Jo’s Monday walk : a Tale of 3 Churches

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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.

146 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🙂

  10. credo che sia proprio la Religione ad aver fatto superare al tuo meraviglioso popolo tanti momenti tragici, nel senso della devozione e nel credo verso un mondo migliore si sono indirizzato le anime, ed hanno vinto la loro grande battaglia
    il tuo magnifico reportage è legato a questo senso religioso, le rafici non si dimenticano!
    grazie cara Giovanna

    1. You might be right, Annalisa. 🙂 I was not brought up to follow the faith but I have always attended services with the family when I have been in Poland. I like the children’s services best. 🙂

  11. Of course I love all your Polish posts and this one’s no exception. It inspires me to do a church-crawl sometime. I love those mosaics with all those simple curved lines; and the back view of figures from the top; and your accounts of encounters; and the stained glass in the chapel. So many delights, and not the usual grand fussiness I’ve seen in most Warsaw churchesi’ve visited. I’m sorry there’ll be no more Polish posts till next time.

    1. I’ve just been on an archaeological dig with you in Gdansk, and am heading for gargoyles. 🙂 🙂 I love it! As I love these churches too. Thanks, sweetheart. Must fly- I have a date with a gargoyle!

  12. Jo, I am impressed by these churches. They are not what I was expecting when I read your post title. The Church of the Divine Mercy would be a must for me. Is it located close to Krakow’s historic center?

    1. Hi Ruth 🙂 That’s what’s great about them. The stunning architecture and the mosaics, and the contrast between traditional and modern. The nearest metro station is Lagieniki. It’s about 15/20 minutes ride from the centre.

  13. Well as you know I am a lover of churches, but the simpler the better and I must confess that Catholic churches do not draw me in at all. Like Gilly I find the girls in white a little disturbing, but I’m not in the least religious and I suppose for some people faith is what keeps them going. I prefer to spend my time outside and among the graves, though I admit the mosaics are rather attractive. A nice end to your Polish journey this time. And I want to know why we don’t have lifts instead of those impossibly steep spiral staircases😀

    1. They’re an intrinsic part of Polish life, and part of me wishes I’d been ‘indoctrinated’ many years ago. 🙂 Believing in nothing is kind of empty.

      1. I don’t especially see it as a freedom. 🙂 🙂 I will always have doubts, Jude, but I could be happy as a believer. I know we have said that much wrong has been done in the name of religion, but that’s a fault with mankind, not any kind of deity. Religion and politics, chuck… we’re bound to disagree 🙂 🙂

  14. As you know, I enjoy visiting the buildings of the worlds religions, but have no faith myself. Pretty they may be, but I find the dressing of young girls in white like bridal clothes for first communion, rather creepy. Sorry if that’s a bit outspoken, and delete this if you want🙂
    John Paul’s chapel and the mosaics are magnificent though, is it wrong to choose the churches, temples, mosques for their beauty alone? Everywhere I go I’m drawn to these places.
    Happy days lovely girl!

    1. It wouldn’t occur to me to delete a comment, Gilly, unless it was very rude. We all have our opinions and I do know what you mean. These kids were just alight with happiness though, and it was a pleasure to me to see them. I do sometimes feel a bit of an imposter in churches and I wish that I did have faith. But I’m respectful and I do no harm. That must count for something 🙂

      1. I’m sorry, hon. I was on Cathy’s forever! Yes- there are some great ones. Yours included. I’m no further forward with travel plans. Single supplement pushes the price up. Still looking! Hugs, darlin 🙂

  15. The mosaics in the first church are very impressive, Jo. You did them justice with your photographs. And, you picked the perfect day for a trip up the tower and some amazing views. I can sense the peace of the places you visited. You have peaked my interest in Krakow and Poland with your series. Thanks for sharing your stories and photographs!

    1. I’ve really enjoyed sharing them, Liesbet, and I’m grateful for your interest. There are so many beautiful things to share and I’m afraid I’m a bit of an escapist. 🙂

  16. I’ve never been to Poland so your articles have been hugely enjoyed as, not only do I love travelling and fit in as much as I can, finances permitting, but I’m a great armchair traveller as well, devouring books and blogs along the way. Thank you for keeping me entertained and educated.

