Kraków – Franciscan Monastery


   The Franciscans settled in Kraów in 1236 or 1237 and already in 1249 a provincial chapter was held in the monastery. The original church was one of the first brick buildings in the city, because in 1269 the corpse of the Polish princess, a nun of Salomea Halicka, was moved to his presbytery, and in 1279 the benefactor of the monastery, Prince Bolesław the Chaste was buried in the chancel. A little earlier, in 1277, the Franciscans obtained a new area from priest Kinga, which allowed for further expansion, carried out until the fifteenth century. The extended church was consecrated again in 1436 by cardinal Zbigniew Oleśnicki.
   In 1462, the church was consumed by a fire, in 1465 the tower collapsed, and in 1476 another fire occurred. In 1563, before entering the church from the exit of Bracka street, tower was erected. It was a large building, quite high, made of stone and brick. In 1655 the church was burned again. It was reconstructed by dividing the interior into a nave and a chapel formed from aisle. The interiors have been decorated with a baroque style. The last, most devastating fire consumed the monastery in 1850.


   The original monastery church from the 13th century was most likely an asymmetrical two-aisle, five-bay hall building with a chancel built on the plan of an isosceles Greek cross, most likely without a tower at the intersection of aisles. Perhaps it was an architectural borrowing from Italy, or maybe this shape originated from late antique and early Christian martyrs and mausoleums, because in the church was buried prince Bolesław the Chaste and his sister Salomea. Patterns closer to the cross shape of the presbytery can be found in the parish church in Bolków and in the church in Kałkowo. The second aisle of the nave was built on the north side and had the same length as the main aisle, but was narrower. It can be assumed that this was connected with the attempt to create a double monastery for the Franciscans and Poor Clares, but eventually the nuns gained their own separate buildings around 1320.
   Originally, the bays on the façades of the nave were marked with windows and buttresses, in the interior with arcades on four pillars. Above, the hall was covered by a wooden ceiling or open roof truss. The chancel, on the other hand, consisted of square bays, vaulted and probably separated by arch bands. Around 1260-1270, a sacristy was added to the presbytery on the south-east side, and a slender tower was located in the corner of the nave and the north-west part of the cross presbytery. This location of the tower, not in the middle of the chancel, but outside the church’s perimeter walls, results from the analysis of the message of the chronicler Jan Długosz after the destruction of 1465 and is associated with the visible rebuilding of the older wall with monk bond bricks by the Flemish bond with the use of zendrówka bricks.
   In the first half of the fifteenth century, the chancel was extended by two bays to the east and closed with a three-sided apse. The nave after the destruction of 1465, was rebuilt in a new form, in the form of a two-aisle vaulted basilica in a pillar-buttress system.

   The monastery buildings originally consisted of a house whose north-east corner connected with the south-west corner of the church nave. This building took the place of an older house, made of limestone before the arrival of the Franciscans. The second pre-Franciscan building with a plan similar to a square, perhaps a tower-like building, was in the place of a later gate, on the south-west side of the enclosure. Then a free-standing hall, orientated towards the parts of the world, was erected (later the chapel of St. Eligius in the southern wing of the enclosure), and only then, unusual, the eastern wing, considered to be the most important in the monasteries. At the beginning of the 15th century, monastery cloisters were built, which combined the older, symmetrically distributed but dispersed buildings into a classic three-wing enclosure, adjacent to the church and separating an inner open courtyard. Three arms of the cloister were covered with rib vaults, and the eastern part with a net and stellar vault in the northern bay.
   The oldest west wing was originally a one-story building, erected on a rectangular plan, divided inside into two large rooms: northern and southern, both of which were covered with flat ceilings. The rooms were accessible from separate entrances from the east, and they were illuminated by semi-circularly topped windows placed in splayed jambs and filled with traceries. Windows consisted of three stone, lancet arcades with a circular profile (a motif typical of 13th-century English architecture, but also found in German countries). The function of both rooms is unknown, but it is assumed that at least one of them, southern one, served as a refectory with a niche for the reader wgo read during meals. The second hall, the northern one, was equipped with benches circling the entire interior, so it is seen in either the chapter house or the second summer refectory, although the functioning of two refectories at such an early stage, with a not very extensive convent, seems unlikely. Also placing stone benches by the walls would be more suited to the chapter house than the dining room, where meals were most often eaten on wooden tables in the middle of the room.

Current state

   Although the Franciscan convent was destroyed by fires and rebuilt many times to our times, it has preserved in its gothic and partly neo-gothic form. In the monastery cloisters survived the gothic frescoes, and the gallery of Cracow bishops painted in the 15th century.

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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.
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Walczak M., Kościoły gotyckie w Polsce, Kraków 2015.