Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is a small town in southern Poland located in the vicinity of Krakow. This is where in 17th century Mikolaj Zebrzydowski, a religious Polish nobleman, decided to found a sanctuary. It comprises a Baroque Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels, the Bernardine Monastery and 42 different chapels in Baroque and Mannerist style embedded in a landscape of gently rolling hills. The whole complex was built on the pattern of calvary in Jerusalem. Chapels are connected by so-called Calvarian paths. They are 5 km long and beautifully placed in the surrounding landscape. Chapels were built between 1605 and 1617. All together they create charming Mannerist park. The sanctuary contains also the miraculous painting of St. Mary which has been there since 1641.
Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is famous for mystery plays and religious feasts organized during the Holy Week and on the Feast of Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The tradition of Passion plays reaches back to the 17th century here. It’s not only a great religious experience but also a spectacular theater performance. Each year it attracts thousands of pilgrimages. This was the place especially dear to John Paul II. He was born just a 15 km from Kalwaria Zebrzydowska and he was an often guest here. He used to meditate walking along Calvarian paths.
As the oldest and the biggest Polish Calvary it is visited by over a million people every year. It is also the second most important and popular pilgrimage destination in Poland after Jasna Gora. In 1999 the whole complex of sanctuary in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as “an outstanding example of a large-scale landscape design, which incorporates natural beauty with spiritual objectives and the principles of Baroque park design”.