Małopolska region sanctuaries of St Stanislaus: Skałka, Szczepanów, Tuchów, Szczyrzyc

Monastery building in a green garden
The Pauline friars have been on Skałka Hill for 550 years. The Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel and Saint Stanislaus the Bishop and Martyr in Kraków is a remarkable and important place in the history of Poland. Do visit them, as well as other shrines in the Małopolska region dedicated to Saint Stanislaus, one of the main patron saints of Poland.

Sanctuary of Saint Stanislaus on Skałka Hill

The Baroque Church of Saint Michael the Archangel and Saint Stanislaus on the Skałka Hill with the Pauline friars’ monastery buildings rises above the boulevards, just above the Vistula River on a small hill built of white Jurassic limestone. An extraordinary place for Kraków, where sacrum and profanum, church and power, clashed in the 11th century. For almost a thousand years a place of pilgrimage of the faithful surrounding Saint Stanislaus with a special cult, and for more than a century a place of homage paid to the laity (National Pantheon). According to legends, the sanctuary of the martyrdom of Saint Stanislaus was recognisable on a par with Wawel Castle and St Mary’s Basilica.

The Pauline friars have been on the Skałka Hill since 1472, when they were brought to Kraków by Jan Długosz. However, the first Romanesque church stood on the site in the 11th century. It was here, in 1079, by order of King Bolesław the Bold, that the Bishop of Kraków Stanisław of Szczepanów was murdered. As early as the 12th century, his remains, according to legend chopped into pieces and miraculously reunited after death, were moved to the Wawel Castle. In the 14th century, a new Gothic temple was erected by Casimir III the Great. The church, destroyed during the Swedish invasion, was demolished to its foundations and replaced by a Baroque temple in 1733–1751. The altar of St Stanislaus contains an image of the saint from the 17th century as well as his relic. Close to the church is a pond of St Stanislaus called the Polish Stoup, a likely site of pagan rituals. According to the legend, it was at this site that the corpse of the murdered Stanislaus was dumped. On the 750th anniversary of the canonisation of Bishop Stanislaus (1253), Pope John Paul II raised the church to the rank of basilica minor.

The most important festival of national significance at the sanctuary is May 8, the day of the procession with the relics of St Stanislaus from Wawel to Skałka. In the Crypt of Merit – National Pantheon, located under the church, rest the mortal remains of distinguished Poles (including: Jan Długosz, Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, Adam Asnyk, Stanisław Wyspiański, Czesław Miłosz, Jacek Malczewski, Karol Szymanowski).

The cult of Bishop Stanislaus, a saint and martyr of the Catholic Church, began with the transfer of his relics to the Wawel Hill. It was from him that the legend of Poland’s division as punishment for the sacrilegious murder of a servant of God grew, proclaiming that Poland disintegrated like the limbs of a quartered bishop. It was also believed that, through the intercession of Bishop Stanislaus, just as his body was reunited after his death, Poland would rise from the divisional split and be united again too. Bishop Stanislaus was hailed as the patron saint of unification, and almost all Polish kings, beginning with Władysław I, were crowned kneeling before the sarcophagus of St Stanislaus in Wawel Cathedral. In the 13th century, Stanislaus was declared a saint and recognised as the patron saint of Poland.

Sanctuary of St Stanislaus the Bishop and Martyr, Szczepanów

According to the tradition, Saint Stanislaus was born in the small town of Szczepanów, west of Tarnów. The local sanctuary of St Stanislaus the Bishop and Martyr is visited by pilgrims in large numbers. The Gothic church – founded in 1470 by Jan Długosz – stood on the site of a wooden church erected by St Stanislaus’ parents in the 11th century. Between 1911 and 1914, a neo-Gothic, brick and unplastered church was added, and the former church became the right side aisle of the new temple. Two bells from the 16th century hang from the tall, soaring tower. A stone portal from the 17th century has been preserved at the entrance to the sacristy. The temple was rebuilt between 1925 and 1927 after the 1914 fire and then consecrated in 1930. The main altar contains an image of St Stanislaus. Pope John Paul II granted the church the status of Basilica of Saints Mary Magdalene and Stanislaus in 2003. In Szczepanów, you can also visit the chapel of the Nativity of St Stanislaus, built in 1861 on the spot where Bishop Stanislaus supposedly was born.  The urban development of Szczepanów is also interesting. 

