Altar of St Stanislaus

The coffin of St Stanislaus

After the new Chapel of St Stanislaus was built in 1631, the old Gothic coffin with the relics of the saint was placed in it. However, two years later, on Holy Saturday in 1633, King Władysław IV donated a new reliquary which he had commissioned in Augsburg – Europe’s best and most important centre of goldsmithery. Unfortunately, this goldsmithery masterpiece of high artistic and material value was stolen during the Swedish invasion of 1655-1657. The damage was repaired by the promoter of works of art and a man of very broad intellectual horizons, the Bishop of Cracow, Piotr Gembicki. In his last will he bequeathed all his silver for the new coffin at Wawel Cathedral. In 1669 the new coffin was commissioned by canons of the Cracow Chapter in Piotr van der Rennen’s workshop in Gdańsk, which a few years earlier had made the silver coffin of St Adalbert for Gniezno Cathedral. Augsburg goldsmiths , including a representative of the renowned Jäger family – Jakob I or II. The coffin is supported on the shoulders of four angels, while two little angels on the top hold the insignia of the bishop’s authority. Each of the longer sides is adorned with five medallions, while the shorter sides one each – with the scenes from the life of the saint and miracles worked through his intercession. Thus, twelve scenes are depicted on the coffin: viewed from the side of the Cathedral entrance: The battle of Grunwald, The bringing back to life of a young man during canonization in Assisi, The bringing back to life of Piotrowin, St Stanislaus with Piotrowin before King Boleslaus,The martyrdom of St Stanislaus, The dismembering of the body of St Stanislaus, Eagles guarding the body of St Stanislaus, The funeral of St Stanislaus, The transfer of the body of St Stanislaus from Skałka Church to Wawel, The purchase of a village from Piotrowin, The death of St Hyacinth, whose soul is greeted by St Stanislaus, in Heaven,The bringing back to life of three dead people through the intercession of St Stanislaus.

We are all well aware that to enter this Cathedral can not be without emotion. More I say, you can not enter it without the internal tremor, without fear because it contains in it - as in almost no Cathedral of the world - the enormous size, which speaks to us in all our history, our entire past.

cardinal Karol Wojtyla
8 March 1964