The Birthplace of Pope John Paul II
Wadowice, small city of about 20,000 some 30 miles southwest
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.
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.
Sanctuary of Kalawria Zabrzydowska, a
UNESCO World Heritage site, sits halfway between Krakow
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.
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.
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.
Mountain resort of Zakopane, Poland
Rabka Zdroj in Poland
City of Krakow map
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Europe boasts numerous world-class monuments, charming vistas,
delightful atmosphere, and the best restaurants.
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