It seems to be one of the main highlights frequently visited by tourists from all over the world in Cracow. Almost everyone coming to Cracow directs their steps to see this unique place. Considering its historical and artistic beauty, it can compete with the best well known monuments in Europe. It is definitely the most important royal necropolis and real national pantheon in the country. Close to the kings in the cathedral many noble people were buried, such as Cracow bishops, and Polish national heroes. Here you will find among other the tumbs of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (Władysław Łokietek), Kazmir the Great (Kazimierz Wielki), John III Sobieski (Jan III Sobieski) and the former Polish president couple Kaczyńskis.
It is one of the biggest and after Wawel Cathedral the most important church in Kraków. St. Mary’s Basilica is a Gothic church built in the 14th and 15th centuries. Since the end of the 15th century it has had a famous late Gothic sculpture masterpiece the Great Altar by Wit Stwosz. Tourists not only admire a grand scale of this building and the altar piece but also its rich ornaments, polychrome decorations and stained glass windows. The basilica is located in the north-east corner of the Main Market Square and is one of the most recognized and photographed buildings in the city. What is more, from one of the church towers tourists can hear at noon famous Kraków’s bugle call. When you are in Kraków, you just have to see this monument.
The Church of Saints Peter and Paul seems to be one of the biggest historical churches in Cracow. It is also one of the first examples of Baroque architecture in Poland and dominates among the other buildings on Krakow’s Grodzka street competing with the second such a big church which is St. Anna’s church. Usually groups visit it on the way from the Main Market Square to Wawel Castle.
St. Francis of Assisi Church is situated in the very heart of Kraków’s Old Town at 2 Franciszkańska Street just by the famous Pope’s Window. The church, currently Minor Basilica, was consecrated in 1296. It has been enlarged many times. In 1462, 1476, 1655 and 1855 the building burnt. Nowadays, it has a brick construction with a presbytery, transept, aisle and 3 chapels. Tourists usually want to see here stained glass windows made by famous Polish artist Stanisław Wyspiański and very original polychromies of the same author from the end on the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. 14 stations of the Passion ware painted just before the world war II by another famous artist of the same period Józef Mehoffer. In Blessed Salomea Chapel there are her remnants. In the basilica tourists can also admire many other church works of art. By the church there is also Franciscan monastery. The basilica can be visited either with a guide or audio guides. The church also offers regular masses and services.
The sanctuary in located in Łagiewniki, one of Cracow’s districts. The cult of Divine Mercy is connected to the saint Faustina Kowalska and her revelations. The sanctuary became a popular place for pilgrimages, especially after pope John Paul II beatified and canonized Faustina Kowalska, causing the spread of Divine Mercy devotion. Modern basilica of Divine Mercy, built between 1999 and 2002, is a two-storey building which can accommodate up to 5,000 pilgrims from all over the world. Usually, groups visit the new basilica and also the old buildings of the convent.
John Paul II sanctuary is located only 750 m walk from the Divine Mercy Sanctuary. Believers will find here relics of the saint and religious centre connected with the famous Polish saint. Tourists can visit John Paul II Museum here and the church.
Formerly a village near Cracow, since 1973 has become one of Cracow’s districts. Tyniec is especially famous for the Benedictine Abbey established in this place as early as 1044, on the picturesque limestone hill by Vistula river. Currently tourists can see the abbey and museum which is placed there. Pilgrims also visit the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul which was constructed in Ghotic and Baroque style.
Skalka term is a commonly used name referring to Saint Michael the Archangel and Saint Stanislaus the Bishop and Martyr Basilica – a Pauline monastery in the historic district of Kazimierz. The monastery was built in the place of martyrdom of Saint Stanislaus slain by the Polish king in 1079. The original Romanesque building saw many redesigns in both Gothic and Baroque styles and plentiful restoration works. Skalka is a part of National Pantheon with numerous notable Poles buried in the crypts. Among them Jan Dlugosz (historian), Faustyna Kowalska (saint), Adam Asnyk (poet), Stanislaw Wyspianski (painter) or Czeslaw Milosz (poet).
Częstochowa is a city laying abort 125 km from Cracow which is the spiritual capital of Poland. Every year the sanctuary is also visited by a few million pilgrims from all over the world. It is the most important pilgrimage site connected to Marian devotion of the famous and miraculous painting of Black Madonna. The sanctuary has been run by the Order of Saint Paul the Firs Hermit since 1382. The painting has been famous through the ages for miracles and healings therefore, tourists can observe here many thanksgiving offerings. The sanctuary has been already visited by 3 popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and current pope Francis. The Bright Mountain as the sanctuary is called by the Poles offers much more to tourists: the beautiful basilica, cenacle, Knight’s Chamber, rampart, viewing tower antique Golgotha and museums: Treasure, Museum of 600 Years Anniversary, Treasure of National Memory, Armoury. Częstochowa is a place where you should spend at least one day during trips around Poland.
It is a pilgrimage destination situated about 32 km from Cracow. The Passion-Marian Sanctuary of St.Bernards convent was put down to World Heritage List UNESCO in 1999, being the only Calvary in the list. The beginnings of the construction of the Calvary date back to the year 1600. Right now the complex consists of basilica and monastery at the top of Żar mountain, 42 chapels and path churches. The monument was built in the architectural style of the late Baroque.
It is about 53 km from Kraków (1:15 h drive). The museum is situated at main market square just by a church where we will find the original baptismal font of the Saint and holy relics of his blood. The museum can be visited with a guide and it takes about 1 h. The exhibition covers 3 floors of original building and about 1000 m2. Apart from the Wojtyła’s family flat the exhibition demonstrates John Paul II life starting from his family and hometown through youth, World War II period, priesthood and pontificate till death. All those who are interested in life of Karol Wojtyła later John Paul II and finally saint will definitely be satisfied after sightseeing of this modern museum.
Krzeptówki Sanctuary is fairly new sanctuary in Zakopane but already the most important one in Podhale region. It is a place of cult of Virgin Mary closely related to John Paul II. Sanctuary was created in gratitude for saving Karol Wojtyla's life in the unsuccessful assassination attempt on 13th of May 1981. The church belongs to Pallotines. The building was erected between 1987 and 1992. The temple was consecrated by John Paul II on 7th of June 1997 during his 6th pilgrimage to Poland. Sanctuary grounds are also home to two monuments of John Paul II and the altar, on which John Paul II conducted the mass in Zakopane in 1997, was moved there. The place has become a destination of many pilgrimages and it has distinctive highlanders décor of wooden beams and sculptures.
Finally, there is one more pilgrimage site visited during sightseeing tours in Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi German Concentration Camp Museum. In 1941, the camp authorities punished prisoners by starvation to death. During roll call, they selected hostages for such punishment. They took the hostages to dark cells in block 11 and held them there, without food, until the escapee was caught. In all known cases, however, the hostages starved to death. During the selection of hostages at the turn of July/August 1941, the Franciscan Maksymilian Kolbe heroically volunteered to take the place of one of the hostages. After almost two weeks in the starvation cell, he was killed by a lethal injection of phenol. Nowadays, visitors can visit the cell where it happened.
All the above places are extremely interesting and show clearly that a pilgrimage to Cracow area may be very interesting and diverse. Tourists not only find here the first class architecture but can also study figures of three 20th century saints Maximilian Kolbe, Faustyna Kowanska and pope John Paul II. We heartily invite all groups to discover this outstanding heritage oh the region. ITS Poland DMC can help you with organization of very fruitful stay in Cracow and Małopolska region. Check our religious tours here.
Author: Agnieszka Szwedzińska