Camaldolese Monastery in Bielany
Looming white over the green woods of Srebrna Góra (Silver Mountain) are the towers of the Camaldolese monastery: one of only two operating in Poland. The area – Bielany – took its name from the characteristic white habits of the monks.
The hermit order was introduced to Poland by Mikołaj Wolski, Grand Marshal of the Crown, in 1603. The monks sought a location that was cut off from the hubbub of daily life, so that they could find peace to praise the Creator. They chose Pagórki świętego Stanisława, literally the knolls of St Stanislaus, that belonged to Sebastian Lubomirski, who was loath to sell his estate. It was Anna Lubomirska, future wife of the owner, who proved helpful for the transaction by suggesting that Wolski threw a splendid banquet. In a festive mood, the merry Lubomirski promised the wooded hills to his host. In gratitude, Wolski presented him with all the silverware used at the table. Hence the name of the hill on which the Hermitage stands.
Soon the first houses of the hermits were built: following the rules of the order, each became home to one monk. The construction of the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary began, designed by Italian architect Andrea Spezza. The lavish furnishing of the church dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The founder of the church, Mikołaj Wolski, who died in 1630, is buried in a crypt by the entrance to the church. Following his wish, he was buried in a Camaldolese habit. The vaults of the choir hold a chapel and a crypt in which the earthly remains of the deceased monks are immured. After a hundred years, the ashes were exhumed and transferred to a communal grave, to make room for subsequent monks. The entire monastic complex has endured until the present in a nearly unaltered condition.
The Monastery in Bielany was often visited by Polish kings, notably Ladislaus IV Vasa (Władysław IV Waza) and John Casimir (Jan Kazimierz) during the so-called Swedish Deluge, and John (Jan) III Sobieski before he set forth to relieve Vienna from the Ottoman siege. In 2002, the monks were visited by Pope John Paul II, who remarked that: People of Kraków: do you know who to thank for your city staying safe and unviolated for so many centuries? Your lightning rod is the Camaldolese!
The Camaldolese is an order of monastic hermits. Each monk lives in his hermitage, they only meet for mass and prayers, and they gather for communal meals only a few times a year. They can only talk to each other three times a week: on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Praying in the church, the Camaldolese use no organ or any other musical instrument. There is no radio or TV-set in the monastery, nor are holiday leaves or family visits permitted. It may be worth adding that the Monte Corona Camaldolese congregation encompasses today just nine monasteries all over the world (of which two are in Poland), and nearly every other monk is a Pole.
The church and the monastery can only be visited in accordance with the unusually strict and severe rule of the order. Men are admitted throughout the year, when the doors open, i.e., from 8am to 11am, and from 3pm to 4:30pm, while women are allowed on the premises only 12 days a year; they are:
Camaldolese Monastery in Bielany
Sun, beach, sand, water, boats… The Ośrodek Nad Zalewem centre offers an ideal spot for leisure and recreation in the open, amid delightful natural surroundings. Kryspinowski Reservoir (Kryspinów) is situated around 12 km (8mi) west of the centre of Kraków, and is the most popular bathing site among the locals. It consists of two reservoirs that formed in former sandpits.
Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec
Tyniec used to be a day’s journey from Kraków, today we reach it in less than an hour on a bus or on a bike, taking a beautiful cycle path. The charm and tranquillity of the place attract throngs of tourists and pilgrims alike. Amidst this silence and reflective prayer, the monks follow the motto of St Benedict: ora et labora…
Situated on a limestone promontory, the monastery looks more like a mediaeval fortress than a church. Little wonder: right from the start, the Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec doubled as a fortress. It is highly likely that the area was inhabited by the Celts a thousand years before the Order of St Benedict arrived in the place. The first monks came here in the mid-11th century. Tyniec enjoyed plenty of favours from local rulers, many of whom were kings of Poland, and there are many arguments to support the claim that it was a medieval economic power. One of them is the nickname given to the abbot: “the abbot of a hundred villages”.
Although the church received stout fortifications in the 13th century, they could not save it from destruction: it was burnt down when the Tatars invaded the Polish lands. Its heyday came in the 15th and 16th centuries. In later years, the monastery was thoroughly rebuilt, and had the characteristic façade with two towers added. In 1816, that is during the era when Poland was partitioned, the Austrians dissolved the Order, and the Benedictines were forced to leave the Abbey. From that time on Tyniec changed hands many times, falling more and more into ruin. No one seemed to care for its fate until the Archbishop of Kraków, Prince Adam Stefan Sapieha, brought back the Benedictine Order from Belgium in 1939. One final time when the abbey acted as a fortress was in 1945, when much like in Monte Cassino, in southern Italy, which was defended by German forces against the Allies, the monastery likewise was held against the Red Army.
The only road into the Abbey leads through “the castle”, that is the 16th-century building of the abbot’s quarters. In the spacious courtyard behind it, the bygone abbots used to welcome eminent guests. The monastic complex includes a library that until the restoration completed in 2008 used to be known as the Great Ruin. Today it houses the Benedictine Institute of Culture. In its exhibition space, you can admire historical artefacts: fragments of Romanesque and Gothic stonework, and elements of the arcades of the original cloister. The Church of St Peter and St Paul situated within the monastery is a three-aisled basilica with baroque furnishing. Entering, spare a moment to look at the elaborate iron latch in the shape of a fish: one of the symbols of Christ.
St Peter and St Paul’s Church: