Pope John Paul II canonised more Catholic saints than any other pontiff in history, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that his hometown is one of the most saint-rich cities in Central Europe. Poland’s beloved Pope was a staunch advocate for the local legacy of Sister Faustyna Kowalska, whom he personally canonised in 2000, and with whom he shares special designation as the official patron saints of this summer’s World Youth Day celebrations, held in Kraków from July 26th to 31st. Canonised himself in 2014, John Paul II might boast the best name recognition, but Kraków has served as the city of residence and final resting place for an abundance of Catholic martyrs and mystics throughout its over-thousand-year history. Follow the links below to get to know the most remarkable of these religious icons, and discover why Kraków is known as the ‘City of Saints.’
Former Bishop of Kraków and today patron saint of Poland, St. Stanisław proved the power of the Church in PL by opposing the young country’s second king – leading to his own martyrdom and the king’s banishment. His saintly resume includes subsequently placing the monarchy under a curse, and raising the dead from the grave. Learn more here.
Jadwiga was PL’s first female monarch, ruling the country in the late 14th century. Her devotion to the church was so strong, even at the tender age of twelve, that she forced her husband Władysław Jogaila to convert before she would agree to marry the 33-year-old Lithuanian Grand Duke, thus leading to the Christianisation of pagan Lithuania and the creation of the large Polish-Lithuanian kingdom. Her case for sainthood was probably similar to the amount of actual power she had during her co-monarchy with her husband (not that great), but you’ll find out more about why she was canonised here.
The sainthood of this obscure mystic was a passion project of Pope John Paul II, which he achieved in 2000. After receiving a vision of Jesus shooting laserbeams from his heart during a dance party in Łódź at the age of 19, Faustyna joined a convent in Kraków and lived an obscure life of intense religious fervor, including stigmata, bilocation, prophecy proclamation and possession by demons. Learn more about her life here.
St. John Paul II
Perhaps the most famous, most influential, and most beloved Pole of all time, John Paul II served as Kraków’s Bishop for 20 years before his surprise ascendancy to the papacy. Learn all about his life and legacy in Kraków here.