Sanctuary of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Stanislaus in Tuchów

Since 1597, pilgrims have been drawn to Tuchów by the grace-famous 16th-century image of Our Lady of Tuchów. The miraculous image is located in the Sanctuary of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Stanislaus the Bishop and Martyr. The sanctuary is located in a 17th-century church, accompanied by a 19th-century monastery of the Redemptorists.

The Redemptorists have been taking care of the shrine and the miraculous image of Our Lady and Child since 1893. The first wooden church was built in the 11th century by Benedictine monks from Tyniec near Kraków, and is said to have been consecrated by St Stanislaus. The Benedictines also built a new pilgrimage church between 1665 and 1682. Since 1597, pilgrims have been attracted by the grace-famous image of Our Lady of Tuchów, known as the Lady of the Tarnów Land. The painting, crowned in 1904, is covered by a silver sheet dress. Today, the church is a minor basilica, a Marian shrine and a place of pilgrimage. It is a Baroque temple with a single nave and surrounded by chapels. The interior furnishings are mainly Baroque. A 1980 chapel stands in the walled courtyard. The monastery houses the Higher Theological Seminary of the Warsaw Province of the Redemptorists and operates three museums: Missionary, Sanctuary, and Ethnographic.

Other Tuchów attractions:

•    Rozwadowskis cemetery chapel
•    Municipal Museum
•    Building of the ‘Sokół’ Gymnastic Society
•    Church of Saint James the Elder

You will find the most information about Tuchów’s attractions: Tourist Information Point. The points are part of the Małopolska Region Tourist Information System, thanks to which you can get to know the tourism and cultural offers of Małopolska. They are located at 30 sites. Małopolska Region Tourist Information System includes also the portal you are currently reading and the VisitMalopolska mobile app

The Sanctuary of St Stanislaus and the Monastery of the Cistercian Fathers in Szczyrzyc

There are legends about the Cistercian Abbey in Szczyrzyc – the only monastery in Poland that has been in continuous operation since 1244 ... According to one of them, a local musician returning from a wedding met the devil, who in return for playing gave him a bag of gold. The musician did not return home with the gold, fearing an explanation from his wife, but went to Szczyrzyc and used the gold to found a monastery. The devil, having found out what had happened to his gold, decided to destroy the monastery. He found a large boulder, but unexpectedly, at the sound of the monastery bell, he dropped it too soon before reaching his destination. This Devil’s Boulder is still to be found in the village of Krzesławice, and the monastery in Szczyrzyc still adorns the Island Beskids.

The Cistercian abbey was founded in the 13th century with a stone-built church. In 1620, the monks began construction of a new monastery followed later on by a church, a library, a school, a brewery, a tavern, a mill and, in the 1930s, even a hydroelectric power station. The monks raised fish and Polish Red cows, cultivated fields and established orchards. They still farm and raise cows, and the Szczyrzyc Gryf brewery is the only active monastery brewery in Poland.

The Baroque church was built on a cruciform ground plan, with a presbytery closed by a semicircular apse and a slender Rococo tower with a bell. The entrance leads through a Gothic portal from the 15th century, while the interior is decorated with Art Nouveau polychrome from 1913. The monastery’s Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Assumption and St Stanislaus the Bishop houses the miraculous image of Our Lady of Szczyrzyc, which has been crowned (in 1939, 1984) and venerated here for almost 800 years.

The monastery’s 17th-century granary houses the Cistercians’ Monastery Museum, where you can not only learn about the legend of the Devil’s Boulder, but also see collections of sacred art, a mammoth tooth, valuable coins, maps (the only 18th-century copy of a 13th-century world map in Poland, on which the world is a circular plane with the centre in Jerusalem), a collection of weapons (a Japanese hara-kiri knife, fighting flails, a Cossack spit, a double-edged sword, a crossbow), folk art, souvenirs of the Podhale bard Władysław Orkan (an alumnus of the Cistercian Folk School in Szczyrzyc), and exhibits connected with the history of brewing. The granary itself turned out to be the former abbot’s residence during the renovation.

Other attractions of Szczyrzyc:
•    Indian Village 
Shrines of the Małopolska region, and there are more than a hundred of them, are a record of the history of our country, a national asset and a unique cultural heritage, an element of building local identity and a testimony of religiousness; they keep their secrets and often turbulent history. Several million pilgrims and tourists visit each year, often from countries as far away as the Philippines. There are shrines in Małopolska that receive several times more religious tourists than even Lourdes. This is an excellent reason to talk about them and invite them in. We will soon write about other sanctuaries in Małopolska worth visiting.


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