In the Footsteps of Pope
John Paul II in Krakow.
citizen of Krakow,
Poland resided in
Vatican from 1978 to 2005. Before having taken over the Holy
See as Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla had lived in
Krakow for four decades – practically through his
entire adult life until his assumption of the
papacy. 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
In the foreground - two adjacent houses where John Paul II
from 1951 to 1963 have been turned into the Archdiocese Museum
with a department devoted to the late Pope.
route of Pope John Paul II
If one intends to visit places
connected with the life of the man who shepherded
the Church into its third millennium, he should
start at Debniki, Krakow’s residential
district vis-a-vis the Wawel Hill across the Vistula
river. Born in the town of Wadowice some 30 miles
southwest of Krakow, 18-year-old student Karol
Wojtyla moved in to a Debniki basement room at 10
Tyniecka street in 1938. Next September Nazi
Germany invaded Poland and under their
five-year-long occupation he was forced to work
in the nearby Zakrzowek quarry while
concurrently studying at an underground
theological seminary. First thing every morning
he heard Mass and went to Communion at the large,
modern Debniki parish church of St.
Stanislaw Kostka’s where also young Father
Wojtyla would say the second Mass in his life on
November 3, 1946. He said his first Mass a day
earlier in the 12th-century Crypt of St. Leonard’s under the Wawel Cathedral where Polish
kings and national heroes are laid to rest.
the newly ordained priest expect that barely
seventeen years would elapse and he would take
the Wawel Cathedral over as the Krakow
Archbishop? Twelve of these seventeen he was to
live at the foot of the cathedral, at the
splendid Kanonicza street. Father Wojtyla
resided at 19 Kanonicza street from 1951
till 1958, when he became bishop; and at the
adjacent no 21 till 1963, when he became
the Krakow archbishop. Now both those houses are
turned into the Archdiocese Museum which
exhibits the church art. Yet Father Wojtyla’s
old room looks as if he only recently
walked out, complete with the furniture he once
used. Added are such John Paul II’s memorabilia
as coins and medals minted in his honor
and robes he wore as university professor,
bishop, cardinal and, finally, the Pope.
five minutes’ stroll down the most charming Kanonicza Street and then
through the Planty gardens will bring
you to the gate of the stately Bishops’ Palace
at 3 Franciszkanska street whose ample
first-floor rooms were home to His Eminence
Cardinal Karol Wojtyla since 1963 to 1978.
Previously he had lived in the palace as a seminarist
throughout 1945 and was ordained in its
chapel on the All Saints Day AD 1946. In
October 1978 Cardinal Wojtyla left for Rome to
participate in the conclave which elected him the
Pope. In the ensuing year he visited his native
Krakow for the first time as John Paul II,
staying again briefly in the Bishops’
Palace. In the palatial courtyard one can
see his statue commemorating the most famous
master of the place.
April 4, 2005, Mourners keeping
vigil in front of the palace of Krakow's bishops where Pope
John Paul II once lived.
Poland's impressive national shrine
dates from the 14th century and shelters plenty
of superb church art. The Sigismund Chapel is a
masterpiece of the Renaissance art and
architecture. Giant Zygmunt
bell of 1520 ranks with the world's
largest. Most Polish
kings are buried here together with the
greatest national heroes.
Wawel Hill in Krakow, the mecca of every
Pole and a must for foreign tourists, is a
microcosm of Polish history and culture.
of the Virgin Mary's
Immense Gothic church, the city of
Krakow's principal temple since the 13th century,
boasts the world's greatest
Gothic sculpture among its many excellent
works of art. Huge stained-glass widows of the
chancel date from the 14th century.
Poland's medieval rulers are buried
under their sarcophagi in the Cathedral's nave.
Visitors can also see crypts with the tombs of
the Renaissance and later monarchs.
Old Town Historical District
Poland's prime tourist attraction and a
must-see in Central Europe boasts numerous
world-class monuments, charming vistas,
delightful atmosphere, and the best restaurants.
The most beautiful of Europe's ancient
Planty Garden Ring
Park of 30 varied gardens among old
trees round Krakow's Old Town historical district
Krakow on Foot
The best way to enjoy old Krakow is
Up the Royal Road
Round the Grand Square
through Krakow's Kazimierz District
Krakow numerous churches are
architectural gems, art hoards, and spiritual
Map of Krakow
the birthplace of Pope John Paul II
Jasna Gora Sanctuary in Czestochowa
is the holiest place of Poland and one of the
world’s most important destinations for
With its 42 Baroque churches and chapels
of all shapes and sizes in addition to the
central basilica and the Franciscan monastery,
the Kalwaria Zebrzydowska sanctuary is Europe's
biggest Calvary shrine.
Poland’s second holiest shrine at the
site of St. Stanislav’s 1079 martyrdom.
Splendid Baroque church and fine monastery
modeled on a Renaissance castle.
of the Lord's Mercy
Humble nun’s visions in the 1930s
gave rise to a world-wide spiritual movement
inside the Catholic Church, ever stronger
nowadays, with the center in her Krakow convent.
2006 visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Krakow