Camaldolese Monastery in Bielany
ul. Konarowa 1
Looming white over the green woods of Srebrna Góra (Silver Mountain) are the towers of the Camaldolese monastery: one of only two operating in Poland. The area – Bielany – took its name from the characteristic white habits of the monks.
The hermit order was introduced to Poland by Mikołaj Wolski, Grand Marshal of the Crown, in 1603. The monks sought a location that was cut off from the hubbub of daily life, so that they could find peace to praise the Creator. They chose Pagórki świętego Stanisława, literally the knolls of St Stanislaus, that belonged to Sebastian Lubomirski, who was loath to sell his estate. It was Anna Lubomirska, future wife of the owner, who proved helpful for the transaction by suggesting that Wolski threw a splendid banquet. In a festive mood, the merry Lubomirski promised the wooded hills to his host. In gratitude, Wolski presented him with all the silverware used at the table. Hence the name of the hill on which the Hermitage stands.
Soon the first houses of the hermits were built: following the rules of the order, each became home to one monk. The construction of the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary began, designed by Italian architect Andrea Spezza. The lavish furnishing of the church dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The founder of the church, Mikołaj Wolski, who died in 1630, is buried in a crypt by the entrance to the church. Following his wish, he was buried in a Camaldolese habit. The vaults of the choir hold a chapel and a crypt in which the earthly remains of the deceased monks are immured. After a hundred years, the ashes were exhumed and transferred to a communal grave, to make room for subsequent monks. The entire monastic complex has endured until the present in a nearly unaltered condition.
The Monastery in Bielany was often visited by Polish kings, notably Ladislaus IV Vasa (Władysław IV Waza) and John Casimir (Jan Kazimierz) during the so-called Swedish Deluge, and John (Jan) III Sobieski before he set forth to relieve Vienna from the Ottoman siege. In 2002, the monks were visited by Pope John Paul II, who remarked that: People of Kraków: do you know who to thank for your city staying safe and unviolated for so many centuries? Your lightning rod is the Camaldolese!
The Camaldolese is an order of monastic hermits. Each monk lives in his hermitage, they only meet for mass and prayers, and they gather for communal meals only a few times a year. They can only talk to each other three times a week: on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Praying in the church, the Camaldolese use no organ or any other musical instrument. There is no radio or TV-set in the monastery, nor are holiday leaves or family visits permitted. It may be worth adding that the Monte Corona Camaldolese congregation encompasses today just nine monasteries all over the world (of which two are in Poland), and nearly every other monk is a Pole.
The church and the monastery can only be visited in accordance with the unusually strict and severe rule of the order. Men are admitted throughout the year, when the doors open, i.e., from 8am to 11am, and from 3pm to 4:30pm, while women are allowed on the premises only 12 days a year; they are:
- Easter Sunday.
- Easter Monday
- 3 May
- Pentecost (Descent of the Holy Spirit Sunday, Whitsunday)
- Pentecost Monday (Whit Monday)
- First Sunday following 19 June
- 2nd Sunday of July
- 4th Sunday of July.
- 15 August (Assumption of the Blessed Virgin)
- 8 September (Nativity of the Blessed Virgin)
- 25 December (Christmas)
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