Saturday, 21 June 2008

Kmita chasuble

Just after Holy week 2008, I went away for a few days to Krakow in Poland. Amongst the sites to be seen is the Wavel castle complex, which has been occupied since paleolothic times and the seat of Polish kings for 1000 years. There are museums, coffee shops and galleries in the complex, but the most popular attraction is the Wavel Dragon! The fire-breathing dragon protects the Wavel hill, living underneath it in a cave. Of particular interest to me was the Wavel Cathederal's 500-year-old chasuble ranks with the world’s top masterpieces of Gothic needlework. Its relief-like three-dimensional scenes from the life of St. Stanislav, Krakow’s 11th-century bishop-martyr and Poland’s patron saint, embroidered with unbelievable precision and realism, match the best sculpture of the late 15th c. Naturalistic features of tiny heads and detailed faithfulness of depiction (complete with open wound on the saint’s skull where sword struck) are truly stunning and can be seen in some of the photographs above. And masterly, dramatic composition arrests attention. The chasuble was donated in 1503 by one Piotr Kmita, then governor of the Krakow province, to commemorate the 250 anniversary of St. Stanislav’s canonization (the donor’s coat of arms takes up the bottom one of eight pictures arranged in a cross). Now the amazing robe, known as "ornat Kmity" ("Kmita's chasuble") is the pride of the Cathedral Museum on the Wavel Hill, displayed permanently alongside its other treasures of church art.
Signed: Christopher McGuinness.