St. Mary's Church – Altar of Wit Stoss


To experience the magnificence of the interior to the fullest, it is best to enter from the Market Square, through intricately carved doors. The church is very slim and tall – in the nave it has 28 m. The interior bombards the senses with the richness of details. The mood is intensified by Matejko's polychrome covering the dark walls, similar to Scheherazade carpets. Above the whole there is a sapphire vault dotted with golden stars. However, to see the famous altar by Wit Stoss, you have to enter the church from the south. There was a strict division into the part for visitors and for prayers. At the marked entrance for tourists, you must buy a ticket to visit the chancel.

Altar of Wit Stoss

The altar of St. Mary is a pentaptic with a height 13 m and width 11 m, consisting of a central cabinet, one pair of movable wings and one pair of fixed wings. There is predella in the base, and the upper part is covered with an openwork top. There are two hundred carved figures in the altar, ranging in size from 3 cm do 3 m. The main theological thought, przyświecająca Stwoszowi w,realization of the work, it referred to the late medieval interpretation of the role of the Holy Mother in the redemption of the world. The central scene shows a group of mournful apostles surrounding Mary, which falls into the arms of Jacob. Worth noticing, that Maria was portrayed as a young and fragile woman, full of lyrical peace.

This is how Stoss expressed the painless and joyful character of "The Dormition of Mary”, who then reunited with her Son in heaven, as seen at the top of the central stage. Figury apostołów wyrzeźbione w drewnie lipowym mają ponad 3 m in height. Their faces are highly personalized, full of expression and psychological truth, bodies bend in dynamic poses, and an imperceptible gust of wind ripples my clothes. You can see it up close, with what knowledge of the details of anatomy Stoss carved his figures: veins lining their necks, there are wrinkles on the faces, tendons and muscles bulge under the skin of the arms and legs. A crowd of figures in the retable, that is, the recess of the altar cabinet, a multitude of smaller sculptures, details and ornaments in no way disturb the harmony and realism of the scene. Seems, as if the figures from the main altar chamber were frozen for a moment only, to come to life in a moment. There are relief scenes on the side movable wings: to the right, viewed from above, can be seen: Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, and on the left from the top: Annunciation, Christmas, Adoration of the Magi.

At the base of the altar is a predella depicting the Tree of Jesse, and in the top part of the altar there is a composition depicting the coronation of the Mother of God by God the Father and Christ. On the sides there are two patrons of Poland: st. Stanisław and St.. Wojciech.

In the main nave, apart from the line of 18th-century marble altars, in which the pictures of such painters are placed, how: Jan Baptysta Pittoni or Łukasz Orłowski, there are interesting stalls, in which sat city councilors and members of the patriciate.

When the altar is closed, you can admire other scenes from the life of Mary and Jesus, rendered with the extraordinary precision of a realist sculptor. which constitute peculiar “primer” the realities of medieval Krakow, providing knowledge about costumes, hairstyles, interior design details. From the analysis of these realistically rendered details, modern researchers have learned, for example, about skin diseases existing in the Middle Ages.