If only buildings could talk. Imagine what the Taj Mahal would say about love. Or Robben Island Prison about one man’s unbreakable spirit and limitless capacity for forgiveness. A discussion with the Binnenhof in the Hague, the world’s oldest parliament building still in use, would surely illuminate on the machinations of democracy through the ages. Naturally, like humans, some structures would have less to say than others; my latest non-descript hotel room, for example, might well turn out to be the party bore.
Such an accusation would never be levelled at St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow. For more than 700 years, it has overlooked the main market square (a viewpoint recreated in the above photo), around which Krakow’s commercial, political and social life has revolved. From among countless dramas witnessed, the Basilica might lament the draping of swastika banners all around the square, marvel at the ingenuity of medieval merchants in flogging all manner of weird and exotic wares, or tell the tragic story of the Polish war veteran who set himself alight there in 1980 in protest at the covering up of a mass execution of Polish officers by the Soviets in WWII.
However, its most dramatic and heartfelt tale would surely be that of a 13th-Century bugler who was sounding his bugle from one of the Basilica’s towers to warn the local populace of an attack by the Tatars when an enemy arrow pierced his throat. This scene is recreated daily from the Basilica tower in the bugler’s honour, with the bugle ending abruptly on a broken note. So, in a way, buildings can talk, with a little help of course.