Kalwaria Zebrzydowska – Updated 10 January 2023.
Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is a town in southern Poland, located in the Lesser Poland Voivodeship. It is known for its UNESCO-listed pilgrimage site, the Sanctuary of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, which is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Poland.
42 chapels and churches
The Sanctuary consists of a complex of 42 chapels and churches, as well as other religious buildings and monuments, that are arranged in a manner that mimics the layout of Jerusalem. The site is also known for its beautiful Baroque architecture and artwork, as well as its picturesque setting in the Beskids Mountains.
Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is Poland’s second most important pilgrimage site after Jasna Góra in Częstochowa and owes its existence to the squire of Kraków at the time, Mikołaj Zebrzydowski. Each year, thousands of pilgrims visit Kalwaria Zebrzydowska to participate in religious ceremonies and to walk the Stations of the Cross.
The story is that Mikołaj’s wife had a vision of three burning crosses on the very hill the park is now located upon. Seeing this as a heavenly message, Mikołaj commissioned the construction of a calvary modelled on the 1584 map of Jerusalem by Christian Kruik van Adrichem. Today the calvary is known as the ‘Polish Jerusalem’.
Kalwaria Zebrzydowska was established in 1600. By 1617, twenty-four chapels had been built over the surrounding hills with many replicating the look of chapels in Jerusalem. As the place attracted growing numbers of pilgrims, more chapels were erected, eventually totalling 42. Today, over a million pilgrims visit this devotional complex every year. In 1999 Kalwaria Zebrzydowska was added to Unesco’s list of World Heritage sites.
The site is also one of Poland’s official national Historic Monuments, as designated November 17, 2000, and tracked by the National Heritage Board of Poland.
Baroque St. Mary’s Basilica
The crowning glory of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is the marvellous Baroque St. Mary’s Basilica, the first building to be constructed and the work of Giovanni Maria Bernardoni and Paolo Baudarth.
Calvary Park consists of 42 chapels modelled and named after places in Jerusalem and Holy Land. There are two main paths, one devoted to Jesus Christ and the other one devoted to Holy Mary. The first has 24 chapels, the second 11 chapels, the rest are common to both of them.
Pope John Paul II made several visits to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska on the pilgrimages he made to his homeland Poland.
Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is a town in southern Poland that is famous for its Calvary complex, which is a series of chapels and other religious buildings that are arranged in the shape of a cross. Here are some frequently asked questions about Kalwaria Zebrzydowska:
Q: What is the significance of the Kalwaria Zebrzydowska Calvary complex?
A: The complex is an important pilgrimage site for Catholics, and it is said to have been founded in the 17th century by a local priest named Andrzej Mielecki. The complex is a replica of the biblical city of Jerusalem, and it features a series of chapels that depict the final days of Jesus Christ’s life. Visitors to the complex can follow the Way of the Cross, which is a series of stations that commemorate the events of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.
Q: How many chapels are there in the Kalwaria Zebrzydowska Calvary complex?
A: There are 42 chapels in the Kalwaria Zebrzydowska Calvary complex, each of which depicts a different scene from the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Q: Is Kalwaria Zebrzydowska a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
A: Yes, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as it was added to the UNESCO list in 1999.
Q: Is it only open to Catholics or can people of other religions visit as well?
A: The Calvary complex is open to visitors of all religions, and it is a popular tourist destination for people of all backgrounds who are interested in history, architecture, and culture.
Q: What is the best time to visit Kalwaria Zebrzydowska?
A: The best time to visit Kalwaria Zebrzydowska would depend on your personal preferences. In summertime it can be quite hot and crowded, but the greenery surrounding the chapels is at its most lush. If you prefer to see chapels in wintertime or less crowded, you may want to visit in the shoulder or off-peak season. Some people also consider visiting Kalwaria Zebrzydowska during religious festivals like Easter, when special ceremonies and processions are held at the Calvary complex.
Visit the official Kalwaria Zebrzydowska website.
What to expect from this tour
- Explore both the Jasna Góra Monastery and the Family Home Museum of John Paul II
- Admire the miraculous painting of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa
- Marvel at the parish church in Wadowice where the future Pope John Paul II was baptized
- Enjoy included hotel pickup and drop-off in Krakow
Begin your tour with pickup at your hotel in Kraków, then travel in an air-conditioned van for approximately 1 hour to Wadowice, the hometown of Pope John Paul II. Upon arrival, have a short break before going to the parish church on Main Market Square where the future pope was baptized. Marvel at numerous chapels, holy paintings, and the famous baptismal font as you learn about the humble beginnings of one of the greatest Poles in history.
Then, make your way inside the Family Home of John Paul II and take a tour with an accredited guide available in various languages. Spend at least 1 hour and 20 minutes in the museum. Later, visit the secondary school that Karol Wojtyła, as the pope was then known, attended. Take a nice picture of the monument of the young pope.
On the second half of the tour, head to the Jasna Góra Monastery in the town of Częstochowa, about 130 kilometers (around 80 miles) away from Kraków in southern Poland. Once there, explore a famous Polish shrine to Our Lady of Częstochowa, which constitutes one of Poland’s most visited pilgrimage sites.
Take a guided tour of the monastery with one of the Pauline monks who will show you the treasury filled with priceless gifts and accompany you to the chapel in the shrine. Finally, marvel at the miraculous painting of the Black Madonna and have a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. The tour concludes with drop-off at your hotel in Kraków.
- Hotel pickup and drop-off
- Guided tour of Family Home of John Paul II Museum
- Guided tour of Jasna Góra Monastery
- Tickets and admission fees
- Small-group tour