Corpus Christi Basilica is one of only few remaining Christian buildings in the district of Kazimierz that had become predominantly Jewish in character over the centuries. Corpus Christi Basilica was erected in stages, beginning in 1340 and finished in the mid-15th century. It was one of many foundations of king Casimir III the Great, whose reign is often referred as “the golden age” in Polish history. Basilica’s exterior remained mostly Gothic, with a very interesting, free-standing tower and its interior is an excellent example of Polish Baroque.
History of Corpus Christi Basilica Krakow
Corpus Christi Basilica was founded in 1340 by king Casimir III the Great within about 1 km distance from Wawel Royal Castle. At that time the church was only wooden and the area around it rather secluded. Kazimierz, which would later become the centre of Jewish life, was a separate town. Initially, Corpus Christi Basilica was planned to be a monastery church, hence the large parcel on which it stands and the old monastic cemetery next to it. Around 1405 the construction works of the brick structure finished. Later a monastery was built adjacent to the church for the Canons Regular of the Lateran.
The legend says that king Casimir III the Great decided to build a church after a miraculous discovery of a monstrance that had been stolen from All Saints’ Church (now non-existent) during the octave of Corpus Christi and found on the exact spot where now the Basilica stands. The thieves probably believed that the monstrance was made of gold and realising their mistake soon, they abandoned the object in wetlands nearby Kazimierz.
Corpus Christi Basilica dominates over the neighbourhood. It is mostly Gothic in style, with a few Baroque chapels. The most distinctive element of the exterior is the free-standing bell tower built between 1565-1582. Several notable people for the history of Krakow were buried in the Basilica, including Bartolommeo Berrecci, the famous artist who worked as a court architect for king Sigismund I the Old and designed the “Pearl of Renaissance”, Sigismund Chapel in Wawel Cathedral.
Unlike the brick, stern exterior of Corpus Christi Basilica, the interior is completely Baroque with many elaborate elements. The golden, boat-shaped pulpit was made in the mid-18th century. It corresponds beautifully with black-and-gold wall decorations and the marvellous Baroque high altar. The church has three naves, but it does not have a transept.
Corpus Christi Basilica houses the largest organs in Krakow. The main instrument was built between 1958-1963 using some elements of the old organ dating back to the 1770’s. It was designed for 83 pitches and consists of two parts. The main organ placed on the choir and side organs located in the chancel. The organs have a total of 5950 pipes and 25 bells. They have the ability to play works written on an echo basis. The sound of organs 70 meters away from each other gives the listener a unique experience.
Plan your visit
Corpus Christi Basilica is an active place of worship. Masses on weekdays: 6.30, 8.00, 12.00, 19.00; masses on Sundays and public holidays: 6.30, 7.40, 8.00, 9.30, 11.00, 12.15, 16.00, 18.30, 19.00.