Remember Me Research Associate Dr Marcin Biernat shares a story that has been told in his family for generations.
Once upon a time a ‘lady’ told a little girl that a church should be raised here, up in the mountains…
The first revelations in this place date back to 25th July 1894 when a little girl saw a beautiful lady by the beech tree. This little girl was twelve year-old Julianna Pezda – my great great-grandmother’s sister. Julianna used to go there to pick mushrooms. The revelations continued over the following days and two other girls also witnessed them. At first the lady only requested the prayers and songs, but later she told the little girl that a chapel and a monastery should be raised here.
The revelations we accompanied by two events. First, was rain that came during a drought. Second, was a stream that gushed out of the slope in a place indicated by this lady – Mother of God.
In November 1894 the local community raised a wooden chapel on the site. A brick chapel was built in 1926. The Salesian Society, a religious order, took care of the chapel and, through the involvement of local community, a church was built between 1948 and 1953. Nowadays, inside the church you can find a commemorative plaque to those who helped build it.
This place, still a popular Catholic pilgrimage site, is in Szczyrk in the Beskidy Mountains in Poland. It used to be called Przykra Kępa (‘Hard-to-reach Clump’) but is now commonly referred to as Górka (‘The Hill’). Nowadays it is a home of the Salesian Society from the Province Salesians in Oświęcim (Poland). The order itself was founded in the nineteenth century by Saint Don Bosco in Italy.
The Chapel of Revelation, which holds the bough of the beech tree by which the Mother of God first appeared, is right next to the church. There is also a picture showing the scene of the revelation to the young girl. It was raised in the memory of the events of 25th July 1894.
There is also a Mother of God’s grotto and the miraculous spring behind the church. People gather there not only to pray but also to collect water which allegedly possesses some healing features.
In terms of memory and memorialisation the place is a commemoration of the revelations as well as the person of Julianna Pezda who first experienced them. It can also be referred to as a place of commemoration of the local faithful people who raised the chapel and then the church
Today the place is one of the most popular destinations for tourists and pilgrims in Szczyrk, which is a bustling ski resort, but which is also visited by thousands of people in other seasons of the year. The church is also popular place for weddings and couples from all around Poland come here to get married.
Feature Image: Sanctuary of Our Lady in Szczyrk (Sanctuary ‘on the Hill’) Photo: copyright Marcin Biernat.
For more information:
Fr Tadeusz Wołek (1994), Cud nad Cudy. Na niebieskim szlaku (Miracle of miracles. On the blue trail) – printed brochure which gives a more comprehensive explanations and history of this place (available in the church).
For more information in Polish please visit webpage: http://szczyrk.sdb.org.pl/
For information on Szczyrk and the Church in English please visit the town’s official webpage
He is a graduate of Jagiellonian University, Poland holding MA degree (magister) in Sociology. His PhD is also in Sociology (Jagiellonian Univeristy). In his thesis he has conducted a research on Irish cultural and national identity. His research interests include collective memory, collective identity, national pride, local communities and new media. Currently he is also conducting a research on collective memory and identity in local community in Poland.