Gothic Cross of St. Hedwig, Wawel, Poland  by Adam Bujak

Gothic Cross in Wawel Cathedral, Krakow

Wawel Cathedral, perhaps the most historic space in all of Poland, is largely Gothic in style, dating from the reigns of Wladyslaw the Short (1306-33) and Kazimierz the Great (1333-70). As with St. Peter's or Westminster, the weight of history overwhelms the entering pilgrim. The cathedral is adorned with a mass of side chapels, endowed by just about every subsequent Polish monarch and a number of aristocratic families. Polish Kings were crowned here, all Polish monarchs are buried here, as are the nation's most venerated poets and heroes. Pope John Paul II said of Wawel that it is, "The sanctuary of the nation...[which] cannot be entered without an inner trembling, without an awe for here--as in few cathedrals of the world--is contained a vast greatness which speaks to us of the history of Poland, of all our past." The beloved Polish monarch Queen Jadwiga, wife of King Jagiello, is represented by a distinctive modern tomb. In reality, her remains are buried nearby beneath her favorite Crucifix, where she most loved to pray. Many pilgrims at Wawel kneel at the spot to pray as well.