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Basilica of Our Lady of Angels (Kalwaria Zebrzydowska)

07 sierpnia 2002 | 17:25 | Ⓒ Ⓟ

The basilica, designed by a Jesuit architect Jan Bernardoni, is a single-nave church with two towers in the facade.

On the right of the church there is the monastery, on the left three Baroque chapels from the 17th and 18th c. In the 17th c. a chapel was added on the southern side the church. The chapel, which can be entered from the chancel, accommodates the miraculous image of Our Lady of Kalwaria; at the end of the 17th c. an aisle was added.
In the high altar there is a silver statue of Our Lady of Angels, brought from Loreto by the very founder of the shrine, Voivod Mikołaj Zebrzydowski. The silver statue is situated against a red backdrop and is surrounded by stars and angels. Before it arrived in Kalwaria it was blessed by Pope Sixtus V.
The nave of the church features many late Baroque elements. In a side altar of the nave on the southern side there is an oil painting of St. Mary Magdalene (from around 1754), painted by Jan Majer. On the opposite side of the nave, on the north side, there is a much earlier painting representing St. Francis of Assisi. The polychromy on the ceiling of the nave was painted by Włodzimierz Tetmajer, who managed to perform the bulk of the work before World War I. In the chancel, however, there is less artistically perfect wall polychromy by Karol Polityński from the 1920s. The wall painting immortalises the moment of the crowning of the image of Our Lady of Kalwaria.
Behind the high altar, on the side of the choir, there is a huge wooden crucifix from early 17th c.; the stalls feature scenes from the Old and the New Testament carved in wood.
On the balcony opposite the high altar there is an organ (26 voices, 2 manuals) from 1706, an instrument of substantial historical value, very well preserved (60% of the voices are original). Summer festivals have been organised here since 1996. During his first trip to Poland, Pope John Paul II conferred upon the church the title of a basilica minor.

*The Footpaths of the Passion of Christ*
The shrine devoted to St. Mary and to the Passion of Christ is the oldest and the biggest Calvary in Poland. It was founded by Mikołaj Zebrzydowski, Voivod of Cracow. Having read a book by Christian Adrichomiusz which describes Jerusalem at the time of Christ, Zebrzydowski resolved to erect replicas of places from the Holy Land in his own property. As distances turned out to be greater than those in Jerusalem are, the sites of 42 churches and chapels were designed more sparsely in adequate proportions. The buildings were fitted into the picturesque landscape of the Beskidy mountains. The founder is believed to have said that one step of the Saviour is worth ten steps walked by a man. Żarek Hill was renamed Golgotha, an elevation near the town of Lanckorona became the Mount of Olives, while the Skawinka river received the Biblical name of the Cedron. The first chapel, modelled on the Holy Rood chapel of the basilica of Resurrection in the Holy Land, was erected in 1600; this was the starting point for the creation of a Polish Jerusalem.
The oldest chapels, founded still by Mikołaj Zebrzydowski in the period 1605-1617, designed by a Dutch architect and jeweller Paul Baudarth, are by far the most admirable parts of the complex. These are Pilate’s Town Hall, a starting point for the pilgrimage of prayer of visitors, Lord Jesus’ Tomb, the Mount of Olives, Jesus’ Arrest, the House of Annas, the House of Caiaphas, Herod’s Palace, Acceptance of the Cross, the Upper Room, and Second Fall. All of them constitute the so-called Path of Our Lord. There also chapels of the Path of Our Lady: the so-called Tomb, or the Church of the Sepulcher of St. Mary, Mary’s House and Mary’s Heart, a chapel designed in the shape of a human heart. The remaining chapels come from later times and were founded by Jan Zebrzydowski, Mikołaj’s son, and the founder’s grandson Michał. While artistically they do not measure up to the buildings designed by Baudarth, they still possess an inestimable spiritual value for the pilgrims

*Mystery Plays of Christ’s Passion – their history and the present day*
Mystery plays of Kalwaria have been staged for over 300 years. It was thanks to them that Kalwaria reached international renown. Each year the “Glorious Mystery of Our Lord” begins on Palm Sunday. Local guides and the alumni of the Brothers Minor Seminary, dressed in clothes from the time of Jesus, impersonate scenes from the Gospels that describe the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. On Wednesday of Holy Week they act out a feast at Simon’s place and Judas’ betrayal, on Thursday of Holy Week they take part in a Passion procession starting with the washing of the feet of the Apostles. Then, on the footpaths of the complex of the Polish Calvary they act out scenes of the prayer in the Garden of Olives, Jesus’ Arrest, and the Trial by Caiaphas. On Good Friday there is Pilate’s verdict, which attracts the biggest number of pilgrims and the Trial by Caiaphas, following which the procession leaves for the Mount of Crucifixion. The Passion of Our Lord is read out from the Mount, after which the Most Holy Host is taken to the chapel of the Holy Sepulcher.
Services of the Passion and Death of Christ in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska have a long history. They were celebrated even before work on the chapels began. Franciscan Brothers Minor would lead the pilgrims along the just delineated paths and at the crosses that marked the sites of future chapels would talk about the events from the Gospels and recited appropriate prayers. Word about the new “Jerusalem service” got out very quickly and more and more pilgrims would gather for the Feast of the Holy Cross and for Good Friday. Pilgrimage along the paths in Kalwaria has always been the most important part of religious experiences of the visitors. Unique songs connected with the place and the participation of brass bands in the solemn celebrations have also been a part of the pilgrimage centre in Kalwaria.
The fact that the Passion mystery plays have survived until today can be attributed to Fr. Augustyn Chadam. In 1946 he resolved to rejuvenate the form of the plays staged in the Holy Week so that they would be interesting in the contemporary context. Recently as many as 100 000 pilgrims have arrived in Kalwaria to participate in the mysteries of the Holy Week
The basilica, the monastery of the Brothers Minor and the Paths of the Shrine are the only Calvary in the world that has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The site is referred to in the document as the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. Among the factors that contributed to the inclusion in the world heritage list was the fact that the complex is a unique monument of culture, in which landscape was used as a place for a symbolic representation of the Passion of Christ by means of chapels and paths of individual stations of the Way of the Cross.

*Brothers Minor in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska*
It was Mikołaj Zebrzydowski’s express wish that the shrine in Kalwaria should be taken care of by a branch of the Franciscans known as the Polish Brothers Minor, customarily referred to in Poland as Bernardine monks. Their monastery and the basilica with the miraculous image of Our Lady are the central place of the shrine.
Initially the founder was meaning to construct a small hermitage for a few, maximum 12 monks, which would be a chapter of the Bernardine church from Cracow. Zebrzydowski expressed his wish that the monks should take care of the Calvary. In the foundation act of December 1, 1602 Zebrzydowski donated to Brothers Minor the Church of Crucifixion along with half the Mount of Żar, pledged to construct a monastery and a church and to establish a Calvary. Construction work, however, did not start until 1604, and was conducted in line with the design by a Jesuit architect Jan Bernardoni.
Today at this site there is the St. Francis of Assisi Monastery. Nearby, resting on the foundations of a Czartoryski Palace, is situated the building of the Seminary of Brothers Minor. In 1993 the building was blessed by Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, Metropolitan of Cracow. Currently there are 70 student priests from the Order of Brothers Minors, known in Poland as Bernardines.
Bernardines, spiritual sons of St. Francis, serve God and our neighbours through prayer and various forms of apostolate in Poland and missionary posts abroad. They provide pastoral care, teach catechism, lead retreat meetings, look after the poor, and take care of numerous shrines.

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