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Archive for May, 2012

St Stanislaus

When I was writing the two last posts, I considered myself primarily as a teacher. Things have changed a bit since then. Now, I think, I’m turning into a guide.

Of course, I’m not only showing Kraków to others but also explore the city myself. Last Sunday I stopped at the foot of Wawel Hill, below the castle and the cathedral, to admire the magnificent and colourful St. Stanislaus procession. It is a typically Cracovian tradition dating back to the 13th century and one of the biggest religious celebrations in Kraków.

sanctus_stanislaus

St Stanislaus is the first Polish saint and the patron saint of Poland. He was a Kraków bishop in the 11th century. Nobody knows exactly why, but he quarrelled with the king, who ordered him to be killed. So in 1079 bishop Stanisław was murdered, his head and limbs being cut off. Then a miracle happened. No sooner did they put him into a coffin than the body grew together again. This legend was very important for us, Poles, over the next two centuries. Poland was divided then between several princes who continuously waged wars against one another and Kraków, the capital, was the coveted city, which often saw sieges and battles. Many people hoped that just as the body of bishop Stanislaus had grown together, Poland would also become one again. Bishop Stanislaus was made a saint in 1253. Half a century later monarchy was re-established in Poland and by 1320 most of the small duchies had been reunited.

To commemorate St. Stanislaus, there is a huge procession on the first Sunday after the 8th of May every year. They start at the cathedral, where St. Stanislaus’s tomb is, and go to the church where he was murdered, which is about 1km away. The beginning of the celebration is marked by the sound of the Sigismund Bell, the second biggest in Poland (over 12t), which is rung only on the most important holidays. The procession includes all the Cracovian bishops, many priests, monks and nuns, as well as the city officials, university professors, knight brotherhoods, people in traditional folk costumes from various parts of Poland, etc. I guess, there must be about three thousands of the “official”participants, excluding other people who join in. It’s a really huge celebration and the most interesting religious procession I’ve seen (and you should know that there are many similar in Poland). I’m really proud of the tradition.

I include a link to some pictures from St. Stanislaus procession. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get the feel of the celebration but maybe you’ll get interested and come to participate in it in the future.

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