Jerusalem Served as Example
One of Poland's major pilgrimage destinations as well as one of the most beautiful Calvary complexes in Europe, the little town of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is set amidst hills about 30 kilometers south-west from Kraków. The whole complex of chapels was built over the surrounding hills in the picturesque landscape of the Beskid Makowski. They all form the Kalwaria Zebrzydowska Religious and Landscape Park registered on UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage List. The town owes its existence and subsequent fame to the Palatine of Kraków, Mikołaj Zebrzydowski, who in 1600 commissioned the church and monastery for the Bernardine Order as well as a complex of chapels similar to the Calvary in Jerusalem. He trusted the construction of the whole to the Flemish architect Paul Baudarth. The monastery with the Marian Sanctuary was erected in the late baroque style with some rococo decorations, adorned with cloisters and featuring mannerist wall paintings and precious canvases in its interiors.
With time more chapels were erected, eventually reaching 42 buildings, all set in the natural landscape and featuring the famous Calvary avenues. It takes about four hours to cover the whole trail of six kilometers. The Marian chapel in the shape of a heart, Pilate's Praetorium, and Our Lady's Tomb with its sarcophagus are the most spectacular edifices.
Every year thousands of pilgrims and tourists flock to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. Famous church fairs combined with processions and the Passion plays attract throngs of people.
The little town of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska has other noteworthy historical monuments: the castle complex, old houses with church fair stands and hermitages.
It's a convenient starting point for hikers who wish to enjoy interesting trails crisscrossing the Beskidy Mountain Range. Another place worth a visit from Kalwaria is Wadowice, birthplace of John Paul II who was often coming to the shrine as a pilgrim.