Swieta Lipka (Heiligelinde) is a small village surrounded by forests and lakes in Mazury region, northern Poland. It is known for Poland’s oldest Marian sanctuary which has been attracting pilgrims since the Middle Ages. The church is also a historic monument of outstanding value listed as one of the most magnificent examples of Baroque architecture in Poland. It enchants with its beautiful interior with rich décor and a unique 18th-century organ with moving figurines and bells. The importance and popularity of Swieta Lipka can be shown by the fact that it is sometimes called “Czestochowa of the North”.
It may surprise that this beautiful church was built in such a desolate place amid woods and marshes with its foundations actually set partly on bogs. The explanation comes with a legend. In the 14th century a convict sentenced to death in Ketrzyn prison had a revelation of Virgin Mary telling him to carve a wooden statuette of Madonna with the Child. He made a figurine overnight. When the judges found it the following morning, they took it as a sign and released the man. Full of gratitude, he then placed the statuette on a roadside linden tree. The place became famous for miracles and recoveries and attracted lots of pilgrims. Soon a brick stone chapel was built around the tree. The name of the village, Swieta Lipka, derives from that Holy Linden tree.
The beginnings of Marian sanctuary in Swieta Lipka date back to the 14th – 15th century. The first chapel was destroyed during the Protestant Reformation around 1525, and the linden tree was cut down. The chapel was rebuilt in 1619 and handed over to Jesuits who have been looking after the place to this day. Swieta Lipka became a popular pilgrimage site and the need for a bigger church arose.
The present church was built by the Jesuits in the 17th -18th century. The architectural complex consists of a church, cloisters and a monastery. Rich and varied ornamentation consisting of stone and wooden sculptures, paintings, frescos, golden objects, artistic metal craftwork and a valuable polychrome work have been preserved in an almost unchanged state. The most revered object in the sanctuary is the 17th century painting of Our Lady of Swieta Lipka in the high altar. A linden trunk with a statuette of the Madonna is situated in the place where the holy tree once stood. A great attraction of the Basilica of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the extraordinary Baroque organ with moving figurines of angels playing instruments. Organ concerts are a truly unforgettable experience.