Updated: Oct 15, 2019
Small town in the south of Poland, about 1h drive from Krakow.
On 16 October 1978, the inhabitants were shocked by the news that their compatriot, born in Wadowice, had been elected the first Polish pope in the history.
The eyes of the world turned to Poland and the place where the unknown cardinal Karol Wojtyła came from.
The first visit of the Pope to Poland (including Wadowice) took place in 1979.
It was then that during the homily at Zwycięstwa Square in Warsaw, the memorable words of the Holy Father were uttered:
“May Your Spirit descend and renew the face of the Earth. This land!";
These words were of particular importance for the Polish society, which crystallized the idea of changing the political system.
It is said that without this pilgrimage there would be no Solidarity movement headed by Lech Wałęsa and the subsequent overthrow of the communist system.
Silent pilgrimages were going to Wadowice, and after the fall of communism the town became a tourist attraction for Catholics from all over the world.
What to see in Wadowice?
Like many other towns, there is a traditional market square, a church and a museum - the house where Karol Wojtyla was born, the monastery of the Barefoot Carmelites and a confectionery where the famous papal cream cakes are served.
There is a half an hour journey through Wadowice by tourist car, but the commentary to the visited places is only in Polish.
It is certainly worth to sit in one of the benches of the church (currently the Minor Basilica dedicated to the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and contemplate the rich interior of the temple and the fact that here the future Pope was baptized and received the first Holy Communion.
Right next door is the house (now a museum) where Karol Wojtyła was born.
The windows of the apartment and the room where John Paul II was born were facing the tower of the church.
Apparently, just after Karol was born, his mother had the windows open and the church bells sounded. It is said that since then Karol Wojtyla has been entrusted to the care of the Mother of God.
Shortly before Karol's first communion, her mother, Emilia Wojtyła née Kaczorowska, died. Then Karol; father, the senior, took the two sons of Karol and his brother Edmund (14 years older) before the image of Our Lady and said, “From now on, this is your mother…”
Both the parents and brother of the future Pope were very religious.
Edmund, Karol’s brother, graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow and became a doctor in Bielsko (near Wadowice). But he only practiced for 1. 5 years. He contracted a deadly disease in a hospital and died childless when Karol was 12 years old.
Karol was left alone with his father...
Three important places: church, school and theatre supported in shaping Karol’s character.
After completing 4 classes of the primary school (where the class consisted of as many as 60 students!) Karol began his education in the Marcin Wadowita Gymnasium, at 16 Mickiewicza Street.
He aimed at humanities subjects: apart from Polish, there was also Greek and Latin. His talent for languages was very useful in his later “papacy", as he sometimes joked about his 27-year-old papal pontificate.
School education has allowed him to get to know and enjoy national classical and world literature. As a junior high school student he played in Sophocles'; “Antigone";, Słowacki's “Balladyna";, Krasiński's “Un-divine Comedy";.
His father instilled in Karol his love for Kalwaria Zebrzydowska and the Calvary Pathways (from 1999 on UNESCO heritage list).
It all shaped his future life.
Karol Wojtyła left Wadowice with his father in 1938 to study Polish philology in Krakow.
As Pope John Paul II visited his beloved Wadowice 3 times in 1979, 1991 and 1999.
The last time he was in Poland in 2002 and the pilgrimage plan did not include a visit to his hometown, but only a visit to nearby Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, he asked the helicopter pilot to fly a little over Wadowice. In this way he said goodbye to the place of his childhood and youth forever.
“[. . .] here, in this town, in Wadowice, everything started. And life began, and school began, and studies began, and theatre began. And the priesthood began. “ (John Paul II, Wadowice, 16 June 1999)
If you wish to visit Wadowice, Kraków, Łagiewniki or Kalwaria Zebrzydowska please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
We will be happy to prepare a tailor-made tour for you!