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The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Piekary

Piekary is the biggest Marian pilgrim centre in Silesia and the second biggest in Poland, preceded only by Jasna Gσra (Bright Hill). Its tradition reaches as far back as 1676 and is strictly bound to the blessed picture of Our Lady of Piekary in the basilica of Piekary.

The painting by an unknown author dates back to around 1500-1510 (129x92cm). The painting became famous in 1676 when a plague broke out in the nearby city of Tarnowskie Gσry. Pilgrims from that city came to pray before the painting of Madonna in Piekary and soon after the plague began to subside. That miracle gave rise to the first “vowed pilgrimages” when a whole village vowed to pilgrim to the painting every year at a specific date as a way of giving thanks for the received grace. In 1680 Archbishop of Prague John Frederick Wallstein pronounced the painting miraculous.

In the beginning, the painting hung in a 14th century wooden church. Five centuries later however the church turned out to be too small and the Piekary rector, priest Jan Alojzy Ficek initiated the construction of a new Neo-Romanesque church according to Daniel Groetschel's design – the present church of St. Mary and St. Bartholomew (also called Our Lady’s Basilica). From the old wooden church only the high altar remains – now to be seen in St. Raphael's church on Paradise Square - “Rajski Plac”.

In 1702 due to a threat of fights over religion the blessed painting was sent to the Holy Cross church in Opole where it remains to this day. At present a replica (97x77cm) hangs in the high altar of the basilica of Piekary. In the beginning, the picture, painted at the end of the 17th century, was only a replacement but soon became known for miracles itself.

In the 7th Decade of the 19th century, next to the Basilica, the miners and steel factory workers of Upper Silesia raised the Calvary of Piekary (see: Katowice Archdiocese resource web page), patterned on the Calvary mountain in Jerusalem. At present there are 14 stations of the Cross showing the scenes of the crucifixion of Christ, 15 rosary chapels and a Neo-Gothic church in the name of the Resurrection of the Christ.

The period between the wars (i.e. 1918-1939) was marked with a new pilgrimage tradition – women and maidens pilgrim to Our Lady of Piekary on the 15th of August – the feast of the Assumption of Mary – and on the last Sunday of May men and boys make their pilgrimage. In each of the masses about 100-150 thousand pilgrims take part, the majority of them from Upper Silesia.

Beginning in 1992, one day before the men and boys' pilgrimage to Our Lady of Piekary, symposia devoted to the cultural and social problems of Upper Silesia, in the light of the catholic faith, are held. Very strongly bound to Piekary is the Holy Father, tireless pilgrim and the most celebrated Citizen of Honour of the city.

This picture was taken from THE LIBERATION MOUND in Piekary Slaskie.

The idea of raising a mound in memory of the freedom movement of the Silesian population started in 1930 on the 10th anniversary of the 2nd Silesian Upraising. The idea came from the Secretary of the Association of the Silesian Insurgents – Stanisław Mastalerz – a Piekary citizen.

On the 17th of September 1932, from the Sanctuary of Piekary many thousands of people set off to the place where, in the near future, a mound was to be raised. An Act regarding the raising was read. Thus the 250th anniversary of John III Sobieski and his army’s visit to Piekary on their way to the Siege of Vienna was celebrated.

After the works began the site was visited several times by the Commissary of the Upper Silesia Plebiscite Wojciech Korfanty who worked alongside the people, throwing the soil on the mound. Along with the commanders of the 3rd Silesian Uprising - major Ludyga-Laskowski, colonel Sikorski as well as Fajkis, Paul, Cymsa, Gajdzik, Mastalerz, Niemczyk and Szędzielorz. Also working at the construction were many insurgents from Wielkopolska, the insurgents from the January Uprising of 1863, people from Radom, Sandomierz, Płock, Gdańsk, Kielce, Krakσw, Warszawa, Opole and emigrants from France, Belgium and USA .

The mound rose with each year, together with the Piekary soil the soil from territories at the Baltic sea, Hel and Gdynia, from battlegrounds in Wielkopolska, from Bydgoszcz and Gniezno, Olkusz and Cerlick, St. Anna’s Hill and from Kędzierzyn, from Cedynia and Głogσw was used.

On the 15th anniversary of the Polish Army entering the Silesian territory on the 20th June 1937 the Silesian citizens celebrated together at the opening of the mound now given the name of the “Liberation Mound”. The ceremony was very patriotic. This could be seen at best in Jan Lortz speech: “We, the Silesian Insurgents want to imprint in the society’s minds the highest values of the Insurgent tradition showing in the earnest service to our country. On this tradition we want to base not only the noble national pride of the Silesian people but also the will to work with all the Polish citizens. In this enormous task that has been put on our and the young generation’s shoulders, the work aiming at the transformation of Silesia into an unshaken bastion of Polish power able to withstand each of the assaults launched on us by our eternal enemies, now again striving to steal our Piast forefathers’ land. This Piekary monument, raised with the hands of the whole Polish society stands here to remind us that we have to stand vigilant, strong and united.”

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