Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Dominican Church of the Holy Trinity in Krakow

In the Calendar of the Extraordinary Form, today is the feast of Saint Hyacinth, (the Latinized form of the Polish name Jacek), the founder of the Order of Friars Preachers in Poland. Born into the noble Odrowaz family in the year 1185, he was made a prebendary canon at Sandomir after completing his studies in both canon law and theology; while accompanying his uncle, the bishop of Krakow, to Rome, he met St. Dominic in 1218. On seeing the latter raise a man from the dead by his prayers, he and his brother, Bl. Ceslaus, were both received into the Order, and sent back home to establish it in their native land. St. Hyacinth’s missionary works are said to have taken him through Prussia and Lithuania, into Scandinavia, and parts even further east; his brother Ceslaus went to Bohemia, and many other regions of Eastern Europe, eventually succeding Hyacinth as Polish provincial superior. St. Hyacinth himself, after returning to Krakow, died in the house of his order in 1257, on the feast of the Assumption; he was canonized by Pope Clement VIII in 1594.


St. Hyacinth crossing the Vistula river on his cloak, from the cloister of the church of the Holy Trinity, Krakow. A similar miracle is attributed to another early Dominican Saint, Raymond of Penyafort.

The church of the Holy Trinity in Krakow is the home to a community of sixty Dominican friars, numerically the largest house of the order in the world. It also maintains a studium generale where friars from other Polish houses come to study. Much of the Divine Office is still sung in Latin, using the Order’s proper chants, in the main choir of the church. While visiting Krakow this past June, I was given a tour of the complex by an American member of the community, Brother Eric, who is currently studying for the priesthood, and I must thank him for being so generous with his time on a Sunday. Like most of the large churches in Krakow, Holy Trinity is always busy, but especially on Sunday; I entered the church towards the end of the late-sleepers’ Mass, which starts at 1:00, and it was absolutely packed.


The 14th façade of church, in the local style known as "Vistula Gothic."


The nave of the church seen from near the main doors.

The high altar contains a portion of the relics of St. Emygdius, the patron saint of Ascoli Piceno in the Marches region of Italy. His feast day, August fifth, was also the feast of Saint Dominic within his Order until the later part of the sixteenth century.


The reredos of the high altar. After a massive fire destroyed most of the church in 1850, the entire interior was redone in the neo-Gothic style. The wooden carvings throughout the building, (the reredos, the confessionals and the choir stalls) are all the work of a single lay brother.


On the left side of the church, a large staircase leads up to the chapel of St. Hyacinth. This is the view from the platform in front of the chapel, looking out into the front part of the choir.


A view of the part of the nave from above.


The altar of the chapel of St. Hyacinth, containing his relics.


The altar of the chapel of St. Dominic.


Part of the cloister, which is full of funerary monuments and pictures. Since the fall of communism, the Dominican Friars have regained control of most of the conventual buildings attached to the church.


This 15th century tomb of a Polish noblewoman shows her praying the rosary; it is the oldest image of a Rosary in Poland.



The back of the church, seen from Dominikanska Street, which that runs alongside it. Some of the Baroque chapels added onto the building survived the fire of 1850.


The towers of St. Mary's Basilica on the main square of Krakow, seen from the gardens of the Holy Trinity complex.