1) Krzeszow – Our Lady of Grace sanctuary
Cistercian monks in Silesia often occupied places of other monastic communities who, because of different reasons, had not grown. We can observe such case in Kamieniec Zabkowicki, and in Krzeszow where in 1242 a small Benedictine monastery was founded by Anna of Bohemia, duchess-widow after the death of her husband, duke of Wroclaw and Cracow – Henry the Pious in the battle with Mongolian hordes near Legnica (1241). In 1289 Piast duke Bolko I the Hard, the lord of Swidnica and Jawor, bought back Krzeszow from the Benedictine order and gave it in 1292 to Cistercian monks. Teodoric became the first abbot and the community consisted of 13 monks (based on the apostolic model) – German and Polish. The site of the abbey was mentioned in documents as Gratia Sanctae Mariae – Grace of the Holy Mary, which proves that the veneration for Our Lady was cultivated in Krzeszow from the beginning of the history of the abbey. At the end of the 13th century a church and monastery buildings were constructed – on the site of the present baroque one. When the benefactor – duke Bolko I died in 1301 was buried under the floor of the Krzeszow church.
In 1318 pope John XII confirmed privileges of the abbey, and to that year the first note about the miraculous painting in Krzeszow dates back. Two stories were told about the appearance of the painting in Krzeszow. According to the first – the picture had been found in the former hermitage on the site where the monastery was built, pursuant to another – the painting was brought by a pious pilgrim or monk from Rimini in Italy, where it had been delivered from Byzantine lands by one of crusaders. Historians of art say that the icon of Our Lady with Holy Infant was painted in the Byzantine type of Hodegetria (She who shows the Way), and that it is the oldest painting of such type in Poland. The device: “Gratia Sanctae Mariae” connected with the icon dates back, as mentioned above, to the date of foundation of the Cistercian abbey. Later monastery chroniclers gave to Our Lady of Krzeszow a title of “Nostra Thaumaturga” (Our Thaumaturge). At the end of the 14th century Cistercian property near Krzeszow included two nearby towns – Lubawka and Chelmsko as well as over 30 hamlets. The abbey church became a burial place of Piast dukes – successors of Bolko I: Bernard the Just, Henry and Bolko II the Short. With the death of the latter the local dynasty ended and former duchy of Swidnica and Jawor fell under the rule of Bohemian kings.
In 1426 the conflict arose – Hussite warriors from Bohemia upset with an unsuccessful siege of the nearby town of Kamienna Gora decided to take an easier loot. They plundered the area of Krzeszow killing monks and burning the local church and monastery. The icon of Our Lady of Grace was hidden during the raid and the hiding place forgotten for almost two centuries. In 1427 the local abbot sentenced to death three villagers from the vicinity accused of assistance during the desolation of the abbey. In 1431 Hussites again came near Krzeszow crossing the Sudety Mts. by the old route through Lubawka. In 1434 the so-called Taborites (most revolutionary branch of the Hussites) lost the battle of Lipany, ending the first period of Hussite wars. In 1435 Cistercian monks started to rebuild the church monastery. That was also uneasy period – former Bohemian and Silesian warriors became regular knight-robbers, attacking merchants and travellers on mountain routes. Therefore, reconstruction works did not end till 1454. In June 1468 the area was pillaged again by forces of Bohemian “Hussite king” George of Podebrady marching to Silesia, nobles which-of supported Matthias Corvinus – king of Hungary.
The clash between monarchs over Silesia and Bohemia that engaged also the Polish Jagiellonian dynasty lasted with short intervals of truce till year 1490. However, much more dangerous crisis – the spiritual one was about to happen in the next century. Ideas of Martin Luther soon became popular among Silesian nobles (partly because of financial grounds) and priests (partly because of personal reasons). In the 1520’s local nobles refused to pay tenancy rents to the abbey and main benefactors – the Schaffgotsch family became Lutherans and began efforts to regain lands donated by their ancestors to the Cistercian order. Within few decades starting from 1520 a number of monks in Krzeszow dropped five times – to the minimal number of 12. The 32nd abbot of Krzeszow Nikolaus after two years of reigning committed suicide seeing the desolation of the community. However, in 2nd half of the 16th century, the Council of Trent in Italy initiated the so-called Counter-reformation. In 1547 pope Paul III gave permission for using bishopric insignia by abbots to strengthen their authority. The successor of unfortunate Nikolaus – abbot Kasper started a renewal of Krzeszow community.
