Krakow has a lot going for pilgrims – it is a prominent city among the religious centers in Poland. The Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Krakow Łagiewniki is a place where St. Sister Faustina Kowalska lived and died. She was a mystic, propagator of the cult of Divine Mercy, and founder of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity convent. Today, Łagiewniki is one of the most visited sanctuaries around the globe!
The Łagiewniki Sanctuary tour includes several objects. At the beginning, You should visit the oldest, 19th-century monastery buildings and St. Joseph Chapel situated between them. There is a famous image of Merciful Christ in the chapel. In 1926, Sister Faustina started here her two-year novitiate and made her first vows (Faustina declared a perpetual confession in 1933). Few years ago, Sisters opened the convent house and the Museum of Sister Faustina established in the cell where she lived and died (you can see there memorabilia of the deceased).
Łagiewniki Sanctuary tour
Our Łagiewniki Sanctuary tour starts usually from the St. Joseph’s Chapel and small, neo-Gothic 19th-century monastery buildings (the huge, modern complex was built nearby in 2000-2002). As I mentioned before, we will see the famous image of Merciful Christ painted by Adolf Hyła (sister Faustina saw the first version of painting by Eugene Kazimierowski in Vilnius before 1939). Hyła created his painting as a votive offering for saving the artist and his family during World War II (Sister Faustina’s confessor, Father Joseph Andrasz watched out over the creation process). This version of the image gained popularity not only in Poland but all over the world. Since 1966, there are relics of St. Sister Faustina in side-aisle altar of St. Jospeh Chapel, under the image of Merciful Christ. This unique place attracts Catholics from around the globe. Among them were even two popes – John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Łagiewniki is an important place, when You want to explore Krakow in the footsteps of John Paul II. Let us remember that the cult of Divine Mercy has spread so widely mainly thanks to Karol Wojtyla’s decisions.
Huge increase of pilgrims (remember that Sister Faustina was canonized in 2000) caused that a small St. Joseph Chapel ceased to suffice. So at the end of the 20th century, Sisters took an ambitious plans to expand the sanctuary. One of the best architects in religious buildings design, former chief architect of the City of Krakow and the Krakow University of Technology professor Witold Cęckiewicz created a modern plan of a vast basilica. Impressive ellipsoidal forms and a characteristic tower were completed in 2002 and sacred by Pope John Paul II. It is worth mentioning that the observation deck on the tower is open for tourists – view of Krakow and the surrounding area is really amazing (if the weather is good, You can even see Tatry mountains!). New church is really huge – two-level building can gather almost 5 thousand people! Its decor and architecture is very symbolic. Its shape is an evocative of a huge ship. Maybe the Ark of the Covenant, in which modern men can find a cure for their spiritual threats? The main altar has also an unusual form, dominated by the image of the Merciful Christ. Tabernacle is in the shape of the globe surrounded by bush with curved, wind-tossed branches. According to different interpretations, it could be on one hand a reference to the biblical burning bush, but on the other the challenges of life in the postmodern era, danger and passion, which tossed the modern men (in this case the mainstay and refuge is of course, God’s mercy).
Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Łagiewniki
During our Łagiewniki Sanctuary, tour You should necessarily go down to the lower level, where are 5 unique chapels. St. Faustina Chapel with the decor offered by the Italian Episcopate is located in the very centre. Next four chapels are situated around the mentioned one. Chapel of the Holy Cross is the foundation of people of Germany. Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows with a wonderful Pieta carved by John Lesňák is a gift from Slovaks. Stunning Chapel Sanctorum Communio, which mosaic decor created by Hungarian, Greek Orthodox priest, László Puskás, represent saint patrons of Polish, Hungarian and various European countries. Even more strongly associated with the Greek-Catholic tradition is the St. Andrew Chapel – its decor was founded by the Polish-Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. The chapel is entirely maintained in Eastern tradition (by this I mean the iconostasis and wonderful byzantine paintings). It is so-called the Chapel of Reconciliation – made by prof. Ludomyr Medwid from Lviv. It was sacred exactly 60 years after the “Wisła” Operation (Communist authorities forced the Ukrainian people from the South-eastern Poland to move into new Polish territories in Mazury and Silesia) by the Kiev-Halicz Orthodox Metropolitan. The whole concept aims to emphasize the universality of the Divine Mercy! In the immediate vicinity of the church, there is also a Chapel of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (also designed by prof. Cenckiewicz) and the huge, modern auditorium of John Paul II.
Visiting the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy takes an important place in our itinerary of the Krakow sanctuaries guided tour. Seeing Łagiewniki is recommended not only for pilgrims and people who look for spiritual renewal but it is also a very interesting experience for lovers of contemporary architecture and sacred art!