Jo’s Monday walk : a Tale of 3 Churches

IMG_7202

For my Polish family, religion is a part of everyday life.  The routine of going to church begins in the cradle, and in adult life is fitted in between shift patterns and housework. For myself, faith has never been a given, but I am awed by the beauty, created by man in celebration of his God.

My last day in Krakow dawned bright and beautiful, and I knew that I would spend it outdoors.  When I outlined my planned walk to my cousin Marta, it was greeted with her usual enthusiasm.  In no time at all I found myself deposited in a car park, facing a church, and surrounded by greenery.  I wasn’t sure exactly where I was, so I was relieved to see, in the far distance, the surreal outline of the Sanktuarium Bożego Miłosierdzia. It was my eventual target, but first I would look inside this church.

IMG_7095

From the exterior, Sanktuarium Świętego Jana Pawła II, looks rather severe and forbidding, but that impression is quite false. The finely sculpted cast bronze doors testify to somewhere very special.  Then, across an enormous font, you catch a glimpse of the altar.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The octagonally shaped church is dedicated to Pope John Paul II, one of Poland’s most famous and best-loved sons.  He was a very human pope, and a man who filled me with deep respect.  All of Poland mourned his passing, and tributes are to be found to him everywhere.  I was unprepared for the scale and the sensory indulgence of what lay inside.

IMG_7122

IMG_7120

I drew closer and closer, affected by the emotions and the glowing colours.  A disturbed Peter and the eloquence of Mary’s love.  The compassion in the touch of a hand.  I have never seen mosaics used to greater effect.

IMG_7135

Observing a stern and sorrowful angel Gabriel, I turned to walk away.  The church was almost deserted at this early hour.  Footsteps echoed in the empty space and a priest came through a doorway and crossed my path.  I did not know the correct form of address.  Father, ‘Tata’ in Polish, seemed too familiar, and before I could think he was gone.  ‘Ojciec’, I should have said.

Out again, in the still and sunny morning, I began my walk.  A path was newly laid and there were signs of ongoing construction, but I had the place almost to myself.  A gentleman sat on a bench, his dog at his heels, and we exchanged greetings and a smile at the balmy morning.  A lady strolled with pushchair.  And I drew nearer to Sanktuarium Bożego Miłosierdzia.

An extravagance of yellow curly-wurlyness caught my eye, and then I stopped, unsure of the way ahead.  Steps led down to what appeared to be a construction site and I wasn’t sure if it was accessible to the public.  What to do, but carry on?  I had no idea how else I could approach the church.  I had been there once before, years ago with my niece Weronika, but we had arrived by car.

Down the steps and over a narrow bridge, the workers looked up from their tea break but made no comment.  A digger or two puttered about, and I’m sure that in the near future there will be a formal path.  Relieved, I followed a gravel path past the stations of the cross.

Sanktuarium Bożego Miłosierdzia, Church of the Divine Mercy, is an extraordinary building.  I walked around it, looking up at the 77 metre high tower, completed in 2002.  I knew that it was possible to ascend, and that the day was perfect to do just that.

On the grass in front of the tower, a party of school children frolicked and ate packed lunches.  Steps led to the main body of the church, where a service appeared to be taking place.  Clad all in white, the youngsters looked angelic.  I permitted myself a discreet shot, then headed for the lift.

Leaving the lift, there were two further flights of concrete steps to take you to the top.  The views encompassed Nowa Huta, the former industrial district, and all of Krakow’s suburbs. My third church, dedicated to Sister Faustina, was visible just below.  I headed back down the stairwell.

IMG_7207

Back down to earth.  I was reluctant to leave.  The atmosphere was so calming.  So peaceful.  In wandering, I discovered John Paul II’s tiny chapel.

The wall celebrating the sponsors of the church complex led easily into the courtyard of Saint Faustina’s.  Born Helena Kowalska in 1905, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska was a visionary.  Her death from TB in 1938 followed numerous mystical experiences.

The monastery of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy dates back to 1889.  It contains a very special painting of Jesus, as seen in a vision by Sister Faustina.  A place of international pilgrimage, it has close links with Pope John Paul II.  The nun was beatified in 1993.  As I approached the church a group of excited youngsters, all in white, spilled down the steps, chattering and smiling.  Proud parents took photos.  Marta later explained to me that the ‘mini pilgrimage’ is a regular feature of the church.