Baroque in Krzeszow – interior of the basilica
In 1612 the abbey received confirmation of privileges given by the Habsburg emperor, in 1616 Krzeszow was visited by the general abbot of the Cistercian order – Nicolas of Citeaux. In 1618 the Thirty Years War started, soon bringing calamities to Silesia. At the end of year 1620 abbot Martin was shoot to death when entering the Cistercian town of Chelmsko (7 km south from Krzeszow). However, two years later – in 1622 monks decided to start renovation works of the abbey church. During those works, under the sacristy floor an old chest was found, and in the chest – the Our Lady of Grace painting, lost during Hussite wars, 200 years earlier. In 1632 Saxon and Brandenburg soldiers plundered Krzeszow, forcing monks to escape with some documents and goods. In 1633 the abbey was visited twice by Swedish troops who, apart from looting, burnt down the church and the monastery – destroying one of the largest libraries in Silesia. One Cistercian priest – Henry, who after the attack in 1632 stayed in Krzeszow with his parishioners, was killed. In 1638 monks returned trying to rebuild the monastery. The war lasted 10 more years bringing a bitter peace – no side could claim victory, perhaps apart from Sweden – the biggest pillager of the 17th century. Silesia remained with the Habsburg empire who executed the agreed rule “cuius regio eius religio”. For Cistercians it meant that some churches, taken over in the 16th century by Protestants, were placed under the care of monks.
In 1660 father Bernard Rosa became the abbot of Krzeszow. He was a good priest and organiser – supporting a foundation of the St. Joseph’s Fraternity in 1669, that, at the end of the century, had over 40,000 lay members. The goal of abbot Rosa was to restore the glory of the sanctuary with the miraculously found Our Lady icon but also with an introduction of new architecture outlook – the prized pearl of baroque. In the 1670’s and 1680”s Passion of Lord chapels were built around the abbey – using distances from the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem as well as St. Anne’s chapel – on the hill in the east from Krzeszow. In 1677 the abbey church was damaged in fire and baroquised during renovation works. In 1690 abbot Rosa started a construction of baroque St. Joseph’s church. The design was based on the famous Jesuit Il Gesu in Rome, but, due to collapse of towers during works in 1693, had to be changed. The main art achievement of the abbot was to find a right man to decorate the interior of new church. His name was Michael Willmann, known later as the Silesian Rembrandt, who painted frescoes inside the church. In 1696 the church was consecrated and soon after abbot Bernard died.
Abbots of 1st half of the 18th century – Innocent and Benedict did not like the contrast between the St. Joseph’s and the old Our Lady church – deciding to build new main sanctuary.They also took into consideration that after some concessions given in 1707, Protestants constructed new “mega churches” in Jelenia Gora and Kamienna Gora – under the very nose of the abbey and, last but not least, a poor condition of the old building. New church was built between 1728 and 1735 and the design based on the prophecy of Isiah: “ecce virgo concipiet, et pariet filium, et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel” (Is 7,14) and: “parvulus enim natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis, et factus est principatus super humerum ejus: et vocabitur nomen ejus, Admirabilis, Consiliarius, Deus, Fortis, Pater futuri sæculi, Princeps pacis” (Is 9,6).
The church represented full, rich Silesian baroque and the construction marked an apogee of the Krzeszow monastery. In 1740 armies of Prussian Friedriech der Grosse entered Silesia, plundering the abbey on their way. In 1741 Cistercian monks from Krzeszow moved to the Austrian side of the Sudety, taking with them the miraculous icon of Our Lady. They returned after the peace treaty of Wroclaw (1742) assigning most of Silesia to Prussia. Frederick II did not welcome them – he ordered to imprison abbot Benedict in Wroclaw and claimed a requisition payment from rest of monks. Despite harsh times interior paintings and furnishings were added in the church. In 1759 typhus stroke in Krzeszow killing one of sculptors – Bohemian Anton Dorazil. The Prussian government soon forbade pilgrimages to the sanctuary and imposed 80 % on the monks revenues. In 1800 the monastery school was transformed into a public gymnasium supervised by the government. Despite the above turmoil at the end of the 18th century about 30 monks lived in monastery .
