Pope John Paul II

24 Jul 2016

Polish pride, spirituality and reverence ran high on April 27th, 2014, when the country’s beloved Pope John Paul II was canonised by Pope Francis I. Aside from the Vatican, no city is more associated with the late pope than Kraków, which remained his spiritual home throughout his life. In Your Pocket takes a look at his life, legacy and some of the local sites associated with ‘Poland’s Pope’ in Kraków and the surrounding region.

In Kraków & Małopolska

Born on May 18, 1920 in the small Małopolska town of Wadowice 50km southwest of Kraków, Karol Wojtyła was the second of two surviving children born to Emilia Kaczorowska, a school teacher, and Karol Wojtyła Sr., an administrative officer in the Polish army. His mother died in childbirth when he was nine years old, and his elder brother Edmund, an established doctor, died three years later after contracting scarlet fever from a patient. Graduating from high school in Wadowice in 1938, Karol Wojtyła immediately enrolled in Polish Studies at Kraków's Jagiellonian University, and moved with his father into sparse quarters at ul. Tyniecka 10 in Dębniki (today a small museum). In those days he was known more as a sports fanatic and outdoor type than for his religious beliefs, excelling as a swimmer, skier and adept goalkeeper. However, his father’s death from a heart attack in 1941 left him without any immediate family at just 20 years old, an event which some have argued led him more closely to the community and family offered by the Catholic Church.

After a brief spell of military training in anticipation of the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Wojtyła spent his days cutting stone at the Zakrzówek quarry and his nights studying theology. A continuing interest in the Arts also saw him writing poetry and performing in the Studio 38 underground theatre company in strict defiance of Nazi edicts. In 1942 he began clandestine seminary studies run by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, the Archbishop of Kraków. After the war he resumed his studies until his ordination as a priest on November 1, 1946. Wojtyła heard Mass every morning at the Church of St. Stanisław Kostka at ul. Konfederacka 6 near his home in Dębniki.

Associated Venues


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