Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
During Medieval Ages the artists were not so eager to sign their works. All they did, they did not for the fame but for the sake of God. That is why many artists of this period remain unknown. Fortunately the documents on Veit Stoss were kept. Thanks to this we know now the name of Veit Stoss who is the author of the most precious Polish Medieval monuments.
Veit Stoss (or Wit Stwosz – how he is called in Poland) was, however, not Polish. He took Krakow citizenship – what did not surprise anybody, as the city and country at that time were very multicultural. He arrived at the end of 15th century from Nurnberg in Germany to make the altar for the main church of Krakow. The altar is surely the most important master piece of his life and one of the most beautiful Gothic altars that have ever been made.
The Veit Stoss’ altar in Krakow has many features that already announce the new style – Renaissance. The sculptures, although depicting life of Saint Mary of 2000 years before, are dressed in typical medieval Krakow clothes. Features of the characters are so precise that one can tell what diseases people suffered from at that time (especially that Stoss very often used hospital’s patients as models). The altar is the main attraction of the St Mary’s church and its giant sculptures astonish its visitors. During the WW II the altar became the symbol of Polish heritage. Although in spite of the attempts to hide it from the Nazis, the altar was taken to Germany, it was regained and renewed.
Apart from the St Mary’s church’s altar and other works of Veit Stoss, it is worth mentioning the sarcophagus of Kazimierz Jagiellonczyk – the king of Poland. Sculpted in red marble, most probably shortly after the death of the king, it strikes with realism. It is the greatest monument of Krakow cathedral, where the kings of the country would get crowned.
Veits Stoss spent in Poland over 20 years, leaving finest Gothic pieces of art that still astonish with their beauty and technique of their author. Veit Stoss with easiness incorporated in biblical stories, the habits and features of Polish culture. In Poland there surely was not any other medieval artist that left so many great art pieces of this period. Although he moved back to Nurnberg at the beginning of 16th century, he never gained there fame and respect that he had in Poland. His name, as the author of his Krakow works, became unknown until 19th century when Ambrozy Grabowski researched it.