In 1810 Prussian king – Friedrich Wilhelm III decided to liquidate the Cistercian order and take over the property. At that time lands of Krzeszow abbey consisted of two towns, 42 villages, 18 farms inhabited by approx. 30,000 residents. Before year 1820 monks had to leave the monastery – only the 47th abbot Ildephons and his deputy remained as parish priests. Prussian authorities started to utilise the monastery as raw material stock – replacing copper roofs on some buildings with… clay ones and taking some works of art. In the monastery a village school was opened but nobody care of the building which fell into devastation. In 1873 the western part of the former abbey were blown up by the government. In 1913 one of church towers was heavily damaged by fire. Not earlier than in 1919 authorities allowed monks to return to Krzeszow (in 1893 outside the abbey a house of St. Elizabeth nuns was established). Few Benedictines started renovation works disrupted by World War II. In 1940 German authorities organised in the monastery a transitional camp – initially for “volksdeutsches” from Bukovina in Romania, but later – for people destined for concentration camps. Benedictine monks had to move to Broumov on the Czech side. In 1945 Soviet troops came pillaging some goods gathered in the former monastery. Four Benedictine monks decided to go back to Krzeszow, two of them became priests who took a pastoral care over Polish Benedictine nuns who were moved here in 1946 from Lwow – the city in the east taken from Poland by the Soviet Union.
In 1954 the monastery again became a transitional camp – this time of communists who persecuted religious communities imprisoning friars and nuns in labor camps. Communist secret services tried also to convince the religious to leave orders, invigilation was a “normal” thing. Finally Benedictine nuns and sisters of St. Elisabeth were transported to camps in different parts of the Polish People’s Republic. In 1970 Cistercians were permitted to return to Krzeszow. Monks came from the abbey of Wachock in northern Lesser Poland starting extensive renovation works which due to lack of funds and the disfavour of the government lasted over 30 years. In 1997 Polish pope John Paul II crowned the icon of Our Lady from Krzeszow with crowns. In 1998 the Assumption of Our Lady church in Krzeszow was given a title of “basilica minor”. Nowadays Krzeszow is the largest and arguably most beautiful of sanctuaries in the Sudety, where the baroque beautiful shell hides a pearl for the faithful – the miraculous painting. Situated in the picturesque location – in the shadow of the Karkonosze attracts many pilgrims and tourists.
2) Bardo – Our Lady Wardress of Faith sanctuary
We do not know when exactly a gifted medieval sculptor carved in the linden wood a smiling Madonna of Bardo, Pursuant to the old tradition – it happened at time when Polish duke Boleslaus the Wrymouth went with his army to Bohemia taking revenge after Czech campaigns in Poland in the 11th century. The duke rebuilt a burg in Bardo, that had been pillaged by Bretislaus II in 1096, constructing a chapel soon followed by the church. In 1189 the local church was put into custody of the Hospitaller order. Knighted monks in the 13th century moved to Strzegom and in 1249 Cistercians from Kamieniec Zabkowicki took care of the sanctuary. The fame thereof grew in 2nd half of the 13th century with first miracles attributed to prayers in front of the smiling Madonna. 100 years later numbers of pilgrims was so high that monks decided to build a bridge over the Nysa Klodzka river. In 1399 one of local residents had on the top of the steep mountain dominating over Bardo (Bardzka Gora) a vision of Our Lady weeping over the land. Over 20 years later Hussite warriors plundered Bardo, burning local churches – the figure of Our Lady was taken by the local priest Bartholomew to the castle of Klodzko, where it remained hidden until 1436. Then it returned to Bardo and the churches were rebuilt. In 1525 during another fire of the church in Bardo a monk, saving the figure from conflagration, died hit by a falling piece of ceiling.
