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Who was Wit Stwosz?

Who was Veit Stoss?

Wit Stwosz (also known as Veit Stoss) was one of the most distinguished  European artists of his age. He was born in 1447 in Horb in Swabia (Germany).

Historical sources inform us that he served his apprenticeship with his brother to be a sculptor and a goldsmith. His works also prove that he was a master painter and graphic artist.

As a journeyman he visited the Netherlands, Konstanz, Vienna and Ulm. He lived for some time in Nuremberg. In 1477 he was invited by the city council and the patricians to Kraków, where he arrived at the age of 30 armed with vast artistic experience.

He was commissioned to do a very responsible task in producing the enormous altar in the main parish church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven.

His work on the altar started in 1477 and took 12 years. It resulted in a masterpiece, which, with its dimensions (11m x 12.85m), the wealth of scenery and innovative concept of the work, became one of the most magnificent altars of the late gothic period in Europe.

Within the 20 years he spent in Kraków, the capital of the country at the time, he worked for the townspeople, the king, the episcopate and high-ranking royal officials on altars, tombstones and statues.

In 1496, Veit Stoss returned to Nuremberg where he worked on both sculptures, paintings and even engineering designs in his workshop. In 1503 he got into trouble for having forged some documents to save his estate from  fraud. He was sentenced to death - the punishment for such crimes at the time. Through the emperor Maximilian’s intercession, his punishment was changed to burning of both cheeks. He was also forbidden to leave the city without the consent of the city council.

Veit Stoss worked until his death, although he probably had lost his eyesight just before the end of his life.

He died in 1533 in Nuremberg as a result of a plague and was buried in St. John’s cemetery, just next to another great artist of the time, Albrecht Dürer.

"…He left Poland all the best.
He left Kraków the heart
like an apple on the apple tree"

K.I. Gałczyński
Song about Veit Stoss
from Veit Stoss Poem