About pilgrimages in Poland (1)

Antoni Jackowski, Izabela Soljan

Pilgrimages in world religions

Religious migrations have played an important role in migration processes. Pilgrimages can be regarded as stable religious practices. They belong to over-denominational and timeless phenomena. Journeys to holy places have existed since the beginning of mankind. Holy places are found on all continents, regardless of the character or development level of a given religion. With time pilgrims' routes have been established and people keep following these paths to and from holy places. Pilgrimages have developed as religious-social phenomena. Over ages political, historical, cultural, social, economic and religious conditions have influenced the external forms of pilgrimages. But the very essence of these migrations, i.e. desire to experience sacrum, has not been changed. Individual or group pilgrimages are very widely spread and popular ritual forms in almost every world religion.
Generally speaking, a pilgrimage is a religiously motivated journey to a place, regarded as holy (locus spacer) because of some special activities of God or a deity, to make specific religious acts of piety and penance.
In world religions the order to make pilgrimages is of various character. Since the beginning of Christianity pilgrimages have been a secondary religious practice in comparison with the central liturgical cult in the Church. They often resulted from spontaneity of the faithful and spiritual needs of people. For a Christian a pilgrimage is a special form of journey aiming at seeking God. The teaching of the Holy Scriptures has played an important role. According to the teaching earthy life is a constant pilgrimage under the guidance of Christ to the true homeland, to the 'heavenly Jerusalem' (Hebrews 12:22-24).
Some religions favour pilgrimages because of their strict commandments of faith (Islam) or making pilgrimages a fundamental, almost conditional, factor to win salvation (e.g. Hinduism). In Islam a pilgrimage to Mecca constitutes one of the five pillars of religion, which every Muslim must fulfil. In Hinduism a pilgrimage is regarded as one of the major religious practices, which every believer must follow. The Indians believe that pilgrimages constitute a very important element of man's journey to gain final liberation. According to the Buddhist tradition it was Buddha that showed the main places of pilgrimages. In Judaism pilgrimages play an important role, especially pilgrimages to Jerusalem and to the graves of the caddiqim (Hasidic spiritual leaders). We see similar phenomena in other religions. Pilgrimages take place in tribal communities in Asia, Africa, Australia and Oceania as well as South America.
Making any pilgrimage (regardless of its length) requires overcoming certain sacral space (espace sacr). The borders, which are often conventional, separate such places from the outer world. Such places are beyond secular authorities. A sacred place can be of various space, architectural or sacred character. Pilgrims' places can be elements of the geographical environment and objects made by man. The former embrace holy rivers, their sources and mouths in India, holy mountains in Japan or China, holy grottos in Malaysia and India as well as holy trees. The latter embrace sites connected with sanctuaries (with relics of saints, images of deities), images, sculptures, mausoleums and graves of saints. Finally, pilgrims go to places connected with the activities of founders of religions (e.g. Christ in the Holy Land, Muhammad in Mecca and Medina, Buddha in the valley of the Ganges).
Most pilgrims' places are connected with a certain religion. However, in some cases a pilgrims' centre draws followers of a few religions, for example Jerusalem (Israel) draws Christians, Jews and Muslims; Varanasi (India) draws followers of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Jainism; Adam's Peak (Sri Lanka) draws Buddhists, Muslims and to a smaller extent Christians and Hindus.
Some pilgrimages are spectacular. In the Middles Ages spectacular pilgrimages were journeys to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, in modern times pilgrimages to Mecca (haij) or August pilgrimages to Jasna Gora in Czestochowa have kept this spectacular character. Religious journeys of the Hindus along their holy rivers and to their holy place, which sometimes, last several years, are a special type of pilgrimages. The length of pilgrims' routes varies and oscillates between several and several thousand kilometres (e.g. the journey to Mecca or routes in India). Regional and national religious centres are visited at least once a year whereas main pilgrims' centres of particular religions are more rarely visited, sometimes once in a lifetime. A characteristic type of pilgrimages is the so-called specialist one, for example a pilgrimage of the sick. Such pilgrimages are connected with the conviction that the place of worship has some miraculous character. The main motive is prayer and fulfilment of special rituals (e.g. drinking holy water, a bath, etc.) to ask for miraculous healing. Faith in supernatural abilities of holy places has been spread in most religions. The most known ones include the so-called Lourdes healings. There are three large hospitals for the sick in Lourdes (they receive about 80,000 sick every year).
The so-called pilgrimages of the dead have a specific character. They are based on the belief that a burial or cremation of a dead person in a holy place ensures salvation (liberation) and entrance into paradise. We see this phenomenon mainly in Islam (especially in Mecca, Medina and the holy cities of the Shiites) and in Hinduism (in the holy cities and rivers). They leave an essential mark on the landscape of the pilgrims' places. In the cities of Islam there are large cemeteries and in Hinduism funeral stakes on the edges of the holy rivers.
The development of some holy place has always been dependent on the dynamics of a given cult and first of all on the authority of the deity or the saint in a concrete social environment. Events that occur in a given religion (e.g. Marian apparitions in Lourdes or in Fatima) can be impulses to create pilgrims' places. In all religions there is a conviction that large centres are more saturated with sacrum than small local places. In spite of secularist tendencies in the contemporary world we have been observing a rapid development of pilgrims' migrations for some time. In Catholicism that was influenced by the numerous pilgrimages of John Paul II. It is estimated that about several hundred million people take part in pilgrimages every year, including almost 200 million Christians. We can see a clear concentration of pilgrims' migrations in several main centres. It concerns all religions. Out of 200 million Christian pilgrims about 80 million (40 %) go to 20 most important pilgrims' centres. For example, we can mention Rome and Guadalupe (each draws 12 million), San Giovanni Rotondo (7 million), Lourdes (6 million), Fatima (5 million) or Jasna Gora (4 million). Similarly, 15 places in Islam draw over 10 million (25%) of Muslim pilgrims (Mecca alone draws about 5 million).

