Wawel Cathedral holds a special place in the history of the Polish State due to the fact that it was the church of Polish kings for four hundred years. Beginning from Władysław the Short, all but two Polish kings – Stanisław Leszczyński and Stanisław August Poniatowski – had their coronations at Wawel Cathedral. On the 20th of January, 1320, the coronation ceremony of King Władysław the Short, who unified the Polish state, took place. From that time on, the most important state ceremonies: coronations, weddings, baptisms and funeral ceremonies of Polish royalty were celebrated at Wawel Cathedral’s High Altar.

Monarchs who resided at Wawel participated in Holy Masses and other religious services at Wawel Cathedral. There was a special passage from the castle to the cathedral, accessible only to the king and his family. Once the royal throne stood on the right of the altar, but when Poland lost her independence in the 18th century, it was replaced by a 17th-century throne of the bishops of Cracow. Over the throne hangs a canopy which was placed here on the occasion of the coronation of King August III, the Elector of Saxony, in 1734.



Wawel Cathedral is also the burial place of Polish monarchs. Originally, the kings were buried in burial chambers under the floor. The first king to have been buried at Wawel was Władysław the Short. The tradition of kings being buried in separate chapels, added to the cathedral, began following the death of King Kazimierz IV Jagiellon in 1492. The first was the Chapel of the Holy Cross, richly adorned by Ruthenian painters, with a splendid sarcophagus of King Kazimierz Jagiellon sculpted by Wit Stwosz (Weit Stoss) and considered a masterpiece of late-Gothic art. The sarcophagus of King Jan Olbracht is a unique piece of artwork for its Renaissance-style architectural structure of an antique triumphal arc, built to Francesco the Florentine’s design. The sarcophagus was commissioned by the king’s mother, Queen Elizabeth of Austria.

Among numerous chapels at Wawel Cathedral, the one founded by King Zygmunt (Sigismund) I the Old, known as the Sigismund Chapel, is particularly noteworthy. Designed by the Italian master Bartolomeo Berrecci and executed in the years 1519-1533 by Italian sculptors, it is considered a jewel of Renaissance style in Central Europe. However, neither King Zygmunt I the Old nor his successors or members of royal families were buried in the chapel but in the underground crypts. Most of the coffins and sarcophaguses in which royal figures were buried are genuine masterpieces of sculpture, such as the sarcophagus of Zygmunt August, Stefan Batory and Zygmunt III, and the gilt copper coffins of Władysław IV and his wife Cecylia Renata.




The last royal sarcophaguses of Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki and Jan III Sobieski were built in the mid-18th century and were founded by Duke Michał Kazimierz Radziwiłł.

The gallery of royal sarcophagus

Royal coronations at Wawel

20 I 1320Władysław I the Short and his wife, Jadwiga of Kalisz
25 I 1333Kazimierz the Great and his wife, Aldona Anna of Lithuania
17 XI 1370Louis of Hungary
15 X 1384Jadwiga of Anjou
4 III 1386Władysław II Jagiełło
25 II 1403Anna of Celje, the second wife of Jagiełło
19 XII 1417Elżbieta Pilecka, the third wife of Jagiełło
12 II 1424Sophia of Halshany, the fourth wife of Jagiełło
25 VII 1434Władysław III of Varna
25 VI 1447Kazimierz IV Jagiellon
10 II 1454Elizabeth of Austria, the wife of Kazimierz IV the Jagiellon
23 IX 1492Jan I Olbracht
12 XII 1501Aleksander I Jagiellon
24 I 1507Zygmunt the Old
8 II 1512Barbara Zapolya, the wife of Zygmunt the Old
18 IV 1518Bona Sforza, the wife of Zygmunt the Old
20 II 1530Zygmunt II Aug
8 V 1543Elizabeth of Habsburg, the first wife of Zygmunt II Aug
4 XII 1550Barbara Radziwiłłówna, the second wife of Zygmunt II Aug
30 VI 1553Catherine of Habsburg, the third wife of Zygmunt II Aug
21 II 1574Henry of Valois
1 V 1576Stefan Batory and Anna of Jagiellon
27 XII 1587Zygmunt III Vasa
31 V 1592Anna of Habsburg, the wife of Zygmunt III Vasa
11 XII 1605Constance of Habsburg, the wife of Zygmunt III Vasa
6 II 1633Władysław IV Vasa
15 VII 1646Louise Marie Gonzaga, the wife of Władysław IV Vasa, then of Jan II Kazimierz Vasa
17 I 1649Jan II Kazimierz Vasa
29 IX 1669Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki
2 II 1676Jan III Sobieski and Marie Casimire
15 IX 1697Aug II the Strong
17 I 1734Aug III and Maria Josepha of Austria