In the 16th century the fear of profanation of the figure by Protestants inspired the monks to move the figure to the abbey church in Kamieniec Zabkowicki where it stayed until 1606. It is worth to mention that it did not stop pilgrimages to the sanctuary. In August of 1598 when tonnes of rocks and mud slipping down from slopes of Bardzka Gora blocked the river bed threatening to cause a great flood, a monk named Matthew gathered the faithful and prayed for the rescue which eventually came – the waters found the way through the barrier. In 1606 a Jesuit preacher visited Bardo calling people to ask for comeback of their Lady. Soon it happened – inhabitants of Bardo brought the figure in a solemn procession from the village between Bardo and Kamieniec. In 1617 on Bardzka Gora (the place of apparitions of weeping Virgin) a chapel was built. One year later the Thirty Years War broke out. In the 1630’s when Swedish troops reached the Sudety Mts. the figure had to be hidden in Klodzko again. Four times Swedes approached Bardo and four times the sculpture was taken to safety.
Sanctuary in Bardo seen from slopes of Rozancowa
The statue returned to Bardo after peace treaties of Westphalia in spring of 1649. New baroque church was built at the end of the 17th century. Pilgrimages were very often, in particular on the 2nd of July – feast of the Visitation of Holy Virgin. In 1711 great fire destroyed most of the town including the church, but the figure survived. Cistercians moved the Virgin of Bardo to Nysa, then to Kamieniec. Finally, after renovation works in the church, in May 1712 a great local feast occurred – the linden Lady went back to her town. Within four next years new monastery building was constructed. On Bardzka Gora Calvary shrines were built. However, in half of the 18th century Prussia annexed Silesia bringing a decay of local Catholic sanctuaries. In 1807 French forces of Jerome Bonaparte – Napoleon’s brother entered Bardo staying at the monastery. In 1810 Prussian king nationalised property of the Cistercian order, including those of Bardo. The renewal came when at the beginning of the 20th century Redemptorists took care of the local church. They bought out the nearby hill from the magistrate, building there chapels of the Holy Rosary. Due to the local custom of kissing the Our Lady figure they decided to place some relics in the base of the sculpture. In 1966 Madonna of Bardo was crowned with a permission of the pope. The church that has been given the title of basilica minor became again a popular sanctuary attracting people with their prayers to the place where smiling Madonna intercedes for graces and miracles testified by votive offerings of thankful pilgrims.
3) Wambierzyce – Our Lady – Queen of Families
From the rocks of the Stolowe Mts. the Kidron stream flows down, amidst hills of Sion, Moria and Tabor to the unusual village with gates, chapels and a monumental baroque church shining gold. 800 years ago on the place of the large basilica there was a linden tree, where some pious villager placed a small figure of Our Lady with the Holy Infant. When other peasant from nearby Ratno prayed there and regained his eyesight, news about the miracle spread around. Pilgrims had started to come to the linden, and soon a stone altar was built for liturgical ceremonies, followed by a wooden chapel, constructed in 2nd half of the 13th century. Nowadays the Gothic Our Lady figure, made in the linden wood, is placed in the high altar of the basilica – the Holy Child in one hand holds a sparrow, reaching with the other to a fruit holding by his Mother.
Our Lady of Wambierzyce has been throughout centuries visited by thousands of pilgrims from Silesia, Bohemia, Poland, Moravia and Austria. In 1512 a construction of the church was started. It was stopped soon because of the Lutheran expansion. The figure was put into hiding. In 1563 the church was taken over by Protestants. After the Thirty Years War the Habsburg empire retained control over Silesia. The Marian sanctuary was to develop again. In 1678 a spring spurted out miraculously and was immediately named after Our Lady. A local landowner – count of Osterberg decided to transform the village into new Jerusalem. Calvary chapels were built on surrounding hills. In the 1710’s a large church was constructed on the hill called Sion, dominating over the centre of the settlement. Despite the baroque period the construction was based on classical and renaissance styles to resemble the ancient temple of Jerusalem. The monumental stairs represent biblical numbers – the lower part resembles nine angel choirs, the central – 33 years of life of Jesus, the upper – 15 years of Mary’s life before Nativity. Throughout next two centuries new chapels and gates were built.
