Sanctuary in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska

The Sanctuary in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska in Poland was one of Pope John Paul II´s favourite places of pilgrimage. Situated in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains 33km from Krakow, it was established in 1600 as Poland´s first Calvary sanctuary to offer Christian pilgrims an alternative to Jerusalem that had been acquired by Muslim Turks.

It´s humble origins began as quaint chapel dedicated to the Crucifixion of Christ, followed by a chalk model of the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. Over the next two centuries the sanctuary would become the largest pilgrimage site in Europe and today receives over a million visitors a year, making it one of the most visited places in Poland and is named among UNESCO´s list of World Heritage Sites.

 Recognized as one of the most fascinating architectural projects in Europe, this vast complex features 42 churches and chapels including the domineering 17th century baroque Basilica dedicated to the Angelic Mother of God in the centre and the adjoining Franciscan monastery.

The sanctuary complex gets very busy during Christian holidays and celebrations, particularly Good Friday and Assumption day on the 15th August. During the festivals visitors are treated to plays portraying the Passion of Christ and Our Lady´s Life Mysteries.

The Kalwaria Zebrzydowska used to be the home of the Order of Friars Minor, a brotherhood of Franciscan monks. In the 20th century they were joined by High and Low Religious Seminary´s, but they have since moved to Lodz. The current inhabitant of the sanctuary is an official Franciscan Publishing House called Calvarianum. Its books popularize the religious values and ideas of St. Francis of Assisi together with books and albums connected with Pope John Paul II.