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Cathedral Museum in Krakow 

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Krakow’s Pope John Paul II Cathedral Museum

Priceless ancient items from the treasury of Krakow’s Wawel Cathedral are displayed in the 14th-century Gothic buildings opposite the main entry to the church. The Cathedral Museum was opened in 1978 by then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, future Pope John Paul II, just weeks before the historic conclave that would begin his pontificate. 

Museum’s collections.

The little Cathedral Museum (Muzeum Katedralne) boasts an array of exhibits that may be the envy of any collection of medieval church art in the world. “Kmita’s Chasuble” of 1503, the masterwork of Gothic embroidery (see the picture), is just one of them. The museum’s other gems include ornate golden monstrances and varied liturgical vessels such as fine chalices and ampullas, precious ancient crosses, fancy reliquaries, lavish chasubles and other vestments from the 15th century to the 19th century such as copes and miters, plus old paintings and sculptures. 


A distinct group of exhibits consists of the regalia of Polish monarchs (in that number copies of items found in Wawel Cathedral’s royal tombs) and assorted memorabilia connected with the great Poles, from the medieval saints to historical Krakow bishops to Pope John Paul II. 

Temporary shows in Krakow’s Cathedral Museum complement its permanent exhibitions.

Krakow's gothic chasuble
Krakow's 500-year-old 'Kmita's chasuble', a masterpieces of Gothic needlework, is one of the most treasured exhibits in the Wawel Cathedral's museum.

Cathedral Museum’s crown jewels.

For various reasons the following curios deserve special attention:

  • A golden cross made of two Romanesque coronets with mysterious ornaments. The coronets, possibly of the 13th century, tradition associates with Poland’s duke Boleslav V the Shy (1226-1279) and his saintly wife, Blessed Kinga (1224-92). The diadems were joined to form the cross in the late 15th century.

  • St. Hedwig’s goblet. Tradition associates the precious glass of the 11th-century Fatimid make (Egypt) with Princess Hedwig of Silesia (Polish name Jadwiga, born circa 1174 died 1243), the saintly wife of Poland’s ruler Henryk Brodaty (Duke Henry the Bearded).

  • Coronation mantle of King Stanislav August (1732-1798), Poland’s last monarch who abdicated in 1795.

  • The 12th-century silver casket made by a Saracen silversmith on Sicily. Decorated with Arabic inscriptions as well as embossed scenes of fighting knights and a medieval hunt, it nevertheless served long as a church reliquary.

  • St. Stanislav’s miter decorated with pearls, sapphires, and rubies and his ring. Tradition associates them with Krakow’s bishop-martyr killed in 1079 though experts believe both items date from the mid-13th century.

  • King Sigismund II August’s ornate sword of the 16th century ceremoniously broken twice at his funeral.

Yet two most prized objects from the cathedral treasure are missing from the exhibition in the museum. One is the Spear of St. Maurice (actually a 10th-century copy of Vienna’s original), given to Poland’s monarch Boleslav I the Brave by Emperor Otto III in year 1000 as a friendship token. The other is a golden reliquary of 1506 for the skull of St. Stanislav, richly decorated with precious stones and adorned with beautifully carved scenes from the life of the saint bishop - a masterpiece of the Gothic goldsmithery that seldom leaves the safe.

The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 pm April through October and to 4 pm November through March. Regular ticket price amounts to twelve zlotys, i.e. an equivalent of under three euro, and it allows to see also the Wawel Cathedral, the royal tombs in its crypts, and the giant Zygmunt bell.

Cathedral Museum’s postal address is Muzeum Katedralne im. Jana Pawla II, Wawel 3, 31-001 Krakow, Poland. Phone (+48) 124222643. 

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