THE 850TH ANNIVERSARY OF FOUNDATION OF THE HOLY SEPULCHER MEMBERS IN MIECHÓW
FR. JERZY BIELECKI
On 29 September 2013, there are going to be ceremonies in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Miechów, on the occasion of the 850th anniversary of the existence and activity of the Knight’s Order of the Holy Sepulcher on the whole area of Poland. The Holy Mass was celebrated by archbishop Celestino Migliore, an apostolic nuncio. The jubilee is an occasion to emphasize the relations of Miechów with the canonic branch – the Order of Regular Monks of the Guards of the Jerusalem Holy Sepulcher for centuries, brought in 1163 by a crusader Jaksa from Miechów, and which is known as the Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Miechów.
In Miechów, the first convent has already been established, and in about 1170, the church of the name of the Holy Sepulcher was consecrated. The organizer and the first provost of the monastery was brother Marcin – of French origin and called ‘Gallus’, who was delegated by the patriarch of Jerusalem, Almeryk. The new convent community was developing very dynamically, which is proved by a confirmation privilege, edited in 1198 by another Jerusalem patriarch called Monachus. The new sanctuary of the Holy Sepulcher cult was getting more and more significant. The group of its secular and clergy benefactors was growing. Although Polish knighthood and clergy did not participate in conquering and defending the Holy Land, it wanted to contribute to this matter worthy for every Christian. They expressed it by generous charities given to the monastery in Miechów, being convinced that in this way they fulfilled their Christian duty and also gained spiritual graces and indulgences. Every benefactor of Miechów Order of the Holy Sepulcher was also accepted to the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher and received a right to wear the emblem of the Order, embroided on his garments, which was connected with a very desirable name of the crusader.
At the peak of the significance
The supremacy of the convent in Miechów belonged to the patriarch of Jerusalem who acknowledged the superior, elected by the convent in free elections, called a provost or a pastor. The monastery in Miechów quickly gained a privilege of exemption, that is, dismissing the local Ordinary bishop from the authority. Since the election of Michał from Radomsk a provost, who whose position was acknowledged by pope Bonifacy IX with the bulla of 1395, excluding the Jerusalem patriarch, the Order in Miechów were subjected directly only to popes and on their behalf bishops from Cracow made pronouncements. The culminating point of the position of Miechów and its provosts was a bulla of 1411, giving Michał from Radomsko and his successors a right to use insignias of the pontificate: miter, crosier, ring, dalmatic and a right for giving people pastoral blessing. The convent got into the peak of its success. the number of monks rose, the level of Order discipline rose, the significance of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher on the royal court grew and among the nobility and among wide classes of the Polish society. The Order of the Holy Sepulcher introduced liturgy in Poland and divine services taken from the Jerusalem tradition. They organized ceremonies in the Passion Week and built sepulchers on Good Friday. The members of the Order were engaged in hospital services and also education.
The development of the Order took place in XV century and the sanctuary of the Holy Sepulcher in Miechów was one of the most developing centres of the Order. When pilgrimages to Jerusalem became impossible, faithful Christians made a chapel of the Christ’s Sepulcher, on the example of the Jerusalem Sepulcher. So many believers came to this place, that after some time, Miechów was called Polish Jerusalem and the pastoral ministry, care and educational activity were spread far outside the Lesser Poland Voivodeship.
It is impossible to delete memory
The end of the activity of the Order brought partitions. The end of the activity of the Order took place in 1819. The general house of the Order, Canons – spiritual people, living according to the rule of St. Augustine, was resolved due to imperial ukase. However, the long-century tradition of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher in Miechów found an important place in the memory of the Polish nation. After the regaining of independence and state sovereignty by Poland, attempt of establishing structures of the Order initiated in 1930 by the Organizational Committee in Miechów, acting under the patronage of the God’s servant cardinal August Hlond, the primate of Poland, interrupted by the years of the war and the communist captivity, were crowned with the establishment of the Superiority of the Polish Knights’ Order of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Its first cavaliers, dames and priests were solemnly included into the Order on 25 March 1996 in the arch-cathedral of the name of St. John the Baptist in Warsaw. Among the first members of the Order there were among the others: bishop of Kielce Kazimierz Ryczan and the pastor of the parish of the Holy Sepulcher in Miechów Fr. Jerzy Gredka, who undertook a complete restoration of, among the others, the monumental basilica of Miechów, the chapel of Maria Magdalena and the chapel of the Holy Sepulcher from XVI century – with the oldest and the most faithful replica of Christ’s Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Thanks to the efforts of Fr. Inf. Gredka, the parish received the grant from the Regional Operational Program in Lesser Voivodeship. There was modernization of the so-called Voids, cloisters and the General House, and the Museum of the Land of Miechów was established, and first of all, the headquarters of the Polish Superiority of the Knights’ Order of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, which is in Miechów again, in esthetically restored and functionally equipped interiors of the post-monastery building which in 2012 was visited and sacrificed by the Great Master of the Order – cardinal Edwin Frederick O’Brien.
The Jubilee of the 850 years of the foundation in Miechów is time of celebration and thanksgiving to God and people who contributed to the heritage of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, characteristic for the city and the parish of Miechów. On these days we should remember about Fr. Inf. Jerzy Gredka who, after a long and severe illness, died on 9 September 2013. Let God give the late pastor and custodian of the sanctuary of the Holy Sepulcher in Miechów eternal joy and peace.
The monument of Maciej Miechowita
The celebrations of the 850th anniversary of bringing the Order to Miechów converged with the 490th anniversary of the death of the most famous pupil of the parish school run by the Order of the Holy Sepulcher – Maciej Karpiga, known as Miechowita, who became famous as a prominent scientist. The atmosphere of the both anniversaries inspired the society of Miechów to undertake actions aiming at building the monument of Maciej Miechowita. The situation was very favourable because the prominent artist sculptor, professor of the Fine Art Academy in Cracow, a winner of many prestigious prizes, projected and made a model and its plaster forms for casting in bronze for free.