Karol Wojtyła, later Pope John Paul II lived in Krakow for nearly 40 years. In the city, there are many places associated with him. In Krakow, the future Bishop of Rome took his first steps into adulthood, survived the Nazi Occupation during World War II and developed his acting talent. What is more, he was ordained a priest, received episcopal consecration, and finally, he become Archbishop of Krakow. It seems that the city had a huge influence on Karol Wojtyła’s spiritual, intellectual and moral formation.
Karol Wojtyła’s first house in Kraków
First place related to the future pope is the house at Tyniecka St. no. 10 in Debniki district. Karol Wojtyla moved here with his father in 1938. The house belonged to brother of Karol’s mother. They rented a very small apartment located in the basement. Their flat consisted of two rooms and a kitchen (total area of approx. 30 m2). Wojtyla spent here nearly six years (all the Nazi Occupation when he was employed as a worker in Soda Works ‘Solvay’). Today, the house is not owned by Pope’s relatives so it can be viewed only from the outside.
Places associated with John Paul II in the Old Town
Karol Wojtyła had desires to gain a proper education so he came to Krakow. He began his studies in 1938 at the Jagiellonian Univeristy (he studied Polish Philology at the Faculty of Philosophy). Despite official ban on running classes during World War II, professors took secret teaching in which Wojtyła participated. He continued his studies at the Faculty of Theology and ended with Master’s Degree in 1946. Important memorabilia of Karol Wojtyla are presented at the Jagiellonian University Museum including photos, a master’s degree in theology diploma, some papal gifts, and a plaque commemorating the title of doctor honoris causa that was given to the Pope in 1983.
A truly unique place for Karol Wojtyła was the Archbishop’s Palace at Franciszkanska St no. 3. Despite the fact that the future Pope move here just in 1967, he was a frequent guest in the palace before. In 1946 Wojłtyła was ordained a priest by Cardnial Sapieha during the mess celebrated in the private chapel of Krakow archbishops. Later, while his papal pilgrimages to Poland, palace became a place of John Paul residence for few times. Once he stood in front of the window above the entrance to the palace and blessed gathered faithful which quickly became a new tradition. Pope gave some spontaneous speeches to assembled crowds, sang common songs and prayed. Currently, the ‘papal window’ can be found very quickly thanks to his photo on the glass. It is worth noting that Pope Benedict XVI and lately Pope Francis also appeared in the window during their visits to Poland.
Kraków Błonia and the Sanctuary of St. John Paul II
Close to the Old Town, next to the National Museum and Cracovia Football Stadium, you can find Krakow Błonia – a vast green area of approx. 48 hectares, where papal masses and meetings gathered millions of pilgrims from Poland and other countries. These events started at the first John Paul’s pilgrimage to his homeland in 1979. Due to commemorate such important celebrations, in October 1997 (exactly on the 19thanniversary of Karol Wojtyła election), city authorities transported a special stone (26 tons weight!) from Morskie Oko lake in Tatry Mountains to Błonia.
If the main purpose of your stay in Kraków is a spiritual meeting with John Paul II, then you necessarily need to visit Sanctuary of the St. John Paul II in Krakow Łagiewniki, close to the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy. It is a huge complex with an extremely interesting architecture. There is two-level temple with saint relics and famous mosaics. You can also visit the museum fulfilled with papal gifts.
Walking in the footsteps of John Paul II, you may encounter many other places and monuments evoking his memory. We are happy to discover them to you during our guided tour: http://guide-krakow.com/the-paths-of-john-paul-ii/.