Kamienne apotropaiczne rzeźby w architekturze Krakowa

Jacek Rajchel


The apotropaical stony sculptures in Kraków architecture.
A b s t r a c t: In many sacral and lay buildings of Cracow can be found animalistic stony sculptures of the
apotropaical character. They are located mainly within outer parts of a building: in portals, tympanums,
doorheads, capitals, keystones, etc. In the intention of builders, they were caretakers of the building by averting disasters and protecting dwellers or users from evil. Part of these sculptures has been intentionally hidden among other architectonic details, while others, present high in recesses of the façade, are hardly visible and do not attract our attention. The custom of placing apotropaical figures was common in the Polish architecture mainly in the Gothic and Renaissance periods, and then it rejuvenated in Cracow at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. The apotropaical sculptures in the Cracow architecture represent most often dragon-like beings, chimeras, or other figures belonging the group of the so-called mixed creatures. The stone materials used in apotropaical masonry include mainly the Neogen Pińczów limestone, sometimes the Triassic Diplopora dolostone and the Upper Jurassic limestone from the Silesian-Cracow monocline, i.e., the stones belonging to the oldest and most frequently used materials in the Cracow architecture. Most of these sculptures do not bear marks of masons - their able creators. Looking up for both these hidden and these only apparently be in sight apotropaical mixed creatures is an exciting adventure trip that crosses the borders of the urban geology, history of art and architecture. The author is convinced that there are much more apotropaical sculptures within the city of Cracow, thus his search is still in progress. In this paper he has also omitted a rich assemblage of the stony creatures from the Wawel hill, which have already been dealt with in details (Firlet 1996).

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