Telling the gospel word,
passes by Wojciech Szlazk to Krakow.
And here the country is flat and vast fields,
where only here and there are guided walking sticks
and has been a long road, and without end (…).
passed the Great, Small Bronowice,
I will soon have before us Modlnica.
Welcome to Modlnica, one of the oldest parishes in Poland, a place where you can experience the living history of over a thousand years of Christianity and admire some of the exquisite examples of Poland’s Renaissance and Baroque art.
According to 15th – century historical sources, on his way from Krakow to Prussia, where he was to be martyred for his missionary work, Saint Adalbert spent a night in a „sacred grove”, under a „sacred lime tree”, preaching and baptising the inhabitants of a village called Zagorze. After the Saint’s martyrdom the name of the village was changed to Modlnica (literally: the place of prayer) in memory of his prayers here. The Parish of Modlnica was established in the 11 century. In 1254 the name of the village was mentioned for the first time in royal documents. A record of its parish priests has been kept since 1326.
The firs: wooden church in Modlnica was most probably built in the first half of the 12th century and stood for some two hundred years. In 1553 a new wooden church was erected on the same site, on a cruciform plan with short transept arms. It was consecrated in 1555 and in 1562 decorated with a Renaissance polychromy depicting the genealogy of Jesus according to the Gospel of St. Matthew and scenes from Jesus’ life and death, culminating in a monumental scene of the Last Judgement.
Nearly 350 years later, around 1905, a new fin-de-siecle polychromy was installed in the church. It was painted by a Krakow artist, Wlodzimierz Tetmajer, following the style of the times. Fortunately the original Renaissance decoration in Modlnica was discovered during the church’s restoration in 1956, when it was conserved so that we can still admire it now.
1 he main Baroque altarpiece was built in 1723. It houses the most precious historic artefact in the church: the icon of Our Lady of Modlnica, famous for its graces and highly venerated by the people. The painting, in a Gothic style, most probably dates back to 1440-1460, it was later repainted twice. The Virgin’s silver robe on the painting dates back to 1750, when a peasant from the nearby village of Szyce offered 600 silver thalers to have it made and put up. In 1885 Cardinal Dunajewski, Archbishop of Krakow, presented two gold-plated crowns for Mary and Jesus as a votive offering. In the late 1960s the painting was restored again and in 1970 Cardinal Karol Wojtyta, the future Pope John Paul II, consecrated the iconon its return to the main altarpiece in Modlnica Parish Church. Every day, after evening Mass, the icon is covered for the night with a painting of Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus, to the sound of a traditional hymn to Our Lady of Modlnica, composed in the 19″ century by Tadeusz Konopka, the local landowner.
In front of the icon on the altar there is a 16th -century ebony tabernacle in the form of a rotunda with four Tuscan columns. Other precious objects are a 17h – century Venetian crystal chandelier, two rococo reliquaries and an 18h -century statue of Jesus the Man of Sorrows. On the left there is a wooden Baroque pulpit (17h -century). To the right of the chancel there is a beautiful black marble baptismal font (17h-century).
On the church’s left wall there are two side altars: a Late Renaissance one, dating from the beginning of 17th century (with a later paining of Jesus) and a Late Baroque one (mid-18th – century) with an interesting painting of Saint Adalbert. Between the altars is the entrance to Saint Anne’s Chapel.
This brickwork chapel adjoining the left side of the church contains a family monument and was founded in 1622 by Katarzyna Kucharska, a landowner from the nearby village of Przybystawice. The chapel was furnished with a triptych altarpiece dedicated to its patroness which has not survived to our times and was replaced in 1840 by a Crucifixion group (Jesus, Mary and Saint John). The chapel also has an interesting polychromy of the Four Evangelists and the Transfiguration scene on Mount „labor, as well as Saint Adalbert and Saint Stanislaus, the patron of Krakow. The polychromy dates from late 17th century and was restored in 1879. There is a late 16h -century marble tabernacle in the shape of a round church: a gift to the parish from Krakow Cathedral.
IN ext to the church gate you pass a wooden belfry dating from -1544-1546. This typical element of the region’s wooden church architecture is no longer in use as a bell-tower, but the original bells dating from 1501 and 1542, founded by another local landowner, Mikoiaj Salomon, have survived and have been put up in the new belfry, on the other side of the church.
tłum. dr hab. Magdalena Heydel