Bazylika Mariacka (which I’ll be calling St. Mary’s Basilica for ease for the rest of this post) is a gorgeous but extremely imposing structure that you can’t help but notice dominates Old Town Gdansk. Construction on the church began in the 1300s. It’s currently one of the largest brick churches in the entire world. Only San Petronio Basilica in Bologna is bigger. (It’s volume is between 185,000 m³ and 190,000 m³).
Religiously, it has a super interesting history: because Gdansk has changed hands between countries so many times (including being its own city state), the basilica has switched between being Catholic and Lutheran multiple times. And at one point in time, it even functioned as a Lutheran church and a Catholic cathedral at the exact same time. (That’s some epic sharing, in my opinion!)
Until World Ward II it was incredibly well-preserved; however, when the Red Army marched on German occupied Danzig (Gdansk) it was almost completely destroyed: the wooden roof burned completely and most of the ceiling fell in. Fourteen of the large vaults collapsed. The windows were destroyed. In places the heat was so intense that some of the bricks melted, especially in the upper parts of the tower. Reconstruction began almost immediately after the war. The church has now been fully restored and can seat around 25,000 people.
The beautiful astronomical clock is from the 1400s, and here’s a grim bit of trivia for you: the clockmaker allegedly had his eyes gouged out so that he could never make a more beautiful clock. If I was a medieval clockmaker, I’d settle for my work being purely mediocre. And here’s one more bit of grimness: the sculptor who carved the crucifix had nailed his naughty son-in-law to the model to add a bit of realistic inspiration.
It’s free to enter the church, but if you’d like to climb the tower for some of the best views of the city, then you have to pay to do so. Also, it’s a hard climb; it’s a 78 metre tall tower and it’s over 405 steps. But once you get to the viewing platform at the top, all that hardworking climbing is so worth it!
The cost to climb the tower is 6 Polish złoty. (That’s about £1.20 with the current exchange rate.)
Bazylika Mariacka is located at Podkramarska 5, 80-834 Gdańsk, Poland.
Isn’t the view from the top totally worth it?