The joy shone out of the young faces and I longed to take a photo as they milled about.  I watched for a while and then turned to go.  I strolled back through the beautiful grounds and was just in time for one last treat.  On the auditorium steps a group of children were having photos taken with the priest.  I just about caught them before they dashed off.

My walk home was long, but maybe that’s a story for another day.  This concludes my series of posts about my visit to Poland.  I’ve touched on many aspects of Polish life and hopefully shared my joy.  And now, we really have earned that cuppa, haven’t we?

walking logo

As always I must say thank you to my many contributors and supporters who make this weekly post such a pleasure for me.  I hope you can find time to read them, and maybe you’d like to join me in a future Jo’s Monday walk.  Details of how to join in can be found by clicking on the logo. Here we go!

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Budapest never looked more lovely than through Debbie’s eyes :

Walking the Danube

Spectacular alpine scenery from our intrepid Elaine this week :

An excellent view of the Glacier des Bossons

‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’- immortal words shared by Drake :

Fly on the wings of love

Jackie posted a reminder of Gay Pride in Toronto :

Toronto Pride Murals

England has some beautiful homes and gardens, doesn’t it?  A lovely share from Lady Lee Manila :

Charlecote Park 

Explore her latest home from home, with Liesbet :

Visit to Northampton, MA

A rousing cheer for Mlissabeth, who joins us this week!  The family came too :

Our Walk through the Gardens

Miriam managed an overnight escape from her family, and that can also be blissful :

Twenty four hours in Marysville

And then a little magic, up in the clouds :

Marysville Magic 

While Biti continued her ramble along the Blue Coast :

Cote Bleue – Calanques Part II

You know I said last week how much I loved the Italian Lakes?  Check this out!  Thanks, Rosemay- it’s beautiful :

Exploring Lenno

And Susan continues her fascinating look at Eastern Europe.  There’s a book too!  More about that later :

Walking Moldova

Becky turns conformist this week, but only for a little while :

Hiking the Ladeiras do Pontal trail

And in case you didn’t know it, Becky has a second blog, featuring her English life :

Fingringhoe Wick

A charming Irish walk next, from Inese, with a little bit of drama :

Anne Valley- Walk through the Fairy Door

Next I have a jaw-dropper from Meg!  Go and see just why I wanted to visit Gdansk :

A ramble round Gdansk main town

Gilly has her very own city wall, and lovely gardens too, in beautiful Devonshire :

Beside the City Wall

Exhausting isn’t it, all this walking?  But I’m so glad you could come along.  Next week I have a totally English walk for you.  See you then!

And if you have any spare time, give a shout to the busy folks at Monday Escapes.

147 comments

    1. And me, Paula 🙂 Thanks so much for the time you’ve spent here today. I know you have less than none spare! Since posting early this morning I’ve been out all day. Michael’s design business is always full speed or stop and if it’s quiet we make the most of any chance we have to ‘escape’. More gardens of course, and one you will adore, with zillions of water lilies. Hugs, darlin 🙂

  1. Thanks Jo for another interesting walk! I also like to visit churches while traveling, they’re an important part of culture and art. I’ve really liked the mosaics in the first church but the second one has impressed me a lot! The Church of the Divine Mercy looks very different from any other church I’ve seen, and it’s so cool that you can go up the tower! The views are great 🙂

    1. Hi Laia 🙂 I visited the Divine Mercy a few years ago on my first visit to Krakow, but it was a very brief visit and the tower was closed so I thoroughly enjoyed this trip.

  2. You have such a diverse repertoire of strolls Jo. I didn’t have the chance to visit these places during my brief visits to Krakow so I very much appreciate your tour.

    1. Hi Julie 🙂 I’m really glad you’ve enjoyed the walks, and it’s great to have you on board. I do try to vary things so nobody nods off halfway round 🙂

  3. It’s interesting that these elaborate churches are also newish. Here we have churches being sold as housing as congregations disappear – Christian religion must continue to thrive there I guess.

