Where is Wawel Cathedral? In Krakow, southern Poland. The Cathedral is a magnificent building situated amongst the series of buildings that comprise Wawel Hill.
Best way to view the Cathedral
I have visited Wawel Cathedral three times. The first time was with a tour guide as part of an all-in holiday to Zakopane many years ago. This was a disaster in my opinion as I just found the guide really boring and ended up wandering off on my own. Since then I have visited without a guide. This can be a bit tricky if you want to see more than the cathedral as Wawel Hill is a popular destination due to the fact that most of the buildings close at 3pm so everyone wants to fit as much in as possible. However, a ticket isn't necessary for viewing most of the cathedral so my best advice is to go early in the morning, beat the crowds and view the cathedral first.
The Importance of the Cathedral
As you may or may not know Krakow was the capital of Poland until it was moved to Warsaw in the 17th century. This cathedral was the shrine of monarchs and from 1930 Polish kings were crowned and buried in the crypts along side Polish statesmen, religious leaders and cultural figures such as Poland's greatest poet Adam Mickiewicz. This is still the case and you may remember the state funeral that took place on Wawel Hill after the death of Lech Kaczynski, the President of Poland then, who was killed in the air crash at Smolensk in April, 2010.
According to early history books the first cathedral was built on this exact spot roughly after AD 1000. It was at this place where the first Bishop of Krakow was consecrated. This building didn't stay in one piece for very long - the Bohemians attacked it. In the 11th and 12th centuries a Romanesque building was erected although this was destroyed by fire in 1306 leaving only the Crypt of St Leonard standing. The basic structure of the current cathedral is Gothic and was consecrated in 1364, under King Kazimierz the Great. Like most buildings in Poland different generations have added their own touches of style and colour so you could say that this particular cathedral is an example of Polish architecture throughout the ages.
More about my visit and what I saw
I entered St Stanislaus' Cathedral through the main entrance on all my visits. The first time I was thrilled to see the bones suspended to the right of the entrance. These are huge and suspended by a chain. The legend that goes with the bones is interesting and as I love a legend and Krakow is full of them I have always returned to this entrance. Apparently, these bones belong to the dragon of Krakow and if they should ever separate from the chains the world will end. Good job the chains are replaced frequently with new ones.
I have been meaning to write about Wawel Cathedral for a while now but there is so much of it to describe I have put it off knowing that a review would probably read like a long essay so I will try and keep this review as short as possible.