St. Mary’s Church in Gdańsk, properly called the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is the finest historical building in Gdańsk. It took 159 years to construct this giant, in phases according to the growing technical possibilities and the wealth of the church community. The interiors of the church is big enough for at least 20 thousand persons. It does not, however, reflect the needs of the times of its construction but more of a demonstration of wealth, as the total number of Gdańsk’s residents was only twice as many as the capacity of the church. The huge construction made of dark red brick rises over the sea of house roofs and the bulky 78-metre-high tower with its flat roof is the highest building in Gdańsk. Looking at Gdańsk’s panorama it is difficult not to compare the church to a large ship floating on the ocean waves.
The church was erected as catholic. From the first half of the 16th Century to 1945 it served evangelicals, and they left the most interesting elements of interior decoration well furnished with gothic altars and paintings. The church which survived the wartime demolition of the historical centre of Gdansk, has lost most of its embellishments, so it seems quite empty, but also impressive with the size of its aisles and regular white pillars and ceilings.
Despite substantial losses during the war a collection of gothic altars can be seen in St. Mary’s Church, with the main golden altar in the centre depicting the coronation of St Mary and many biblical scenes. The astronomical clock located in the northern transept is very impressive, being a piece of art and a monument to medieval technique. It was renovated over ten years ago and brought back to its old glory. Stories about the grudge of its creator and the curse on anybody trying to mend it can be heard next to the clock. The ‘Beautiful Madonna’ is irresistible and has to be admired as a late Gothic statue of a golden-haired and slightly smiling mother with a small child in her arms. As the legend says, the statue was created over one night in a prison cell by a sculptor’s apprentice who was sentenced to death unjustly and then miraculously saved from the persecution.
The St. Mary’s Church, the Crown of Gdańsk, is a place capturing history, memories of the previous residents and great pieces of art. Its interiors, chilly even during the hottest sommer days, attracts visitors to step in and reflect on the past existence and the passing of time, as well as the old masters’ craft.