greatest artist of medieval Krakow.
a.k.a. Wit Stwosz, arguably the best sculptor of the Middle
Ages, lived and worked in the Polish
city of Krakow from 1477 to 1496. Here he created
his supreme masterpiece – huge multiple-part altar in the church
of the Virgin Mary (Kosciol Mariacki) that towers
over Krakow’s Old Town central historic district. Also a
number of the artist’s other outstanding works grace the
former capital of Poland and thus it can boast more sculptures
by Veit Stoss than any place.
scene of St. Mary's altar in the church of the Virgin Mary in
consists of three-meter-tall statues of the
life of Veit Stoss: between Krakow and Nuremberg.
The artist known also as Wit Stwosz, Veit
Stvos, and Wit Stosz was born in Horb am Neckar in south
Swabia, now southwest Germany, in 1447 or possibly 1448. He
died in the city of Nuremberg in German Franconia on September
20th, 1533 and was buried at St. Johann's cemetery.
As a young man Veit Stoss was apprenticed
to Dutch sculptor Nicholas of Leyden who worked in Strasbourg,
Constance, and Vienna at that time. In 1468 Stoss achieved the
rank of a master sculptor. He also traveled Swabia
and Rhineland to further his artistic education. Next Veit
to Nuremberg in 1473 where he married Barbara Hertz and set up
In 1477 Veit Stoss arrived to Krakow
in Poland to accept a very lucrative commission to
carve the biggest Gothic altarpiece ever for the city’s
largest church. Curiously, it’s his earliest known work. In
Krakow Veit Stoss set up his own workshop employing other
sculptors as well apprentices and he assumed a more Polish
name of Wit Stwosz. It took him twelve years to complete St.
Mary’s altar with its 200 sculptures. Subsequent
Krakow’s works by Veit Stoss include statues, tombs,
bas-reliefs, and engravings.
From 1484 Veit Stoss doubled as the
municipal architect of Krakow. In 1486 he left for Nuremberg
and Passau for a year-long studies. Some historians believe
that it resulted in the blueprint for Krakow’s
barbican built in 1499, the largest medieval
fortification of this kind in Europe.
In 1496 Veit Stoss left the family
business in Krakow to son Stanislaw – a successful sculptor,
painter, and goldsmith in his own right – and moved with
wife and eight other children back to Nuremberg. Till his
death 37 years later Veit Stoss managed to execute many
outstanding sculptures throughout southern Germany but none
compares with the high altar in St. Mary’s church in Krakow.
Nuremberg authorities arrested the
sculptor for forgery of a bill of exchange in 1503 and as a
punishment he was branded on both cheeks with a nail.
Note: the artist, known as Wit Stwosz in
Poland and Veit Stoss elsewhere, used to sign his works 'Eit
Stoss's works in Krakow.
The Altar of St.
Mary's. Completed in 1489, limewood. In the chancel of
the church of the Virgin Mary (Kosciol Mariacki) at Rynek
Glowny central square /entry for tourists at Plac Mariacki
circa 1491, stone. In the east end of the south aisle of the
church of the Virgin Mary (Kosciol Mariacki) at Rynek Glowny
central square near the entry for tourists from Plac Mariacki
Sarcophagus of King
Casimir IV of circa 1492, marble. In the Wawel
Cathedral next to the Royal
Scene in the Garden
of Gethsemane of circa 1485, bas-relief in sandstone.
The original in National Museum in
Krakow, Bishop Ciolek Palace
branch at 17 Kanonicza street. Copy on the outside wall of a
building at Plac Mariacki square opposite the church of the
commemorating Filippo Buonaccorsi a.k.a. Kalimach of
1506, bronze. In the Black Friars' church (Kosciol OO.
Dominikanow), Stolarska street at Dominikanska
Drawing of a design
for the altar in Nuremberg's Carmelite church in
the collection of the Jagiellonian
University Museum (Collegium Maius), 15
Jagiellonska street at Sw. Anny street. The altar itself is in
the Bamberg cathedral now.
in Krakow attributed to Veit Stoss.
the rood screen above the nave of the church of the Virgin
Mary (Kosciol Mariacki) at Rynek Glowny central. Some experts
think that Veit Stoss himself carved that beautiful giant
wooden crucifix, some believe it's the work of his son
Stanislaw Stwosz, some maintain the sculpture was just made in
their workshop by other woodcarvers around 1520.
St. Anna with St.
Mary and the baby Jesus in
a chapel at the north aisle of St. Bernard's church (Kosciol OO.
Bernardynow) at 2 Bernardynska street.
Scene in the Garden
of Gethsemane by the entrance to
the church of St. Barbara (Kosciol Sw. Barbary) at Plac
Mariacki square. Expert agree that sculptures were made in the
Stoss' workshop but they differ about his involvement.
Two figures of
knights of the 1480s, gilded
wood. Both sculptures were in the possession of the church of
the Virgin Mary, now in the collection of the National Museum