Standing at the south-eastern corner of the biggest mediaeval market square in Europe,the Church of St Adalbert is one of the oldest stone churches in Poland. Legend has it that St Adalbert consecrated the previous, wooden church on that spot in 997 and preached there before going on his mission to bring Christianity to Prussia, where he was martyred.
The crypt of the church has been adapted by the Archaeological Museum as a small Museum of the History of the Main Square, which shows a permanent exhibition of “The History of the Krakow Market.”
The church’s almost thousand-year history goes back to the beginning of the Polish Romanesque architecture of the early Middle Ages. Throughout the early history of Krakow the Church of St Adalbert was a place of worship first visited by merchants travelling from across Europe.
According to the Archaeological Museum of Krakow, the oldest relics reveal a wooden structure built at the end of the 10th century and followed by an original stone church constructed in the 11th century, as seen in the lower parts of the walls. These walls became a foundation for a new church built around the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries from smaller rectangular stones.
The interior of the church is cramped, compared to its larger exterior. The floor level is situated under the present level of the Square, which reflects the overlaying of the subsequent surfaces of the plaza with pavement, originally adjusted to the two already existing churches (including St Adalbert’s).
The church was partially reconstructed in the Baroque style between 1611 and 1618. Since the level of the plaza, overlaid with new pavement, rose between 2 to 2.6 metres, the walls of the church were raised in the 17th century and then covered with stucco. A new entrance was built from the west side and the church was topped with a Baroque dome.The restoration of the church conducted in the 19th century led to the discovery of its Romanesque past. At present, the walls of the church are unearthed to show their lowest level. On the south side there’s a Romanesque portal and a corresponding stone step.
The body of Saint Adalbert (Polish: św. Wojciech) was bought back for its weight in gold from the pagan Prussians and placed in the Gniezno Cathedral by Boleslaw I of Poland.