    1. Hi Susan 🙂 So sorry I haven’t sent you an acknowledgment for the book. Thank you so much. It is appreciated and I will read it as soon as I can. As you can probably guess I spend far too many hours on the blog. 😦 And if the sun shines you can’t keep me indoors 🙂

  17. oh i love this spiritual walk, Jo and thank you so much for taking me. the mosaics, packed with symbols and meanings are exquisite! i am most drawn to the Divine Mercy church. i was there along with others in 2014 on a pilgrimage and it was a lovely spiritual experience for me. though i didn’t get to the tower, most of the ones on the ground i was able to see. your photos are all beautiful! 🙂

    1. LolaWi, it’s so lovely to find someone who has actually been there. It’s a little out of the way but such a beautiful place. As you can maybe see from my photos they are making improvements to the surrounds as well. So happy to bring back good memories for you. 🙂 🙂

  18. Jo I will admit that in our travels I am not usually a church explorer. I grew up in a pretty strict religious environment and will say it has kept me a bit clear of churches.
    I did appreciate your loving and eloquent words in describing your experiences. A true sense of calm. You can imagine I liked going up the tower best of all.🙂

    1. I’m not a church goer at home, Sue, but when I go to Poland I fall in with the family’s pattern of worship. I would dearly love to share their faith, but in the meantime I borrow a little. 🙂

  19. I can imagine seeing all those children dressed in white must have been angelic -and then to see them with the priest at the end, how wonderful. Beautiful mosaics too:).

    1. Hi Corey 🙂 As I said to Sue, I’m not a church goer at home, but I love the inclusiveness of the Polish ceremonies. Children are almost the most important members of the congregation, and that’s a lovely thing. 🙂

  20. Hi Jo,
    These are really interesting churches. Thanks for taking me around.
    Btw, we have plenty of Polish priests here in southern Texas. And Panna Maria [http://tinyurl.com/h4cbnbl], just a few miles from where my wife has grown up and has lived nearly all her life [Karnes City] is the first Polish settlement in the US. I’ve been there quite a few times, visiting the church, the museum, and passing through on my bicycle.
    Have a great day,
    Pit

    1. The 3 churches are so different in what they offer, Cathy. I was there with Weronika at the end of a rather grey day a few years ago, and the viewing tower was already closed. I’ve always meant to go back and it was the perfect day for it. How’s the homestead? You must be about sorted by now? 🙂

      1. I’m glad you got to go on a sunny day when the tower was open.

        As for the homefront, you can read about it on my latest cocktail hour. Too much to repeat here. It’s all coming together nicely and I’m really loving it.🙂

    1. There are quite a lot of modern churches in Poland with lovely designs, Anabel, but I did think that these two were very special. A little off the beaten track but no worse for that. 🙂

  21. Those churches are such unusual looking buildings and the mosaics just stunning. We did a road trip around Poland last summer spending 5 wonderful days based in Krakow, it’s such a beautiful place. I’ve joined in with your walks a couple of times before and I’m back with another one, written a while ago, but a great favourite of my family’s. I hope I’m doing the right thing linking it here (it’s also linked to #mondayescapes) http://www.loumessugo.com/en/blog/entry/secret-paradise-a-refreshing-river-walk

  22. Another great walk Jo. And those mosaics are a highlight for me.
    I can see that I’ll have to stay a while once I get to Krakow – so may of your steps to follow!

      1. Great stuff! Hopefully more ammunition to get Mick to revisit Seville. 🙂 He didn’t enjoy it a bit but that was partly driving problems and part rain. 😦

  23. What stunning mosaics, Jo! Truly a feast for the eyes… And the view from the top of that tower was rather good…nice that there was a lift part way!

  24. Wow what a view in your opening photograph – found it difficult to pull myself away and walk on with you. So glad I did though as the churches are extraordinary and so different. Going to miss your Polish trips x

    1. I expect I’ll be back there one day, Becky. 🙂 And you know, I still have ‘snippets and snaps’ ( to quote a lovely lady) to share.
      Thank you so much. You make wonderful company.

  25. I like the mosaics, I like them anyway though, probably because I spent years studying them at university. Best church mosaics ever are in Ravenna – have you seen them? One of the highlights of my trip to Italy.
    I take it communion time was happening on your Polish trip, hence all the white clothes?

    1. Didn’t make Ravenna yet. Hopefully there’s still time 🙂 🙂 But then, I’m ever hopeful Kate! I love mosaics.
      Yes- communion was part of their ‘mini pilgrimage’. Keeping well?

  26. What an exquisite walk Jo. You’re right, from the outside the church looked stark and forbidding but the mosaics inside were extraordinary. A beautiful post.

    1. Thanks, darlin! I wasn’t sure that a ‘religious’ post would go down well, but ‘something for everyone’. The mosaics are stunning, aren’t they? Hope Monday was good for you. 🙂

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