In August of 1980 Our Lady of Wambierzyce figure – a saint patron of families was crowned by cardinal Stefan Wyszynski from Poland and cardinal Frantisek Tomasek from Bohemia. Nowadays, the sanctuary is under custody of Franciscan friars. In apogee of popularity in 18th century Wambierzyce was visited by about 200,000 pilgrims a year. Sacred walking routes decorated with crosses and shrines were built – the best known led from Police nad Metuje (Czech Rep.) through the Stolowe Mts. In Wambierzyce there are over 100 of shrines and statues. Perhaps, the most intriguing one is a figure of St. Vilgefortis – a woman on the cross. Historians of art argue on the origin of the representation. One of theories leads us to Lucca in Tuscany where the so-called Cross of Nicodem or Volto Santo has been kept in St. Martin’s cathedral. The Saviour is presented there with beard and clothed in tunic. The cross of Lucca became an inspiration for later works of arts in northern Europe and the person on the cross was identified with a young maiden who, according to the medieval tale, decided to follow steps of Jesus even to the cross.
4) Stary Wielislaw – Our Lady of Sorrows sanctuary
Pursuant to local tradition a church in Stary Wielislaw existed in the 10th century, which is not impossible – because the influence of Christianised Great Moravia reached as far as southern Silesia. According to the tale St. Adalbert – the bishop of Prague, the first martyr and main patron of Poland came here travelling from Bohemia to the court of Polish duke Boleslaus in 996. Historians say that Adalbert (Wojciech) went to Germany, then to Poland, but we cannot exclude the traditional version of the story. In the 13th century the church in Stary Wielislaw was one of major sanctuaries on the border between Bohemia and Piast duchies of Silesia. It was burnt to the ground by Hussites invading Silesia in 1428 that on fields eastwards from the village defeated forces of duke John of Ziebice.
After Hussite Wars new fortified church was constructed, and enlarged in following centuries. It has been encircled with a wall and towers – later replaced by chapels. St. Catherine of Alexandria became a saint patron of the church, but most pilgrims came to a figure of Our Lady of Sorrows. We do not know when it was carved – some date it back to the 13th century and relate to the story of a rich peasant who had a vision of Holy Virgin and decided to sculpt the figure. It survived the fire set by Hussites and was placed in new church. Pursuant to the other it was made as a copy of the Our Lady statue from Duomo di Milano in the 16th century. Nevertheless, historical accounts agree that the sanctuary survived the Lutheran movement flowing eastwards from German lands.
In 1618 the Thirty Years War erupted and Protestant Bohemian rebels against the emperor occupied the county of Klodzko. Therefore, the church in Stary Wielislaw was considered a Catholic i.e. enemy territory against which in 1620 a troop under colonel Segus Spes was sent from Klodzko. The colonel did not reach the church – died during the 7 km ride. The sanctuary survived the war. In 1713, when the plague stoke the area of Klodzko – residents of Stary Wielislaw survived. Many more miraculous situations were recorded including healings of those who prayed before Madonna. Nowadays the sanctuary keeps relics of the Holy Cross and St. Catherine of Alexandria. Despite the location just 4 km from a popular health resort of Polanica-Zdroj it is a calm place crowded only during pilgrimages.
5) Maria Sniezna – Our Lady – Cause of Our Joy sanctuary
The origin of the name of the sanctuary has to be found in eternal Rome, in the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore with a miraculous icon of Our Lady. Pursuant to tradition, during hot summer, snow fell on the 5th of August 352 on the Esquiline Hill in Rome, just as it was predicted to one of patricians by the Virgin who appeared to him. On the hill the church of Mary of Snows was built. In 432, a year after the council of Ephesus pope Sixtus III decided to enlarge the church commemorating an acceptance of the dogma of the divine maternity of Our Lady (in Greek: Theotokos). In the 12th century a figure of Our Lady of Snows was carved and placed in the basilica. From Rome our path leads northwards to Tirol where, probably after a pilgrimage to Rome, a statue of Holy Virgin of Snows was made and put under care of the Benedictine order in a place known later as Mariazell. Within some centuries it became a popular sanctuary of Austria.
