St Anne's Church
ul. św. Anny 11
Thanks to the foundation of the professors of the Academy of Kraków and King John (Jan) III Sobieski, and the design of a Dutch architect, we can admire one of the most beautiful examples of mature baroque in Poland at the heart of Kraków.
What today is the Collegiate Church of St Anne was built in the 17th/18th century as an initiative of the professors of the nearby University, supported by their former student – King John III Sobieski. Its architect, Tylman van Gameren, took Sant’Andrea Della Valle Church in Rome as his model; the new church was far more impressive than the one that it replaced, answering the preferences and ambitions of contemporary academics. This is how the history of the origin of one of the most magnificent baroque structures in Poland unfolded. The impressive façade was skilfully exposed so that it offered a splendid shape even if viewed from the perspective of a very narrow street, which additionally was enclosed by the city wall when the church was built. The lavish three-aisle interior of the church makes a powerful impression. The edifice is crowned by a dome placed on the so-called pendentives featuring the cardinal virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude.
Inside the church one can find tombs of and epitaphs to professors of the Kraków University, including the grave of St John of Kęty (Cantius, Jan Kanty, d. 1473), a theologian, and graduate, lecturer and patron of the University. His person is enshrouded in numerous legends speaking of the saint’s sensitivity to human suffering. He was rumoured to have given away his cloak to a beggar, only to find it returned miraculously to his own wardrobe. Another time, thanks to his intercession and prayer, a despairing servant miraculously regained a flagon that she had broken. One of the traditions of the parish of Saint Anne’s is the October procession of St John Cantius, which the University’s professors participate in.
In the southern end of the transept, there stands the impressive grave (konfesja) of the saint, with Turkish bunchuks captured by King John III Sobieski in the victorious battle of Vienna in 1683 arrayed beside it.
A testimony to the courage of the Kraków professors is the monument to Nicolas Copernicus (Mikołaj Kopernik) of 1823: a particular homage of the Jagiellonian University to its famous graduate. It was erected while the writings of the astronomer were still formally listed on the church’s index of forbidden books.
In 1868, Helena Modrzejewska, a great actress specialising in Shakespearean and tragic repertoires, married in this church. As Helena Modjeska, she also became successful on the American stage.
Be sure to see:
- the stucco decoration by Baldassare Fontana
- the trompe-l’œil (i.e. pretending to be three-dimensional) polychrome wall decorations
- painting of St Anne with St Mary and Infant Jesus on the high altar
- the baroque organ that has retained its original sound and is considered the best instrument from the period in Kraków
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