Queen Jadwiga of Poland died on the 17th of July 1399, a few weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Elizabeth Bonifacia (on the 22nd of June), probably of complications related to childbirth (puerperal fever). She was buried on the 19th of July, together with her daughter, who died at the same time, in the chancel of Wawel Cathedral, on the northern side of the platform of the main altar. Jan Długosz gave testimony to this by writing that the queen rested in Cracoviensia ecclesia ad partem Altaris laev maioris, de prope Sacrarium [Latin: in the cathedral of Kraków on the left side of the main altar, beside the ciborium]. The choice of such a prominent location was probably as a result of the fame of her holiness, as well as the efforts aimed at her canonisation, which had already been planned at the time of the queen's death.
Reconstruction of an open grave. By the manner of painting, the artist has emphasised the emotive quality of the represention of a post mortem.
In the second bay, counting from the west, of the south transept, placed against a stone wall inside an arch, on an altar stone covered with brass plate, there is a metal, glazed case in the shape of a horizontal cuboid on tiny legs. On the top strip, there is an inscription saying: SERVAE DEI REGINAE HEDVIGIS EX TUMBA A. D. 1949; on the bottom strip: IUXTA VOTA ADAE STEPHANI CARDINALIS SAPIEHA CURA STANISLAI JASINSKI SCHOLASTICI ET PAROCHI SUMPTIBUS CULTORUM SERVAE DEI. On side strips, there are highly stylised leafy ornaments and on the joints of the strips, there are highly stylised lilies. Inside, there is a baculum–type sceptre made of gilded wood, thin and elongated. Its bottom part has a handle separated with a simple ring, in the top part, there is a polygonal plate topped with a finial composed of ragged leaves. The top and bottom ends feature rounded bumps. The orb is made of wood, gilded, globe-shaped, topped with a Greek cross. Unfortunately, Jadwiga’s crown did not survive. The insignia found in Jadwiga’s grave were in no way repaired. They were treated as relics and exhibited permanently next to her sarcophagus. In order to do so, a glass display cabinet was designed and made by a Kraków-based bronzesmith, Edmund Korosadowicz.
The sculpture Sikorski's Tomb was made in 1987 by Julian Stręk of Pustków-Rudki near Dębica, one of the recently discovered, leading Polish naive artists. It is a composition of many three-dimensional figures and elements made of pine wood, with oil polychrome of aquamarine dominant and with details in silver, walnut and blue colours.
The tomb of Jan I Olbracht is a milestone piece not only for Kraków artistic circles but for the entire country. It was sculpted in the years 1502–1505 and consists of two parts executed by two different artists of different backgrounds, education and experience. From the local tradition of commemorating dead rulers derives the tomb sculpted in red stone from the Esztergom quarry, placed in a very deep niche carved into the western wall of a chapel. The tomb is decorated on the front side only (the sides are not exposed), while figural representations were replaced by a rectangular inscribed plaque. This simple and sophisticated solution clearly refers to the art of ancient Rome, in which inscription plaques were the basic element of commemoration of the deceased (Lat. tabulae ansatae). The long inscription was carved in the humanist capitals that had been created based on ancient Roman letterforms and is one of the first instances where such a font was used in Poland.
A bronze replica of the final piece which was created in November 1900. The piece is a model of Queen Jadwiga’s (died 1399) sarcophagus, which was created for Wawel Cathedral by Antoni Madeyski in Rome in the year 1902.
A factory for the production of artistic metal castings was established in Warsaw, in the Kingdom of Poland, by Karol Fryderyk Minter. Minter was of Prussian descent and was educated in Berlin and Copenhagen. The factory became famous for its ornamental works (which were predominantly patriotic in design) which were produced during the years 1845–1879. One series produced comprised a set of twenty-one memorials of Polish rulers, including sixteen miniaturized copies of royal and princely tombs, with nine of these being Wawel royal tombs.
Kazimierz III’s (Casimir the Great’s) tombstone was sculpted in red limestone from the Hungarian town of Esztergom, which has been traditionally called ‘marble’. It may be assumed that the type of material was consciously selected, since the colour red had been associated with power and reserved for rulers since the time of the Roman Empire. The king’s tomb was sculpted on three sides only. On the top slab, there is a gisant supporting his legs on a lion, which most often symbolised valour in medieval times and was frequently used to propagate royal virtues. Comparing the ruler to a lion is one of the most recurring topoi of medieval culture. The king was depicted as an old man with long hair and a beard styled in tight curls. Works on this subject mistakenly claim this depiction to be a realistic study of the king’s face. In fact it is an example of a physiognomic type typical of the Middle Ages, which aimed at presenting the ruler as a wise and strict old man modelled after depictions of great ancient sages, Old Testament prophets, apostles, and other venerable figures from the past. The king was portrayed in a leather tunic and a loose cloak, garments which were characteristic of court fashion in the 3rd quarter of the 14th century. Especially of note is the magnificent belt comprising elements shaped as fortified buildings. It may be assumed that it carries an eschatological message via reference to the Heavenly Jerusalem.