In 1742 Silesia and the county of Klodzko fell under the rule of Prussia which meant a start of hard times for Catholics. In 1750 a village mayor of Wilkanow – the village at the foot of mount Igliczna went to Mariazell bringing back a copy of Tirolean Madonna. It was put under a beech tree on the slope of Igliczna. Soon local people found out that miracles began to happen. In 1776 a wooden chapel was erected to host the statue. Only five years later a modest baroque church was built with a tower added in 1784. The place called Maria Schnee (in Polish: Maria Sniezna, in English: Mary of Snows) became so popular that in 1821 a covered gallery was constructed as a shelter for pilgrims. In 1983 a statue of Our Lady was crowned in Wroclaw by pope John Paul II. The sanctuary is located in a very picturesque place – a terrace on the southern slope of the rocky Igliczna with a panorama of Mt. Snieznik (quite a coincidence of names isn’t it?) as well as the county of Klodzko.
6) Swidnica – Cathedral / Our Lady of Swidnica sanctuary
One of the largest churches of Silesia rises from the main hill in Swidnica, constituting a characteristic landmark visible from long distances. The tower soars over 100 metres above the ground and the whole construction is a fine example of Gothic style. Although the history of the church dates back to 1st half of the 14th century – a climax period of local Piast duchy ruled by duke Bolko II, it became cathedral not earlier than in 2004. The present form of the church is an effect of centuries of building works – in the 15th century the tower was constructed (one of two intended), in half of the 16th century and at the end of the 19th century major renovation works were performed. The church bears name of patrons of Poland (St. Stanislaus) and Bohemia (St. Vaclav) the same as the royal cathedral of Cracow. In the 15th century a painting of Our Lady with Holy Infant, painted on wooden board, was placed in the church. The Virgin is represented standing on the crescent in sunlight – which is a reference to famous quote of Apocalypse 12,1. In the past the painting was called “Our Lady clothed in sun”.
In 1st half of the 16th century Silesian nobles and townsmen got fascinated with Lutheranism which, apart from some kind of religious freedom was also an economically convenient ideology. In Swidnica a conflict soon erupted – the town council stood against parish priests nominated by the bishop of Wroclaw inviting to their town Lutheran preachers. In 1532 a town mayor wanted to impress his son – climbed the church tower and fired from a cannon that stood there causing a great fire which damaged the building heavily. The culprit escaped to Nysa where was killed by enraged neighbours. In 1561 the church was officially declared by townsmen a Protestant one. It was interesting that Protestants left the icon of the Virgin intact – a proof of local veneration. In June 1583 the town council decided to mount a sundial on the church tower. However, two originators were killed when a rope, which held a basket they were sitting in, burst suddenly. In September 1583 a small earthquake surprised local residents. During the Thirty Years War, when Swedish troops was to approach Swidnica, the icon was hidden. The peace treaty in 1648 finishing the war enabled the Habsburg emperor to claim back from Protestants churches in Silesia. Protestants had to move outside town walls where they built the so-called “church of peace” (named after the treaties of Westphalia). The Gothic church was put under custody of Jesuits who introduced baroque furnishings. The veneration for Holy Virgin may have flourished again.
In 2nd half of the 17th century the Our Lady icon was placed in the side 15th century chapel and became famous due to miraculous healing cases. A Jesuit father from Swidnica was one of the cured when aiding the sick during the plague in Klodzko in 1680, got ill himself. In the 1720’s the chapel was baroquised. During Silesian Wars the painting was hidden from Prussians who after entering Swidnica turned the main church into… a prisoner camp, and later – into a granary. In 1772 the church returned to Catholics but in 1776 the Jesuit order was liquidated in Silesia and during the War on Bavarian Succession (1778-79) the church was turned into a field hospital. In the 19th century as Swidnica became the Prussian fortress the church fell into decay. It was renovated at the end of the century. During World War II the church was not damaged – though a bomb hit the nearby parsonage during the Soviet air raid on the 11th of February 1945. Nowadays, it attracts the faithful and tourists but as the sanctuary is less known than other places in Silesia.
