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Wadowice in Poland 

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The Birthplace of Pope John Paul II 

Wadowice, small city of about 20,000 some 30 miles southwest of Krakow, has got international recognition as the birthplace of Pope John Paul II. Born in 1920 as Karol Wojtyla, the future Pontiff lived in Wadowice till 1938 when he moved to Krakow to study at its ancient Jagiellonian University. Yet to his last days the late Holy Father remembered fondly his Wadowice youth and places associated with it, the schoolmates, his teachers, and other local folks he had used to know. Also, he tried to include the town, when possible, in his visits to Poland. 

Wadowice, the birthplace of John Paul II

Places of interest in Wadowice

Tourists seek in Wadowice sites connected with Pope John II. Their first obvious choice is the house at 7 Koscielna street with flat where the future Vicar of Christ was born and raised. The place has been turned into a museum exhibiting The Wojtylas family’s former possessions such as an oven, a shelf, a table, tableware, a laundry basket, family pictures as well as personal belongings of Father Karol Wojtyla – skis, a rucksack, a cap, a prayer book, etc. Reopened in 2014 after a thorough remodeling and enlargement, now it relies heavily on multimedia. The building is situated in the town’s heart, near the baroque church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the central square.

Possibly even more important is the nearby church itself as the future John Paul II grew up in its shadow, was baptized a Catholic and later confirmed in it, served as an altar boy and prayed daily here before its miraculous picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The church’s Gothic chancel dates from the 15th century while the late-Baroque nave and aisles were built in the 1790s. The left aisle contains a baptismal font where the baby Karol Wojtyla was baptized.

Also the high school where young Karol Wojtyla was educated has remained in place.


Other Wadowice sights

The Carmelite monastery at 22a Karmelicka street, a neo-Gothic compound from the years 1897-1899, is associated with another Wadowice’s saint, Father Rafal Kalinowski who was the prior here in the late 19th century. The monastery features his cell. Pope John Paul II canonized St. Rafal (Raphael) Kalinowski in 1991.

The Wadowice Municipal Museum at 4 Koscielna street, opposite John Paul II’s family house, shows the town’s history and its present day. Also the Pope’s varied memorabilia. Plus temporary exhibitions.

the sanctuary of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska
Sanctuary of Kalawria Zabrzydowska, a UNESCO World Heritage site, sits halfway between Krakow and Wadowice.

Travel to Wadowice

As trains from Krakow to Wadowice are rare and slow, bus service seems more convenient. The town is easily accessible by road. Main routes are Road (Droga) 52 from Krakow to Cieszyn (via Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Wadowice, Andrychow, Kety, and Bielsko-Biala) and Road 28 from Nowy Sacz to Zator (via Limanowa, Rabka, and Wadowice).

Tip: Wadowice is located between Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Pope John Paul II’s favorite shrine, and Oswiecim where there is the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau notorious Nazi death camp (both places are listed as the UNESCO World Heritage). You can combine a visit to Wadowice with seeing any of those sites or both.


Wadowice is situated at the foot of Beskidy Mountains, in the westernmost part of the Malopolska Province (Voivodship, upon the Skawa river. Median elevation 270 m above the see level.


Wadowice’s history

The history of the town of Wadowice can be traced back to the 13th century. First it belonged to the princedom of the Silesian Piasts, next to form a part of the Principality of Oswiecim that would morph later into Principality of Zator. In 1482 the short-lived Principality of Wadowice was created that lasted 11 years. Returned to the Zator statelet, in 1495 Wadowice was bought with it by Poland and incorporated to the powerful kingdom. During the first partition of Poland in 1772 the Austrian Empire annexed the southern part of the Krakow province, including Wadowice. In 1867 the town was made the capital of a county, which brought it new prosperity. In 1918, after the Great War, Wadowice returned to Poland reborn as a republic. At the outset of the Second World War, when the Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Wadowice was annexed to the Third Reich. Since the end of the WWII the town has been Poland again.

Modern Wadowice.

Wadowice has a life beyond tourism. The city is fairly industrious and it has nurtured a number of successful enterprises. One of them, Maspex, has grown from a small instant-cocoa trader in 1990 to Poland's largest food-processing conglomerate in 2015, with the combined annual turnover approaching euro one billion.

 In the proximity of Krakow
Krakow is Poland's tourist mecca, and also a gateway to many other must-see sites in the region.

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