St Stephen

and St Lawrence built on the western, southern and northern peripheries of

the agglomeration. In 1186 Bishop Gideon transferred the relics of St Florian

from Italy to Krakow in order to enhance the status of his cathedral. According

to a medieval legend of this transfer [Legenda translationis sancti Floriani

Martyri] the relics of St Florian rested in Roman catacombs together with

those of St Stephen and St Laurence. In view of this "holy affi nity" we may

interpret the foundation of their three Krakow churches as an attempt to

reinvent the city as a similitude Rome in its Early Christian glory (Translation

1888; Węcławowicz 2005a, pp. 134136). Till the end of the Middle Ages the

urban borders hardly transcended the approximate limits defi ned in ca 1200 by

the churches of St Stephen, St Florian and St Laurence. (ill. 4 and 5)

 

In the mid14th century, Central Europe experienced important political and

economic changes. In Poland, the ancient and revered Piast dynasty returned to

power with the coronation of King Ladislaw the Short in 1320, restoring political

unity after two hundred years of political fragmentation. Krakow became

the capital town of the new state. Under the royal and bishop's patronage old

churches were rebuilt in the city itself as well as in the two new satellite towns

outside the capital's defensive walls - called Kazimir (Casimirus) and Klepardia

(Clepardia). (ill. 5 and 11)

The rebuilding of Krakow cathedral as a large Gothic basilica was the first

of these modern foundations, and others soon followed suit - the main parish

church of St. Mary, the Dominican church, and two large basilicas (the church

of the Austin Friars and the parish church of Corpus Christi), which were constructed

in Kasimir. All these churches shared similar characteristics in their

ground plan, construction and architectural detail pioneered by the cathedral

workshop and have thus been treated in the literature as a one group, the so-called

‘Krakow school of fourteenth century architecture'. (Crossley 1985, pp.

1884; Crossley 1995; Węcławowicz 1993) (ill. 6 and 7a-d)

In the same period the second group of churches, among them some of the

above-mentioned Romanesque churches, were reconstructed, again following

a strikingly uniform model. (ill. 8a-c and 9a-e)

 

 

It is important to explain the distinguishing features of the churches belonging

to these two groups and to argue that iconographic analysis of their architecture

helps to explain their unique character and appearance. Especially helpful

in this can be an attempt to understand the intention of the founder. The four

nearly identical basilicas, following one scheme and constructed over a short

time, seem to have been conceived as a part of an artistic program for the

rebuilding of the Polish capital town. Their naves were modelled on the nave

of the cathedral and it is likely that it was their patrons' intention to convey

some of the ideas of the cathedral church. In the middle of the 14th century the

Krakow cathedral quickly became one the most important in the Kingdom, the

true Königskirche - the coronation church, the royal mausoleum and the shrine

of the national patron saint. The Gothic remodelling of the cathedral church

treated the sacrosanct places connected to the saint with great respect. The

location of his Romanesque tomb was unchanged and it became the geometrical

and devotional focus of the new basilica.

The arrangement of the royal tombs "in the orbit" of St Stanislaw's shrine

- those of Ladislaw the Short and his son Kazimir the Great are placed in the

eastern part of the ambulatory and those of Ladislaw the Jagiellon and his son

Kazimir the Jagiellon in its western part - emphasizes the role of St Stanislaw

as the patron saint of the Polish Kingdom and the meaning of the church space

as a microcosm representing that kingdom in both the territorial and historical

sense. Royal coronations took place in the centre of the cathedral church and

thus in the centre of the Kingdom. (ill. 10)

The disposition of the cathedral interior and surviving fragments of the

original cathedral decoration - e.g., the fi gure of St Stanislaw, the coat of

arms with the Polish eagle - testify that the idea of Christian Kingship was an

important part of their iconographic program. (Crossley 1995; Crossley 2001;

Rożnowska-Sadraei 2003, Węcławowicz 2005, pp. 65-98)

In the above-mentioned basilical churches some elements of decorations

refer to similar ideas: e.g., the coat of arms with the Polish eagle, and the coats

of arms of the members of the Royal family. The King's name KAZYMIRUS

was spelled out on the rib-vault bosses. These monumental churches can be

seen as a manifestation of Kingdom and Kingship.

 

The remains of the small Romanesque churches from the second group

have also been excavated and studied. Archaeological and historical research

has shown that all these buildings were redesigned to have Gothic hall naves

with a pair or a single pillar in the middle (Goras 2003). (ill. 8 and 9)

In contrast with the importance of the monumental basilical churches, the

intentions of this group concentrated more on the devotion aspects. According

to the biblical exegesis, the central stone pillar can be seen as an allegory

of the True Cross, in moral or so-called tropological interpretation as the Tree

of Paradise. Anagogical interpretation understands the pillar as the tree standing

in the middle of Heavenly Jerusalem as seen by St. John in his vision of the

Last Judgment.

 

During the 15th century the city of Krakow itself came to be seen as being under

the special protection of St Stanislaw - the primary political patron of Poland.

The city space gradually took on new symbolic meanings connected with

the cathedral church. In some of the 15th century descriptions the city space

gradually took on new symbolic meanings: towering above the town was the

royal castle surrounded by "crownshaped" walls - the seat of kings and the

cathedral church, the resting place of the holy relics of St Stanislaw, the Pater

Patriae (Dlugosz 1961, pp. 168169).

Moreover Krakow also appears (contrary to geographical facts) to be situated

in the very centre of Poland as well as in the very centre of Europe. The

topos of the town "in the centre" goes back to Ezekiel's vision of Jerusalem

existing amidst pagan states.

At the end of the Middle Ages Krakow's inhabitants had no doubt - the

omphalos was placed inside the cathedral church, at St Stanislaw's shrine. (ill. 11)

Vydání: 9, 2007, 1

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