7) Strzegom – St. Apostols Peter and Paul basilica
This splendid piece Silesian Gothic style rises with a mighty nave 80-metre long and 28-metre high above other buildings of the town. The church was constructed in the 13th and 14th century of local raw materials – granites and basalts from nearby quarries. The building process was initiated by Knights Hospitalers who in 2nd half of the 12th century founded a chapter house in Strzegom. The St. John’s order, supported by the bishop of Wroclaw and Silesian nobles, settled in Silesia at the time of the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin. A good climate for knighted monks started with the rule of Piast duke Boleslaus the Tall – himself a participant of the 2nd Crusade. The church was decorated with sculptures on three portals. In the interior a Gothic high altar with Our Lady figure and a triptych composition was placed. A gold star on the vault of the chancel comemmorates a miraculous saving of the town during a plague in 1303.
Another story can be told about bells of the basilica. The first – named Przedbor after a local order commander, was made in 1318, the 2nd – Great Bell in 1405, the last called Bell of Death in 1424, just before an attack of the Hussites. In 1540 the church was taken over by Protestants and returned to Catholics as a result of the Thirty Years War. In 1718 it was heavily damaged by fire, in 1810 the Prussian government liquidated the Carmelite order that had kept care over the sanctuary since 1648. The condition of the building was rapidly getting worse.
In 1936 the presbytery was closed because of the risk of collapse of the vault. In 1945 Germans preparing to defend the town blown up the nearby viaduct damaging a part of the roof. In the 1950’s renovation works were started, finished not earlier than in the 1980’s.
8) Sniezka – St. Lawrence’s chapel
On the very top of Sniezka a small rotunda, framed with wood, crowned with shingle roof stands against heavy winds, snows and rains. The highest located chapel in Poland bears a name of St. Lawrence – the patron of miners and gemseekers, venerated in past centuries by men of the mountains. It was built in 1665-1681. Founded by count Cristopher Leopold Schaffgotsch it constituted a proof of his piety and rule over northern slopes of the Karkonosze. On the 10th of August 1681, the feast of the patron saint, the Cistercian abbot of Krzeszow consecrated the shrine.
The Cistercian took care of the chapel and kept it until 1810 when the order was liquidated by the Prussian government. Harsh weather conditions damaged the building. In 1754 a lightning stoke the summit causing a fire of the roof. In 1771 the storm broke a part of the wall. In 1778 Frederick II of Prussia for fourth time declared war to Austria – a minor skirmish was fought also on Sniezka adding new damages to the chapel.
Na poświęcenie kaplicy w dzień św. Wawrzyńca 10 sierpnia 1681 przybył opat krzeszowski Bernard Rosa, z Krzeszowa pochodził też ołtarz kaplicy. Cystersi objęli opiekę nad przybytkiem i sprawowali ją aż do czasów “oświecenia” kiedy to w roku 1810 rząd Prus skasował zakon i przejął jego dobra. Trudne warunki nadwerężyły kaplicę – w roku 1754 uderzenie pioruna doprowadziło do pożaru dachu, 17 lat później ponownie burza spowodowała pęknięcie muru kaplicy. W roku 1778 Fryderyk II pruski ponownie wypowiedział wojnę Austrii i ruszył na Czechy. Potyczki staczane były na całej linii Sudetów, w tym także na Śnieżce, doprowadzając do kolejnych zniszczeń kaplicy. Cała wojna, pogardliwie zwana „Kartofelkrieg” spowodowała bowiem… rozwój uprawy ziemniaków na pruskim Śląsku, trwała do roku 1779 i nie przyniosła zmian terytorialnych. In 1810 the goverment took over the building and the altar was removed.
The building became a sort of refuge for tourists which caused more devastation. After renovation works in 1823 a small inn for visitors was opened. In 1850 a new refuge was built and the chapel was provided new furnishings and consecrated again. Nowadays, it serves as a house of prayer – every 10th of August a mass is said comemmorating the patron feast.
