There are only two such places in the whole world – in Jerusalem and in Miechów. On the Małopolska Trail of the Holy Sepulchre Order

A faithful copy of the Holy Sepulchre in the Church in Miechów
The glory days of the Brothers in black habits with the red double cross are long gone. Although the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre have been absent from Poland since the order's suppression in 1819, their memory has survived to this day, and there are still traces of their activities in the places where they built their churches, religious houses, schools or hospitals. There is, however, the secular Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.

In the Małopolska region, they are connected by a unique trail – the Małopolska Trail of the Holy Sepulchre Order. It begins in Miechów by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and then runs to churches in Siedliska, Chodów, Uniejów, Sławice Szlacheckie, Wrocimowice, Chełm, Łapsze Niżne and to Kraków, where the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre took care of, for example, Saint Barbara's Church 

Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Miechów

The history of Miechów is inextricably linked with the Order of Canons Regular of the Guardians of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem – the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. The Monastery in Miechów was the first in Poland and the first in Europe to promote the cult of the Holy Sepulchre, at the same time not only the oldest and the most distinguished but also the richest of all the monasteries of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in Europe, the seat of supremacy.

Miechów's Monastery and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are iconic in Miechów as places of especial veneration of the Holy Sepulchre. There are only two such places in the whole world – in Jerusalem and precisely in Miechów. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in  Miechów is a faithful copy of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. For centuries, pilgrims from all over the Christian world – rulers, church dignitaries, and the faithful – have made pilgrimages to the Holy Sepulchre in Miechów. They are still making pilgrimages today.

It all began in 1163, when the owner of Miechów, Jaksa of the Griffin family, brought monks from the expedition to the Holy Land, founded a monastery and donated Miechów and two neighbouring villages. The soil that Jaksa had brought from under the Tomb of Christ in Jerusalem  was scattered upon the ground where the monastery and church were built. At the end of the 14th century, the Monastery was extended, and the church that was to be dedicated to the Sepulchre of Christ and Saint James the Younger was then erected. Miechów's copy of Jerusalem's Holy Sepulchre was built around 1530, on an east-west line, just like the tomb in Jerusalem, and corresponds to the biblical description. The internal dimensions are very close or identical to the original. A fragment of the rock from the Tomb of Christ in Jerusalem, framed by a crown of thorns cast in bronze and brought back as a relic in the Middle Ages, is embedded in the western wall. The church also houses a copy of the Shroud of Turin, and there is an elaborate system of underground passageways beneath the Monastery. In the 2nd half of the 18th century, after the great fire of Miechów, the church was thoroughly rebuilt in the late Baroque style.

Today, the Miechów sanctuary is cared for by diocesan priests, and the specific elements of the Holy Sepulchre liturgy have survived. The former seat of the generals of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre houses the Museum of Miechowska Land. Valuable monuments of sacred art left behind by the Order are of great cultural value. In 1846, the secular Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre was established, with its headquarters in Miechów and branches all over the world.

Church of the Holy Cross in Siedliska

The Church of the Holy Cross in Siedliska was built by the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Miechów at the turn of the 16th century. Formerly, on Good Friday, a Stations of the Cross procession set out from the Church in Miechów to the church in Siedliska. In the meadows nearby is a miraculous spring whose water is said to improve eyesight. It is a gothic temple, built of stone, plastered, and boarded over, consisting of a nave and an unseparated chancel covered with a gable roof. The interior conceals a marvellous wooden ceiling painted with the coats of arms of the church dignitaries. The main altar, two side altars and the carved pulpit are Baroque-style.

Church of St John the Baptist in Chodów

From the 13th century, for more than 400 years, until the dissolution of the Order, the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre were priests here and ran a hospital for the poor. Over the centuries, the wooden parish church burned down several times and was rebuilt. The present brick Church in Chodów was erected on a new site in the 1930s. In its interior – on the three altars of the central nave and the two side aisles – we can admire the stone sculpture of the Crucified Christ, St Joseph with Child and Our Lady of the Rosary. Stained-glass windows present figures of saints and the Stations of the Cross line the walls. In the porch is a portrait of Mikołaj Rej and a sizeable wrought-iron cross of the Holy Sepulchre.

Church of St Vitus in Uniejów

The 14th-century Gothic Church in Uniejów is the former sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Sorrows. From the Order’s beginnings until its dissolution the church and sanctuary belonged to the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. Over the centuries, the Church was built anew, rebuilt, and repaired after recurring periods of historical turmoil. In 1916, the Church was in such poor condition that it was planned to be demolished. Eventually, it underwent extensive renovation. It is a beautiful brick and white stone church. The interior decoration is Gothic and Baroque, dating back to the 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th centuries: in the main altar is the Pieta, an image of the Crucifixion and a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows and Christ made from a single tree trunk more than a thousand years old. In the sacristy is a painting of the Feast of Balthasar, King of Babylon, which is unusual in churches, as well as a stoup and baptismal font made of black marble.

Church of St Adalbert in Sławice Szlacheckie

As early as 1410, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre acquired the village, remaining there until the dissolution of the Order. The former wooden church was erected in the 16th century, and the new brick church in Sławice was built in the 17th century. Here, too, there are Rococo altars dedicated to Christ Crucified (main altar), Our Lady of the Rosary (left altar) and the Church's patron, Saint Adalbert.

Church of St Andrew in Wracimowice

According to the first records from 1326, the wooden church was supposedly founded by the famous knight of the battle of Grunwald, Marcin Wrocimowski, of the Półkozic coat of arms. Throughout history, the owners of Wrocimowice were also the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. The present single-aisle brick Church in Wrocimowice with two side chapels was erected in the 18th century. The Rococo main altar with the paintings of St Andrew the Apostle, the Transfiguration and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and the side altars with the images of St John the Baptist and St Joseph with the Child Jesus come from the same period. The temple is decorated with a light Baroque façade horizontally divided into four parts by cornices, decorated with columns and empty niches, as well as a wooden bell tower with a historic bell from 1530.

Church of St Quirinus in Łapsze Niżne

The Church in Łapsze Niżne in Spiš is an impressive temple with a Gothic construction and Baroque furnishings. It is the only church in Poland to have Saint Quirinus as its patron saint–a saint revered in a different culture and acting in the territory of present-day Croatia under Diocletian. The church, built around 1310, remained under the administration of the Miechów Knights of the Holy Sepulchre until 1786. These were times when the whole of Spiš and thus Łapsze Niżne belonged to Hungary.

Church of St John the Baptist and Our Lady of the Scapular in Krzesławice

The Church in Krzesławice was initially erected in 1633–1648 in Jawornik near Myślenice. It was moved to its present location, rebuilt, extended and partly reconstructed in 1984–1897. The composition of The Last Judgement and the figure of St Christopher are particularly noteworthy. Almost continuously from the 13th to the 17th century, Krzesławice belonged to the Miechów's Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. Until 1951, it was a separate village, later incorporated into Nowa Huta during the construction of the steelworks.


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