Kazimierz IV’s tomb is one of the most spectacular pieces of late gothic art. On the one hand, it clearly refers to a local tradition started by Władysław I Łokietek’s tombstone; on the other hand, it comprised of a number of unique iconographic solutions that exhibit erudition of local intellectual circles. The king lies on the top slab of the tomb, but his figure is presented in an utterly exceptional way. It is an extremely expressive and veristic image because the ruler was captured in agony. What is more, unlike the earlier royal tombs in Kraków, Kazimierz IV is dressed in a clergyman’s robe, which was used only for a coronation ceremony. The richly draped cope, clasped at the chest with a magnificent brooch, attracts special attention. It is a singular image with no analogical piece found so far. It is most often interpreted within the scope of patristics of the early Christian Church; the king’s physical death was juxtaposed with the birth of the soul to eternal life.
The upper preserved part of the stela shows an aedicula constructed of a semicircular pediment supported on two plain columns with papyrus capitals. The deceased is shown frontally, but with the right leg in profile. She is reclining on a mattress, supported on her left elbow resting on two pillows. In her right hand, which is unnaturally long, she holds a bowl. Her dress consists of a chiton and himation arranged in semicircular folds. The long her falling to her breasts is pushed back behind the ears. Her face has been hammered away. Opposite her there is an engraved representation of a sitting jackal. The animal with a long snout and raised tail is shown facing her.
The object was purchased from Mohareb Zaaki by soldiers of the Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade during WW II. The mummy has a gilded wax mask. The sarcophagus with the head of Horus and a striated wig on the breast bear the necklace composed of a chapel with Ibis inside.
Since 1887 the collection of the Archaeological Museum of Kraków has boasted the equipment of a rich Scythian female tomb situated under the mound of a kurgan, examined in Ryzhanovka near Zvenyhorodka in Ukraine by Gotfryd Ossowski, the first curator of the Museum of National Antiquities (from which today’s Archaeological Museum has originated) at the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences in Kraków.
The find is dated back to the 1st half of the 5th century (before 434). It is one of the most interesting pieces of proof of contact between the peoples inhabiting the area of southern Poland and the Huns in the 1st half of the 5th century. The grave was discovered by accident in 1911 while mining sand. The majority of the excavated objects were smuggled to Kraków over the then Russian-Austrian border.
Carved in a single block of marble from Carrara and covered with a slightly smaller flat block with the figure of the queen lying with head directed towards the east. It is situated in the first arcade from the west in the southern wing of the ambulatory. An austere block tomb is supported by a base decorated with highly stylised lilies, a frize of square panels filled with heraldic eagles in the top part. The longer side (southern) is divided into seven panels, with the outer ones overlapping narrower sides.
The circumstances in which Władysław I Łokietek’s gravestone was founded remain unknown. The artistic form of the tomb was mentioned for the first time as late as in Annals of the Famous Kingdom of Poland by Jan Długosz : his body is buried in the cathedral church by the main altar, to the left, in a tomb of white marble adorned with sculptures and a canopy, in front of St. Władysław’s altar, which he, in his lifetime, ordered to be built and furnished. St. Władysław’s altar mentioned here was actually founded by Łokietek’s son – Kazimierz the Great – most likely soon after 1333.
A clay vessel of an ashen colour, turned on a potter's wheel. It has the form of a shallow bowl or a platter on a hollow leg. It has been preserved in its entirety; few imperfections were corrected with plaster. An analysis of the form, the manner in which the vessel was made, and the analogies suggest that the bowl should be associated with the Dacian environment.
This tombstone consists of two elements and was found during excavation works carried out under the guidance of Stanisław Kozieł and Mieczysław Fraś in the area of the southern wing of building 5 of Wawel in the years 1966–75. The tombstone used to cover a tomb located in the area of the western apse of the double-apse rotunda relics, called “church B” by the researchers.
The sculpture was purchased in Cairo by soldiers of the Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade during WW II. The stele comes from the Christian site in Lower Nubia (present day Egypt) in Ginari Tafah. The tombstone is topped with an imitation of a conch. Traces of dark red paint on the tombstone indicate that it must have been painted originally. The epitaph begins with the formula declaring the death of the person called Elisabeth.
The third of the tomb steles found in the region of Lower Nubia, which belongs to the Archaeological Museum of Kraków. Similarly to the two remaining ones, the stele bears an inscription in the Old Nubian language. The inscription on the stele contains numerous grammar mistakes, mostly influenced by the Old Nubian language.
The stele comes from the Christian necropolis in Lower Nubia (present day Egypt). It is one of the three stelae from that region presented on our website and one of seven stelae stored in Poland. The inscription placed on the stele is written in the Old Nubian language, which is indicated, for example, by the use of colons for dividing numbers.