The Collegiate Church of St Florian was built between 1185 and 1216 and is a site that marks the beginning of the Royal Road. The church’s present appearance is the result of a Baroque renovation that followed the Polish-Swedish wars. The church is also known for the legend associated with it.
From 17 September 1949 till September 1951, the future Pope John Paul II (then Father Karol Wojtyła) worked at the church as a vicar; in 1999 he elevated the church to a minor basilica. He also visited the church on his papal pilgrimage to Poland on 18 September 2002.
The church was consumed by fire many times in the 12th, 16th and 17th centuries. Notably, during the Swedish siege of Krakow, General Stefan Czarniecki ordered the city’s suburbs to be burned down. However, during the city-wide fire which consumed a considerable part of Krakow in 1528, the church containing St Florian’s relics was miraculously saved.
Since the 16th century the church has been the University Collegiate. The coronation route began there, with the rector of the university senate welcoming new kings. The church was also the starting point for royal funeral processions to the Wawel Cathedral.
According to legend, in 1184 oxen carrying the remains of St Florian, the future patron saint of Poland, came to a halt at a place where the church now stands. The relics miraculously grew too heavy to be taken any further into the city and remained there until it was decided to build a church at that exact spot.
The martyr had had nothing to do with Poland before his relics were brought from Rome to Krakow. Krakow needed a saint for political reasons, in order to reaffirm its role as Poland's capital, which was contested by the city of Gniezno.