Poland as a country of pilgrimages of various denominations and religions

The role and place of Poland in the world pilgrims' migrations are significant. Poland is among those few countries in the world where pilgrims' activities have developed from the beginnings of its statehood. In difficult moments pilgrimages constituted an essential factor to shape the national Polish identity. Religious centres have played a social role since pilgrimages supported development of interests, allowed people to get to know other environments, customs, regions and places. The Pilgrimages of the 1970s and the 1980s constituted an important factor to make local and regional links but most of all they created one of the most important elements of national integration of Poles. Walking pilgrimages to Jasna Gora have become a specific religious, social and cultural phenomenon on the international scale, in particular in the Christian world. Finally, pilgrimages have played an important role to promote sightseeing and tourism of Polish people.

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About 5-7 million people take place in pilgrimages every year, which is over 15% of Poland's population. Throughout centuries Poland has been a multi-national and multi-denominational country. This has been reflected in pilgrims' migrations. Apart from Latin and Greek Catholic pilgrims we also have followers of the Orthodox Church and of Islam. In the past members of the Jewish communities went on pilgrimages, and during the times of the partitions the Polish Protestants were active as pilgrims. Nowadays Polish people constitute about 5% of Christians going on pilgrimages all over the world and over 20% in Europe. These data allow us to place Poland in the group of the most pilgrims' countries in the world.
Over 500 pilgrims' places are listed in Poland; the majority (98%) belong to the Roman Catholic Church. The Marian centres, about 430 (over 85%), including over 200 centres with crowned images of Mary, are prevailing.
The most important Catholic centres, with an international character, embrace: Jasna Gora in Czestochowa, Krakow Lagiewniki, Lichen, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Niepokalanow, St Anne's Mount, and in the Orthodox Church - Grabarka. A specific centre is Oswiecim, which has quasi-pilgrimages of various believers from all over the world.
Local places, having diversified pilgrims' character, include: Piekary Slaskie, Gniezno, Warszawa, Zakopane Krzeptowki and the Orthodox Jableczna.
25 sanctuaries, which embrace several dioceses, include: Bardo Slaskie, Wambierzyce, Trzebnica, Ludzmierz, Tuchow, Kalwaria Paclawska, Koden, Lesna Podlaska, Gietrzwald, Swieta Lipka, Wejherowo, Swarzewo, Swiety Krzyz, Dukla, Kalkow-Godow and the Orthodox centres of Suprasl and Gora Jawor as well as the Muslim places of Bohoniki and Kruszyniany.
Almost 135 sanctuaries are regional centres and 330 sanctuaries are local centres.
Finally, one should mention Jewish pilgrims' centres, especially the Hasidic ones, in Krakow, Lezajsk, Bobowa or Nowy Sacz.

Prof. dr hab. Antoni Jackowski, dr Izabela Soljan, Institute of Geography and Spacial Management, Department of Geography of Religion, Jagiellonian University.

"Niedziela" 32/2006

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl