08 June 2021

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
10, Kraków Cathedral

Kraków Cathedral stands within the castle fortifications on Wawel Hill (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

This week my photographs are of cathedrals in European capitals or former capitals. This morning (8 June 2021), my photographs are from Kraków Cathedral, once the capital of Poland.

Bishop Nanker began building the present cathedral in the 14th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

For centuries, Kraków was the capital of Poland and the country’s largest city. Although the royal court moved to Warsaw in 1609, Kraków remained the Polish capital for centuries, and this city retains the atmosphere of a European capital.

Wawel Hill in the heart of the old town of Kraków includes Kraków Cathedral and Wawel Castle. The Wawel Royal Castle and the Wawel Hill are regarded as the most historically and culturally important site in Poland. For centuries, this was the official residence of the kings of Poland and the symbol of Polish nationality.

Kraków Cathedral, which stands within the walls of the castle, is officially known as the Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus. The cathedral is more than 900 years old.

In the past, this Gothic cathedral was the place for the coronation of Polish kings as well as the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Kraków, and today it is still revered as the Polish national sanctuary.

This is the third cathedral on the site. The first cathedral was built on this site in the 11th century, but was destroyed soon after. The second cathedral was built there in the 12th century, but it was destroyed by fire in 1305. Bishop Nanker began building the present cathedral in the 14th century.

The bones of an ‘ancient creature’ hang above the main entrance to the cathedral. Legend says that should it fall the catastrophe will mark the beginning of the end of the world.

The cathedral has a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with an ambulatory and radiating chapels.

The main altar in the cathedral dates from 1650. It was set there by Bishop Piotr Gembicki and is the work of Giovanni Battista Gisleni. The painting above the altar of ‘Christ Crucified’ is by Marcin Blechowski, and also dates from the 17th century.

In front of the main altar, a tall canopy of black marble supported by four pillars stands above the silver coffin of Saint Stanislaus, the patron saint of Poland. It dates from 1669-1671 and replaces an earlier shrine stolen by the Swedes in 1655.

From the 14th century, Wawel Cathedral was the main location for the burial of Polish monarchs. Over time, it has been extended and altered as kings and rulers added their burial chapels and chapels for their family members.

Sigismund’s Chapel, or Zygmunt Chapel, is a square-based chapel with a golden dome that houses the tomb of its founder, King Sigismund I ‘the Old,’ and the tombs of his children, King Sigismund II Augustus and Princess Anna Jagiellonka.

Beneath the cathedral , the crypt holds the tombs of Polish kings, heroes, generals, poets and revolutionaries, from Jan III Sobieski and his wife Maria Kazimiera to Władysław Sikorski, Prime Minister of the Polish Government-in-Exile during World War II.

Pope John Paul II presided at his first Mass after his ordination to the priesthood in the crypt of the cathedral 75 years ago on 2 November 1946, and here he was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Kraków on 28 September 1958.

He once considered being buried there too, but was buried in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Instead, one of the side chapels on the south side of the cathedral has been rededicated in his name.

The cathedral was the place for the coronation of Polish kings and it is still revered as the Polish national sanctuary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 5: 13-16 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 13 ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

14 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.’

Wawel Royal Castle crowns Wawel Hill and is at the heart of the old and historic city in Kraków (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (8 June 2021, World Oceans Day) invites us to pray:

We pray for the world’s oceans. Humanity has neglected and polluted them, ignoring their fundamental importance to our wellbeing. May we reverse the damage we have done, and work for cleaner and safer oceans.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

A statue of Pope John Paul II faces the main entrance to Kraków Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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