Calvary Sanctuary in Kalwaria
In 1600 Poland’s first Calvary sanctuary was established in
Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, a town in the Carpathian Foothills 33
km southwest from Krakow, to provide pilgrims with a
substitute of Jerusalem lost to the Muslim Turks and thus
unavailable at the time. With its 42 churches and chapels of
all shapes and sizes in addition to the central basilica and
the Franciscan monastery, the vast complex of buildings
scattered among woods on the slopes of the 527-meter-high
Zar mountain grew to be the biggest such compound in Europe.
It is also Poland’s second most important historic
destination for pilgrims. Over ages the pilgrimage to
Kalwaria Zebrzydowska influenced millions of Poles. And one
frequent pilgrim proved very special–Pope
John Paul II, born in nearby
UNESCO has entered the sanctuary in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska in
its list of the World Heritage sites.
Our Lady of Kalwaria is one of Poland's holiest icons.
The sanctuary's places of interest
The 17th-century Baroque church of the Angelic Mother of God’s
adjoins the Franciscan monastery of the same age. Their most
worshiped place is the chapel with Our Lady of Kalwaria
miraculous picture, followed by the chapel of St. Anthony of
Padua. It is the starting point of several overlapping
pilgrimage circuits, the Passion Path in the first place, laid
out in hilly woodland from one Baroque chapel to another. Each
of the 42 tiny churches is different and represents a Jerusalem
site prominent in the New Testament and/or the Christian
tradition, be it the Virgin Mary’s Cottage or
Herod’s Place, while hills and streams bear such names as
Zion, Golgotha, and Mount of Olives.
Holy traditions and famous festivals
Pilgrimages to the Kalwaria sanctuary best exemplify Polish
grassroots Catholicism. Pilgrims usually come in large groups to
pray and contemplate together. And the Good Friday feasts, when
the famous traditional lifelike Passion plays are enacted in the
scenery of the sanctuary, draw huge crowds every year. Another
feast brings in faithful multitudes on August 15, the Assumption
The town of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska
The Calvary sanctuary, immensely popular with pilgrims from
the outset, soon gave rise to the town of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska
that has also been famous for its cabinetmakers since the mid
Nowadays some 1,500 artisans manufacture classy furniture,
customized and largely hand-made, in the town of 4,500 or so.
Every July they exhibit their skill at month-long furniture
Jasna Gora Sanctuary in Czestochowa is the holiest
place of Poland and one of the world’s most important
destinations for pilgrims.
Humble nun’s visions in the 1930s gave rise to a
world-wide spiritual movement inside the Catholic Church, ever
stronger nowadays, with the center in her Krakow convent.
Poland’s second holiest shrine at the site of St.
Stanislav’s 1079 martyrdom. Splendid Baroque church and fine
monastery modeled on a Renaissance castle.
Other UNESCO World Heritage sites in Krakow and the Malopolska
Krakow's Old Town historic district
Auschwitz concentration camp
The Calvary sanctuary of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska
Malopolska's wooden churches
In the proximity
Krakow is Poland's tourist mecca, and also a gateway to
many other must-see sites in the region.
Zakopane, Poland's famed mountain resort
Health resort of Rabka Zdroj
City of Krakow map
Poland's prime tourist attraction and a must in Central
Europe boasts numerous world-class monuments, charming vistas,
delightful atmosphere, and the best restaurants.
In the footsteps
of Pope John Paul II