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The Cracow of Karol Wojtyła

07 sierpnia 2002 | 16:46 | Ⓒ Ⓟ

There are many people in Cracow for whom the remembrance of Karol Wojtyła, first as an ordinary priest, then as bishop and cardinal, is a life goal. There are, too, numerous places that the present Pope has lived at or visited. Let us visit some of them, too….

*Tyniecka Street no. 10*
In the summer of 1938 young Karol Wojtyła, along with his father, moved to Cracow out of his native Wadowice. After the holidays Karol wanted to take up Polish studies at Cracow University. He was enchanted with literature, especially poetry, and his native acting talents indicated that he could also make a name for himself on stage. The new place of residence of the two Wojtyłas was to be a two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen in a house at 10 Tyniecka St., in Cracow’s Dębniki district. The house, whose gate overlooked the convent of Norbertan Sisters and the church in Salvator district has been preserved until today. While only few people make their way here, a plaque with the Pope’s emblem emblazoned on it commemorates the extraordinary tenant from over 60 years ago.
Memorable places in Dębniki, however, are by no means limited to the house on Tyniecka. Nearby we will also find another “papal trace;” in a tenement house at Różana Street 11, next door to the church in Dębniki, lived Jan Leopold Tyranowski, “one of those unknown saints, hidden among people,” as he was later described by St. Peter’s Successor. Thanks to this man, an ordinary accountant and a tailor by profession, Karol Wojtyła and many other young people (e.g. Fr. Mieczysław Maliński) got to know the works of St. John of the Cross and of St. Teresa of Avila; the Pope regards him his spiritual director. When we add to those addresses in Dębniki the parish of the Salesians of St. John Bosco, still providing pastoral assistance today, we can easily surmise that this very part of Cracow was truly a school of spiritual life for the future Pope. Some other places can be reached from here in a short time, too. These are, for instance, the quarries in Zakrzówek and the Solvay works in Borek Fałęcki. This means that in Dębniki the young Karol Wojtyła was also close to another school, a school of hard physical labour.

*Prayer and labour*
For Karol Wojtyła the Solvay Chemical Works was a place of refuge, safeguarding the young student from exile to Nazi Germany. Furthermore, it was a place where he gained a new experience of strenuous physical work. At first Wojtyła worked as a stone mason, then as a brake-man and finally got promoted to the assistant blaster. After a year he was transferred to work at purifying soda. As it soon turned out, the work was not his sole occupation. Apart from the physical effort and the anxiety connected with the Nazi occupation, Karol Wojtyła struggled within himself trying to choose the way of life. One of is favourite books at the time was the Little Blue Book by St. Louis Maria Grignion de Monfort, which he used as a guidebook for those hard days. As the co-workers at Solvay maintained, the pages of the book were always stained with soda. “Out of this book I learned what devotion to Mary the Mother of God means,” said John Paul II later. It is also from this book that he borrowed his motto as bishop and pope: “Totus Tuus” (I am fully Yours, O Mary).
In the autumn of 1942 the time had come to take a momentous decision. Following years of consideration, Karol Wojtyła entered a clandestine seminary for priests and began to study theology.

*Clandestine classes at the Archbishop’s Palace*
Our steps should lead us now towards Podzamcze, to one of the hallmark buildings of Cracow. Unfortunately, the seminary building was taken over by the Nazis during the war and that was why Prince Metropolitan Adam Stefan Sapieha invited new seminarians to the Palace of the Archbishops of Cracow. Karol Wojtyła also went there. While he was still living on Tyniecka Street, every morning he served as an acolyte during Holy Mass celebrated by Cardinal Sapieha. He also studied philosophy and theology. After two years, when the frontline was coming close to the Vistula river, Prince Metropolitan had the student priests move permanently into his Palace on Franciszkańska and replace laymen’s clothes with black cassocks. Seminarians lived in the big audience hall, temporarily converted into a dormitory. Many years later, as Archbishop of Cracow, the same room would serve Cardinal Wojtyła as an audience hall. When John Paul II arrives in Cracow, he customarily engages in a kind of dialogue, interspersed with songs and jokes, with the people gathered in front of the Archbishop’s Palace; history comes full circle.
However, before Bishop Wojtyła moved into Franciszkańska 3, he first lived at Kanonicza Street 21, at the Dean’s House known as “Dziekanka.”
At present the building houses the Archdiocesan Museum, one of the greatest attractions of which is the Pope’s room, with a number of personal artefacts and keepsakes connected with the Pope and his life in Cracow. Tourists are fascinated by Karol Wojtyła’s cassocks whose colours are to a certain extent symbolic of consecutive stages of his life as priest and bishop, but equally intriguing are the future Pope’s skis or pens. Additionally, following the visit in 1997, the Museum has had one more reason for pride; it was here that the Pope had breakfast. In general, the oldest street of the city situated at the feet of Wawel Hill seems to be a “privileged place” on the papal map of the town. On Kanonicza Street we can visit the Institute of John Paul II, or drop by the no. 15 to the tenement house accommodating the Foundation of St. Vladimir who christened Kiev Russia. We can likewise visit the nearby seminary building. When we open the heavy door, we immediately catch sight of a commemorative plaque reminding us that “Karol Wojtyła – John Paul II studied in this Seminary.” Such a plaque is hung in only one seminary in Poland and few others in the world can boast of a similar cause. Becoming aware that it was here, within these neo-gothic walls, that education to priesthood of the future Pope took place must fill with excitement every young visitor to this place. In Podzamcze we are a stone’s throw from

*The Royal Hill and the Cathedral,*
mother of all churches in the whole archdiocese. The Wawel Cathedral is also one of the main burying grounds in Poland. Sarcophagi of monarchs, national heroes and bards of Romanticism are located in the Wawel crypts side by side with traces of modern times. In the oldest crypt of St. Leonard young priest Karol Wojtyła celebrated his first Holy Mass on November 1, 1946. He was ordained priest ahead of time; his classmates had to wait for ordination another few months. Fr. Karol was being sent to Rome for further studies and as the times were uncertain, the Metropolitan would not wait longer. Half a century later the Cathedral again witnessed an historic moment when in the early morning of June 9, 1997 John Paul II celebrated Eucharist in St. Leonard crypt with a group of his friends.

*New addresses*
The “Cracow addresses” of Karol Wojtyła comprise not only the streets of Franciszkańska and Kanonicza or Wawel Hill, but also the parishes in Nowa Huta and the atmosphere of unique “shepherds’ masses” celebrated at midnight on Christmas Eve in this town where people were to forget about God. These addresses also contain the parish and the church of St. Florian, where Fr. Wojtyła was auxiliary parish priest and pastor of students. It is also the Jagiellonian University (his was the last defence of a post-doctoral dissertation at the Faculty of Theology!) and a number of other churches. Today, nearly a quarter of a century after Karol Wojtyła was elected Supreme Pontiff, the number of those “papal” venues has become larger thanks to John Paul II Hospital, Institute of Paediatrics in Prokocim and the Shrine in Łagiewniki, to mention but a few. The Cracow Commons (the Błonia Krakowskie) also occupy a special position on this list; a granite boulder commemorates our meetings with the Head of the Church. Before long other places in Cracow will be added to the “privileged” list.

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