    1. Absolutely, Carol. They attend church as babies and it rarely changes, in my experience. I’m sure there must be non religious Poles but I haven’t really found any. 🙂

  4. I agree with you about religion Jo. But what magnificent buildings have been built in the name of various gods. What amazing artists created those mosaics they seemed to be oozing with feelings and you captured them so well. I’ve enjoyed discovering Poland with your blog and now will be back home with you in UK in glorious!!!??? summertime. Have you got more travel plans up your sleeve?

    1. Thanks, sweetheart 🙂 Mostly doing local stuff, with a week in Tavira coming up soon. I’m struggling with the broader picture. So many places I’d like to be, Pauline. You know what I’m like….
      Yes, Summer! Rock pool dabbling yesterday 🙂 Hugs, darlin’.

      1. I always enjoy the planning stage Jo. Rock pool dabbling sounds divine, you must be having sunshine. We are starting to shiver over here.

  5. You’re right, the church does look intimidating at first glass, the squareness certainly doesn’t reflect the beauty inside. The broze doors are amazing! #mondayescapes

  6. You are right Jo, the first church does look very imposing upon first glance, but the mosaics inside are beautiful, and so moving with their expression. I love the stained glass as always in the more modern church – what an unusual building! Well done for going all the way up – heights make me nervous but I do it anyway! A wonderful way to wrap up your walks in your beloved Poland Jo, I enjoyed walking with you so much and I found your beautifully wistful narrative particularly moving with this one… 🙂 ❤

    1. Hi Sherri 🙂 I’ve just come back from a stroll by the beach. It’s warm and I’m in England! (just reminding myself 🙂 ) Thanks so much, darlin’. Life moves on so quickly but the posts help to keep the memories alive. Hope life is making you happy.

      1. So sorry I missed this Jo…I’m falling behind again. It’s been lovely today…hope for you too…but reeling over the vote… ❤

      2. Thanks Jo…I’m signing out after my post goes up later today, will hang around for the rest of the week. We’ll keep in touch, I’ll stalk you via FB, lol!!! Hugs back lovely lady…I need them 🙂 ❤

      3. LOL!! You didn’t think you could get rid of me that easily did you Jo?!!!! I’ll be hanging around blogland for the rest of the week. Just got my post up. I know some won’t agree with my views on Brexit, but I am sad for our country. I just hope we can get ourselves sorted out and back on our feet again. Thank God for Wimbledon..if it ever stops raining that is…! Big hugs back lovely lady… 🙂 xx

  7. I don’t see any problems about ‘religious’ post like – I’ve no religious preferences, but isn’t scared when I see such wonderful architecture, sculptures and atmosphere – amazing walk, Jo… 🙂

  8. Your stunning tale and beautiful takes , make your post one of the most interesting , ever.
    It’s the description of a part of Poland , not very popular and mostly unknown, which sounds inviting for a visit!
    Thanks, Jo!

    1. Thank you for your enthusiasm, Anna. 🙂 I pass by Lagieniki, where the churches are, on the metro to and from my cousin’s home in the Krakow suburbs. I visited once on a cloudy day several years ago, and the tower was already closed. So happy to finally go up there, and the mosaics in Jan Pawel’s church were incredible. Hugs, sweetheart!

  9. Thanks Jo for such a fascinating walk – I knew about the Krakow connection with Pope John Paul II but not much more and the memorial is a lovely tribute to him 🙂 The churches look so stark from the outside but so beautiful within and the views from the top of the tower are stunning! Such a contrast in styles and very different to many other European cathedrals I’ve seen! Sorry have been a bit late catching up with all my reading this week but thanks again for including my Lenno walk! Hope you’re having a lovely week so far! 🙂

    1. We’ve had a little bit of sunshine this week so I’ve been outdoors and not on the blog so much, Rosemay. Got to get your priorities right 🙂 🙂 I know there’ll be catch up days at some point. Glad you enjoyed the post. Visit whenever it suits you.

      1. Much better to be outside in the sunshine Jo than indoors on a computer! A rainy day here and rather cold this morning but I always love the contrast with the warmer months – just wouldn’t like grey weather all year round! Hope the sun continues to shine and have a lovely week 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s