One of the trips organized by our company LegendaryKrakow is a trip to Wadowice, the hometown of Karol Wojtyła, a priest, bishop of Krakow and finally Pope John Paul II. Located about 40 kilometers from the center of Krakow, Wadowice is a nice springboard for bustling Krakow and an opportunity to look at the everyday life of a small town in the provinces. Initially a small town first mentioned in documents around 1325, it began to develop quite rapidly from the end of the 18th century due to the construction of a new route connecting Lviv with Vienna, today it is an important pilgrimage center as Pope John Paul II’s hometown. As a curiosity, it is worth adding that in Wadowice, shortly after the end of World War II, the communist authorities of Poland together with the Soviet secret police of the NKVD created one of the so-called labor camps, where opponents of the „new power”, including members of the resistance, were often detained without a sentence. At 7 Kościelna Street, there is a 19th-century tenement house in which Karol Wojtyła, later Pope John Paul II, was born on 18 May 1920. Today, this house houses a museum documenting the life and activity of Karol Wojtyła and his ties with Wadowice. The pontificate and message of John Paul II have a unique place in the Polish national heritage, therefore the mission of the museum is to disseminate and commemorate knowledge about the life and teaching of John Paul II. The role of the museum is to pass on to the next generations John Paul II as a wise and open-minded person, enjoying respect and authority. After visiting the museum, you must go to one of the Wadowice pastry shops located by the market square to eat a traditional papal cream cake.As Pope, Karol Wojtyła visited Wadowice three times, each time enthusiastically greeted by thousands of believers. As in many other places, also in Wadowice before the Second World War there was a small Jewish community, the only trace of it is a small cemetery. The synagogue, built in the mid-19th century, was destroyed at the beginning of the war by the so-called Einsatzkommando.
Church at John Paul II square in Wadowice
Heading back to Krakow, it is worth stopping a dozen or so kilometers outside Wadowice in the small town of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. Every year, furniture fairs are organized here, however, the city lies on the pilgrimage route of the papal route, which includes the Passion-Marian sanctuary of the Bernardine Fathers as well as the paths of Jesus and the Mother of God. These paths are a total of 42 objects, churches, chapels and figures blended into the surroundings. During Holy Week, very spectacular and colorful Passion Mysteries are played here, gathering thousands of believers from all over Poland. Calvary is a group of churches and chapels symbolizing the Stations of the Lord’s Passion, usually situated on the hills so as to resemble Jerusalem as much as possible. The custom of building such places dates back to the 15th century, when access to the holy land was difficult as they were under Muslim rule at that time. On a pilgrimage to such a calvary, one could obtain the same indulgences as during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The oldest place of this type in Europe was built at the beginning of the 15th century in Spain near Cordoba, The beginnings of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska date back to 1602. The founder of the construction of the Bernardine monastery and the Lord’s Passion paths, modeled on the Jerusalem Calvary, was Mikołaj Zebrzydowski, the Kraków voivode at the time. In later years, a small town of Zebrzydów was established on the way to the monastery, in order to accommodate and feed numerous pilgrims who came in these directions to obtain indulgences. Karol Wojtyła was quite a frequent visitor to the sanctuary in Kalwaria, later as pope he was here twice.
Sanctuary of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska
At the very entrance to Krakow, there is one more place where we can find traces of the presence and activity of John Paul II. It is a sanctuary of the Divine Mercy in Krakow-Łagiewniki, a sacred complex connected with the life and activity of Sister Faustina Kowalska, the saint of the Catholic Church, since the 1940s it has been the destination of many pilgrimages to the saint’s tomb. The main object of the sanctuary is the modern basilica of the Divine Mercy, erected in 1999-2002, with a capacity of about 5,000 people, and an adjoining 70-meter high observation tower towers over the building. The church was consecrated by John Paul II in 2002, during his last pilgrimage to Poland. Right next to it is the John Paul II Center, established as a place of dialogue, dissemination and creative development of the heritage of the Polish Pope.A few years ago, a bridge was built connecting the sanctuary with the center, creating one large complex.
Divine Mercy Sanctuary, Łagiewniki-Kraków