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The Pauline Monastery in Skałka in Cracow
The Cracow Skałka is a Baroque sanctuary, comprising the Church
of Saint Michael the Archangel with the crypt for the “Nationally
Meritorius” citizens, the Pauline monastery and the Saint Stanislaus
pond. The present look of the compound is an effect of a number
of architectural modifications effected throughout the centuries.
The first records of the Romanesque rotunda on that place date back
to the 10th century. According to historical evidence and the findings
of archeological excavations, in the times when Christianity was
making the first inroads into the Polish land, an enclosed settlement
might have stood there on the rocky hillock on the left bank of
the Vistula river, including a church constructed on the site
previously associated with pagan cults. The name of this hill –
Skałka – went into use already in the 13th century.
The place is associated with Saint Stanislaus of Szczepanów (Stanisław ze Szczepanowa), a Cracow bishop, who met his martyrdom and death there on 11 April 1079, following a conflict between himself and the king Bolesłav II the Bold (Bolesław Śmiały). On the order of the king the bishop was slain while celebrating the Liturgy in the Saint Michael church. Following a thorough canonization process, Pope Innocent IV proclaimed him a saint martyr on 8 September 1253.
The construction of the Gothic temple and the arrival of the Pauline Fathers (The Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit) marked the next stage in the history of Skałka. Under the reign of the king Casimir III the Great (Kazimierz Wielki) (1333–1370) a new church was erected on the hill in the Gothic style, to include the original Romanesque rotunda edifice, as confirmed by the early iconography. Throughout several centuries the responsibility for the guardianship over the place of Saint Stanislaus’ martyrdom was vested in the diocese clergy. In 1472 the Cracow canon, father Jan Długosz invited the Pauline Fathers from the Jasna Góra (Luminous Mount) Marian shrine to settle in Skałka. The project met with approval of king Casimir IV Jagiellon (Kazimierz Jagiellończyk) and the Cracow Bishop Jan Rzeszowski. The Paulines took possession of the church on the hill, and moved into the monastery funded by Jan Długosz. The next epoch saw major architectural changes. The former monastery underwent reconstructions. The work had commenced prior to 1636 and continued until 1723. As a result, the multistorey Baroque building was constructed in the shape of a square, with four turrets on the corners and a small courtyard in the middle. In the period 1733–1751 the currently existing Baroque temple was constructed.
The crypt for the “Nationally Meritorius” is a very special part of Skałka. The crypt underneath the church served first as a burial place for the late Pauline monks. In the years 1876–1880 on the initiative of Professor Józef Łepkowski it was reconstructed and transformed into a necropolis which contained tombs of many outstanding figures representing Polish culture. In 1880 the founder of the Pauline Monastery in Skałka, father Jan Długosz was posthumously awarded with the symbolic ceremonial burial in its crypt. In the subsequent years the “national Panthéon” witnessed the interments of a number of Polish most illustrious luminaries, i.a.: Lucjan Siemieński, Wincenty Pol, Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, Teofil Lenartowicz, Adam Asnyk, Henryk Siemiradzki, Stanisław Wyspiański, Jacek Malczewski, Karol Szymanowski, Ludwik Solski, Tadeusz Banachiewicz and Czesław Miłosz. A welldeserved mention should go to father Ambroży Fedorowicz, the 19th and 20th century Pauline prior who vastly and positively contributed to the development of Skałka at that time. Thanks to his determination, under the direction of the Cracovian architect Karol Knaus the compound underwent an extensive remodeling in the period 1888–1897. In that period the imposing entrance gate was constructed to the courtyard of the monastery.
Skałka is a place which at all times evokes the magnificent heritage of the Polish people. The figures of patron saints, first of all Saint Stanislaus, stand silent witnesses to the Christian roots of the Polish history, whereas the names of the late representatives of culture and science provide evidence of the potential of Poles’ mind and spirit.