Pope John Paul II in Krakow

Pope John Paul II is hailed as the greatest citizen to have lived in Krakow. The locals here affectionately refer to him as “uncle.” Born, Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice 30 miles southeast of Krakow, he came to the city as an 18-year old student and lived here for most of his adult life before taking up his papal duties at the Vatican in 1978. Before asserting his influence on the world stage he had already touched the heart of many people in Krakow and is fondly remembered for the work he did here.

When Karol first arrived in Krakow in 1938, he had a humble basement apartment at 10 Tyniecka Street. During the war he was forced to work for the Nazi´s in the nearby Zakrzowek quarry, but continued his theological studies in a secret underground seminary. Every morning he would attend the Debniki Parish Church of St. Stanislav Kostka´s to hear mass. In 1946, he gave his first mass in the 12th century crypt of St. Leonard´s under Wawel Cathedral.

Here he spent his formative years as a student and then as a young priest, a theologian and a philosopher, a playwright and a poet. And here he made most of the breathtaking ascent from the position of a humble curate at Krakow’s church of St. Florian’s to university professor to Krakow bishop to cardinal to the Vicar of Christ. 

In 1951, he made himself a new home at 19 Kanonicza Street after being appointed bishop of Krakow. When he was promoted to the position of archbishop in 1958, he moved the adjacent house at number 21. Today, both houses are part of the Archdiocese Museum which is complete with the furniture he used.

The final residence of Karol Wojtyla in Krakow was in the stately Bishop´s Palace at 3 Franciszkanska Street where he lived as His Eminence Cardinal between 1963 and 1978.

Other than Krakow, Wadowice is the other place of pilgrimage to take centre stage for visiting admirers of Pope John Paul II. The house in which he spent the first 18 years of his life in Wadowice has been turned into a museum. Until spring 2013, the building is undergoing reconstruction, but a replica has been built as a temporary replacement.

Karol was a keen poet and sportsman as a young man. In the house at 7 Koscielna street where the future Pope was born and raised you will find some of his treasured possessions which tell us much about the activities her enjoyed as a youth including a book of poems and a pair of skis.