In the Polish Jerusalem

Lidia Dudkiewicz talks to Lieutenant Karol Szlenkier, the superior of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in Poland and Knight Commander Jan Włudarczyk, representing the group of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre from Miechow.

Lidia Dudkiewicz: – Please explain our Readers what the Polish Jerusalem is and what is its connection with the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem?

Karol Szlenkier: – Firstly, I would like to thank the editorial board of ‘Niedziela’ for the initiative to write about the history of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in Poland, with their roots in Miechow. The town of Miechow, located 30 km north of Krakow, belongs to the Diocese of Kielce today. Throughout centuries Miechow has been the seat of the Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, known in Poland as ‘Bozogrobcy.’ My confrere from Miechow Dr. Jan Wludarczyk is the best person to give an outline of the history of the Knights from Miechow and their relationship with the contemporary Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

Jan WŁUDARCZYK: – Firstly, I must say about the Order of Canons Regular that originated in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 12th century. Together with the Patriarch the Order was the main representative of the Latin clergy in the Holy Land during the Crusades. The seat of the Order was the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Order had its centres in Europe. Warwick – England (1119-1536), Barletta – Italy (1128-1489), Denkendorf – Germany (1129-1535), Calatayud – Spain (1144-1852), Miechow – Poland (1163-1819), Perugia – Italy (1291-1489) were its main foundations.

– How did the Order come to Poland and how was it seen in the background of Europe?

J.W.: – In 1163 r. the knight called Jaksa brought the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem to Poland and located them in Miechow. The convent in Miechow was one of the main foundations of the Order in the 12th century. According to the opinions of the papal collectors in 1325 the income of the Order in Miechow exceeded the income of all other priories, even the abbey of Tyniec, and was equal only to the big foundation of St Kinga. In the 15-16th cc. the convent in Miechow experienced the apogee of its meaning in Poland and maybe in the whole of Europe.
From 1374 the subsequent priors of Miechow received the dignity of vicars representing the Patriarch of Jerusalem in Poland, Hungary and Slavonia (perhaps a part of Croatia). In 1506 the community of the Priory of St Luke in Perugia, where the seat of the Order was moved after the lost of the Holy Land in 1291, was closed and its rights and property were given to the Order of St John. Since that time the Grand Master of the Order of the Hospital of St John is called the Grand Prior of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. The prior of the Polish collegiate church of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in Miechow was given the post of the Prior of St Luke’s Monastery as the Head of the Order, having the title till the 19th century – Prof. Kaspar Elm gives this information. Therefore, the head of the order in the whole Europe was in Miechow from the 16th century.

– And where did the name ‘Polish Jerusalem’ referring to Miechow come from?

J.W.: – The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre created and spread the cult of the Empty Tomb of the Lord in its various forms. After the fall of Acre in 1291 the Crusaders left the Holy Land for good. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem went to Cyprus and the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre transferred their seat from the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to St Luke’s Monastery in Perugia. After the Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Canons left the Holy Land the pilgrim movement developed intensively in the foundations of the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre, who created sanctuaries. That’s why each of those sanctuaries was called Little Jerusalem and in the case of Poland Miechow began to be called the Polish Jerusalem.
When in the middle of the 19th century the Latin Patriarch returned to Jerusalem the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem was called into being. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem became the statutory Grand Prior of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.

– On 11-12 September 2010 the first Miechow Days of Jerusalem will be held. The guests include the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Archbishop Fouad Twal. Please tell us about the origin and aims of this event.

K.S.: – As for the origin, it is natural to refer to the historical roots, which my Confrere from Miechow has presented, so that the traditions and contents initiated almost 850 years ago become vivid again. Since the history of Miechow exceeds the local history and is connected with the history of Europe and the Latin Church.

J.W.: – There are two aims of the First Miechow Days of Jerusalem: prayer for peace in the Holy Land and promotion of the Holy Land.

– We published posters with the programme of the First Miechow Days of Jerusalem and inserted them in the last issue of ‘Niedziela.’ Which meetings should attract special attention? Will the admission to the meetings be free?

J.W.: – Undoubtedly, the climax of the First Miechow Days of Jerusalem will be the Sunday Mass on 12 September, celebrated by Archbishop Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Grand Prior of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem – Ordo Equestris Sancti Sepulchri Hierosolymitani (OESSH), Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Poland’s Primate Senior, the Grand Prior of the Polish Lieutenancy, and Bishop Kazimierz Ryczan, Commander with Star. On Saturday 11 September the important event will the scientific sessions with the participation of the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Admission to all events is free. Only the meetings of the Patriarch with the Knights and Ladies of the Order – on Saturday at 2 p.m. and on Sunday at 10 a.m. – will be closed for general public.

– Besides the solemn liturgies and the scientific session the programme includes a Medieval feast. It sounds rather mysterious. What character will it have?

J.W.: – The Medieval feast is to introduce us into the climate of the Middle Ages, which was the beginning of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and at the same time the beginning of Miechow. One can see how coins were minted, how clay pots were made, how robes were weaved, how horseshoes were hammered and one can also try lentil soup. One can buy souvenirs from the Holy Land and products sealed by the Benedictines or the Capuchins. There will be many other proposals. The chivalric brotherhoods will present old robes, food and their skills of using the sword.
The Days of Jerusalem in Miechow will be held every second year. In the future the organisers would like to change the Medieval feast into a Jerusalem feast, which would, however, require more organisational efforts.

– The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is developing very well in Poland and in many parts of the world. Please give us recent information concerning the Polish Lieutenancy.

K.S.: – The Lieutenancy for Poland as a national lieutenancy has existed for 15 years and includes representatives of many professions and social strata from all over Poland. We invite to the group of our Knights and Ladies people who have rendered services to the Catholic Church, those who are supported by their parish priests and bishops. The Order embraces hierarchs of the Catholic Church, priests, religious, professors, teachers, lawyers, medical doctors, politicians, artists including opera singers who make the meetings of the Order have increasingly beautiful musical settings; there are also journalists thanks to whom the mysteries of the Order can be discovered by the public and managers. All activities undertaken by the Polish Knights and Ladies have one aim: close collaboration with the Patriarch of Jerusalem and support for his works in the Holy Land. Throughout the year we develop our spirituality through monthly formational meetings, active participation in the life of the Church, plenary sessions, annual retreats and investitures during which we accept new confreres. At the same time it is a chance for spiritual growth and religious formation. Those interested in activities of our Lieutenancy are wholeheartedly invited to visit our web page: 
Thanking the weekly ‘Niedziela’ I invite all of you to the First Miechow Days of Jerusalem. Together we can feel the atmosphere of the Middle Ages and through Miechow we can see Jerusalem in the Holy Land.

"Niedziela" 37/2010

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