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The Skalka Sanctuary


Poland's second holiest sanctuary after the Jasna Gora monastery of Czestochowa lies mostly undisturbed by visitors a five minutes' walk down the Vistula river from the Wawel Royal Castle which swarms with tourists. Here, on a rocky hillock called Skalka, once stood a rotunda church, where king Boleslav II the Bold put to death Krakow bishop Stanislav in 1079. The king was exiled and the late bishop worshiped as a martyr who had exposed excesses of the tyrannical monarch. In 1253 bishop Stanislav was canonized to become the chief patron saint of Poland.

Throughout the Middle Ages his cult was pivotal in forming both Polish nation and the country's political culture with its tradition of the accountability of those in power. And Poland’s kings-elects had to come to the Skalka Sanctuary on their coronation to atone for the sins of the predecessors. The present splendid Baroque church of the mid 18th century is the fourth on the site. Nevertheless visitors can still see three dark spots of St. Stanislav's blood on the church wall. Since the 1880s some Polish most illustrious luminaries were posthumously awarded with ceremonial burial in its crypt that is open to the public. The church adjoins a 17th-century Paulinite monastery modeled on a Renaissance castle.

Every year on St. Stanislav’s day, May 8, major religious procession led by Krakow bishops gathers Polish notables and immense crowds of the faithful when the saint’s relics are carried from the Skalka sanctuary to the Wawel Cathedral.