The church and monastery of the Augustians owed their construction to king Casimir the Great, who in 1342 brought monks from Prague. In this same year, the construction of a monastery complex, and more specifically, the eastern range of the monastery with the chapels of St. Thomas and St. Dorothy. In 1378, the presbytery of the church was consecrated by the bishop of Kraków, Jan Bodzanta. The construction of the nave took much longer, the main works were completed only in 1426. It also failed to complete all the plans, because the foundations prove that it was planned to erect two more towers to flank the west facade of the church. The temple was also supposed to be originally longer by one span. In its place, around 1404, Stibor of Stiboricz founded the chapel of St. Monika.
In 1443, the nave vault collapsed due to the earthquake, which was rebuilt only in 1505. The completion of the construction of the southern nave and porch dates back to 1448, initiated by the Lanckoroński family and bishop Zbigniew Oleśnicki. In the fifteenth century, a free-standing wooden belfry was built next to the church.
In the 16th century, the church was visited by misfortunes, first was flood in 1534, followed by a fire in 1556. In 1631, the church was restored, and the monastery’s buildings were raised by one floor. Unfortunately, a few decades later, during the Swedish deluge, the complex was devastated by the army of invaders. In 1786, it was hit by another earthquake, and shortly thereafter, the Austrian authorities turned the church into a weapons depot. Thanks to the efforts of bishop Karol Skórkowski and President of the Senate, Kasper Wielogłowski, the church and monastery were saved before demolition and renovated in the middle of the 19th century.
The church eventually reached the form of a three-nave basilica without towers, and without a transept. It consists of a four-bay chancel ended with a five-sided apse, and a four-bay nave, which was originally supposed to be one bay longer. Initially, the nave was to have a different form, hall one (as evidenced by the massive eastern wall), but the side aisles were not high enough. The slender chancel obtained a particularly sophisticated form, in contrast to which the western part of the temple was constructed much simpler. The spacious, bright interior of the presbytery was lit by slender windows with rich tracery, located in the eastern and southern walls. In the 15th century, it was covered with a stellar vault above the central nave, while rib rib vaults were used above the side aisles.
From the west side, the church adjoins to the gothic, modest chapel of St. Monika (Hungarian Chapel). It is covered with a gothic palm vault supported by an octagonal pillar. At the south aisle, at its second bay on the east, at the beginning of the fifteenth century, a porch was built, erected on a rectangular plan, in which the main entrance to the temple was placed. The interior of the porch around 1449 was covered with a stellar vault, and on its supports we can see the bas-relief coat of arms of bishop Zbigniew Oleśnicki. The outer facades of the porch are decorated with tracery, dividing it into pointed panels with the gothic motif of the trefoils.
From the north, the church is adjacent to the Gothic Augustinian monastery with a inner patio surrounded by cloisters and monastery buildings consisting of three wings and an extension of the eastern wing, reaching on the north side up to the city defensive wall, where a Gothic tower was adopted.
A characteristic feature of the cloisters was the wall from the side of the inner courtyard, erected as a sequence of deep arcades supported on pillars and connected by stone benches for the monks for recreation and rest. The Gothic chapel of St. Dorothy clung to the cloisters, which along with the east wing is the oldest part of the monastery complex. The chapel is a two-bay structure with rib vaults supported by a pair of pillars. From the east it ends with a presbytery closed on three sides. To the south of the chapel is a square chapter house with a rib vault supported by a single pillar, with letters on bosses forming the name of King Kazimierz.
The church together with the augustinian monastery is one of the best examples of medieval architecture in Poland. The towering silhouette of the temple and the diversity of forms and architectural detail distinguish this site in European construction from the times of mature gothic. Despite numerous renovations over the centuries, the temple, both outside and inside, presents the beauty of gothic forms, and together with the monastery is a rich collection of unique works of gothic art. In the cloister numerous wall Gothic paintings from the 15th and 16th centuries have been preserved.
Architektura gotycka w Polsce, red. T. Mroczko i M. Arszyński, Warszawa 1995.
Goras M., Zaginione gotyckie kościoły Krakowa, Kraków 2003.
Krasnowolski B., Leksykon zabytków architektury Małopolski, Warszawa 2013.
Walczak M., Kościoły gotyckie w Polsce, Kraków 2015.
Website krakow4u.pl, Kościół św. Katarzyny Aleksandryjskiej i św. Małgorzaty.