9) Henrykow – Our Lady Mother of Polish language sanctuary
The name of the sanctuary may seem strange to somebody who does not know a history of the Polish language. However, the first written poem in Polish, used in the Middle Ages as a kind of “national” anthem “Bogurodzica” (Mother of God), sang in major battles (e.g. Battle of Tannenberg/Grunwald in 1410) was dedicated to the Holy Virgin. The first sentence in Polish was written down in the 1260’s by a scribe of the Cistercian order in the chronicle book of the abbey of Henrykow. The abbey was founded in 1222 by a mighty duke Henry the Bearded – a husband of St. Jadwiga of Silesia. In 1241 the monastery was pillaged by Mongols, in the 1420’s by Hussites, then by knight-robbers (in the 1440’s) and by soldiers during the Thirty Years War (1618-48), Silesian (1740-63) and Napoleonic (1806-07) wars. Each time the abbey rose again but finally was taken over by Prussian Hohenzollerns in 1810 and later passed into hands of the Oranje-Nassau family.
The monastery was transformed into a neo-classic residence with an Italian style garden and a large park. Cistercians returned to the church after World War II. In 2000 Henrykow was visited by cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – later pope Benedict XVI. The former abbey church was built in the 13th and 14th century in the Gothic style. In 1608 the tower was added, at the end of the 17th century the building received a baroque outlook and interior.
Baroque facade of the church
10) Maria Panna Pomocne (Czech Rep.) – Our Lady of Assistance sanctuary
A popular answer to the question why the Czech Republic is one of the most atheist countries in Europe relates to the defeat in the battle of Biala Gora in 1620 and the following Habsburgian counter-reformation policy. However, in Moravia and Silesia not everything happened according to the above schema. The Protestant Swedish army was not an ally of the local people. When in 1647 it approached to Zlate Hory residents of the town took their familier and escaped to the mountains. A local butcher’s wife Ann, who was pregnant, went to a fir wood on the hill called the God’s Gift in the massif of Pricny vrch. There, after long prayers for intercession of Our Lady, she gave birth to a healthy boy whom she named Martin. The war ended in the following year. In 1718 the daughter of Martin, who had become a member of the town council, Dorothy ordered as a votive offering a painting of Our Lady and placed it on the tree where her father was born.
Residents of nearby settlements began to come to the painting for prayers and after few years a shrine was built which became famous as a place of miraculous healings. In 1729 the painting was moved to the church in Zlate Hory which also became a place of pilgrimages. However, pilgrims were still coming to the chapel. Soon new icon was put there and numbers of miracles were increasing. 2nd half of the 18th century brought new boundary between Prussia and Austria crossing southetn parts of Silesia. The age of enlightment started when miracles were treated as an insult to the human mind. Despite petitions of the residents and the local bishop emperor Joseph ordered to pull down the sanctuary. In 1785 demolishion works were to be started but nobody wanted to do a dirty job. The chapel survived as an illegal place of worship – not earlier thsn in 1819 the Austrian authorities gave an official permission to use it. Numbers of pilgrims immediately grew and in the 1830’s new church was constructed with wayside shrines and Way of Cross stations in the vicinity. In 1st half of the 20th century up to about 100,000 pilgrims a year travelled to the sanctuary. Then, after the end of World War II the communists took control over Czechoslovakia. In 1955 they forbade acts of worship and pilgrimages to Pomocne – the offical justification gave by the authorities was… safety of the faithful and mining works that had been performed for over 400 years in the massif of Pricny vrch.
The closed sanctuary fell into devastation – some materials were used to build… a nearby bus stop. Local priests were persuaded by the authorities to sign an acceptance for pulling down the church. At the beginning of the 1970’s there were attempts to perform renovation works. However, in May of 1973 the authorities ordered to stop the works. On the 22nd of September 1973 the church was blown up and ruins were levelled to the ground. Only parts of cupolas of the shrines survived. In the 1990’s the sanctuary was rebuilt by local people. The church was consecrated in 1995 and dedicated to Our Lady – a patron of conceived life. Several times a year pilgrimages from the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany came here to ask the Holy Virgin for her assistance in different troubles relating to pregnancy and new born children.