11-Days: Spiritual and Cultural Journey to Poland


Today we depart for Warsaw with complimentary beverages and meals served aloft.


Upon arrival in Warsaw we will meet our Catholic Travel Centre representative, and our motor coach will transfer us to the hotel. We check in our hotel and have dinner. (D)


Today we start our sightseeing tour of Warsaw with the church of St. Stanislaw Kostka where Blessed Father Jerzy Popieluszko, leader in solidarity worked and is buried. He was martyred in October 1984 in retaliation for his stance against oppression. We will gain some context here for the life and times of Karol Wojtyla who was to become His Holiness John Paul II. Here we will celebrate the opening Mass of our journey. After Mass we continue with an orientation tour of the city, recalling that most of this city was destroyed in World War II, leaving few of the old historic buildings that one normally would find in a European city.
We see the 15th century Gothic castle that served as the seat of the kings of Poland. It was here that the Third of May Constitution was promulgated in 1791, second only to the United States’ Constitution. Next we visit St. John’s Cathedral, then walk through the Market Square where we can have a break for tea or cake at one of the fine restaurants or do some shopping at the gift shops or galleries.

After our break, we will pass the late-Gothic structure by John Baptist of Venice — the Barbican. In the New Town Market we will see where Maria Sklodowska-Curie was born (Madame Curie). At Krasinski Square, we will stop by the Monument of Warsaw’s Uprising and drive to see the Ghetto Memorial. We’ll gain panoramic views of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Warsaw’s Grand Opera and National Theatre House erected by Antonio Corazzi. On a cultural note, we will pay our respects to Poland’s prize composer, Frederic Chopin, as we visit the Baroque church housing his ashes. We have a short stop at the Royal Lazienki Park to see the Monument of Frederick Chopin.

After dinner at a local restaurant this evening, we enjoy a private Chopin concert at the Palace on the Water. We return to our hotel for the evening. (B, D)


This morning we drive to the village of Niepokalanow, home to the Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a Conventual Franciscan Friary founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe, O.F.M Conv., presently one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Poland. After viewing a short history of Christianity in Poland we celebrate Mass.

We continue to Czestochowa where we visit Jasna Gora Monastery, the most important place of religious worship in the Polish Catholic world. The site dates from the 14th century. In recent years nearly five million pilgrims have visited the Monastery to see the miraculous Black Madonna. Its tradition began when Prince Ladislaus II of Opole invited Pauline monks to Poland. He gave them Jasna Gora hill and a small church under the invocation of Holy Virgin Mary. The prince presented them with the

miraculous picture of Our Lady, which was supposedly painted by Luke the Evangelist on a wooden plank from the table on which the Holy Family dined. However the newest research proves that it was a Byzantine icon from the 6th or 7th century. During the Hussite wars in 1430, the monastery was sacked and robbed and the picture profaned. To this day, one can see the sword-cuts on the cheek of the Madonna. In the year 1717, the picture was crowned with papal diadem and was called the picture of “Black Madonna.” We are welcomed by the local monks for a private tour of the monastery and the treasury. Dinner tonight will be served at our hotel. (B, D)


This morning we celebrate Mass at the Chapel of the Black Madonna. After Mass we travel to Wadowice, the birthplace of Pope John Paul II. The family home of the young Karol Wojtyla is now a museum, displaying many interesting curios from the Pope’s life. A visit here provides an entertaining, anecdotal panorama of the humble life of one of the greatest figures of the 20th century. Nearby is the parish church which Wojtyla attended in his youth.
In the afternoon we continue to Zakopane, nestled high up in Tatras mountains. The combination of beautiful landscape and quaint shopping areas make this a favorite getaway spot for all the Poles. We continue to our hotel where we enjoy dinner and the evening together.(B, D)


This morning we make our way to the Sanctuary of the Holy Virgin of Fatima, a chapel constructed in 1999 in gratitude for Pope John Paul II’s survival of an assassination attempt. Here we will celebrate Mass. We continue our tour with a cable car ride to the heights of Mt. Gobuwlka for a stunning view of the Tatras Mountains and the town of Zakopane. We will also drive by Villa Atma, once the home of the famous Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. The tour also includes a stop at the Wladyslaw Hasior Art Gallery, displaying amazing assemblages by this avant-garde artist. At the completion of our tour we come to the always buzzing Krupówki, the central mall lined with restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and souvenir shops. This evening, dinner will be served at a local restaurant in Zakopane. (B, D)


Today we leave Zakopane and head for the city of Krakow, where then Karol Wojtyla served as Archbishop prior to being elected Pope of the worldwide Roman Catholic community. Along the way, we will stop in Wieliczka to visit the oldest salt mine in Europe, in operation since the 13th century. This UNESCO treasure now serves as a museum and contains an impressive display of chambers, galleries, and unique salt works. We will descend 54 floors below the surface to view the labyrinthine mines and the Church of St. Kinga, entirely carved from salt!
From Wieliczka, we continue to a place where as a young man, Wojtyla came to pray and reflect upon his life and service to God. In the lush, green hills of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, we find the famous Calvary paths, an intertwining mesh of churches, chapels and wayside shrines originally built to replicate the city of Jerusalem These structures are the only examples (except of Gdansk) of Dutch Renaissance architecture in Poland. Here we celebrate Mass. Dinner awaits us at our hotel in Krakow. (B, D)


This morning we have a tour of Krakow including a visit of Kazimierz and the Dominican Church. Krakow, the ancient capital of Poland, has been settled since the Stone Age. In 1038, the city became the capital, and Polish monarchs took up their residence in its Wawel Royal Castle which we visit. The Old Town historical district in Krakow’s heart is actually the medieval city established in 1257, by Prince Boleslav V, the ruler of Poland at the time. Krakow has preserved its original grid of streets arranged around the huge central Grand Square, with the Cathedral Church of St. Waclaw and Bishop Stanislaus. In the middle of the square is the Cloth Hall, built before 1349, and altered in the 16th century. Inside are many shopping stalls, which we will be sure to visit. The Cloth Hall sits in the shadow of the magnificent gothic church of Our Lady with the famous wooden altar created by Wit Stwosz. We will take a short coffee break at the famous “Jama Michalika.” This coffee shop is popular for its unique history with artists, writers, and other entertainers who have decorated its walls with various drawings, pictures, and other stained glass renditions.
At Krakow University, we will see the first map of the world depicting North America as a continent. We will also pass by the shoe factory where young Karol Wojtyla worked during the Nazi occupation of Poland. We will have the opportunity to walk down Kanonicza Street, passing by some of Krakow’s historical buildings. We pause at building 21, “Deanery” where Pope John Paul II resided while in Krakow. We then proceed to Market Square where we visit the Mariacki Church. We take some time for lunch on our own. This afternoon we will visit the Franciscan Church. The
Franciscan Order arrived in Krakow in 1237. A monastery was founded on this site of the town, and in 1260 work began on a church. Here we celebrate Mass. Dinner will be served at a local restaurant. (B, D)


Today our visit is quite austere, a step back into one of the darker moments in the 20th century. We will make our way to Oswiecim to the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Considered one of the largest and most heinous camps, this was the site where approximately 1.5 million people lost their lives, among them mostly Jews.

When the camp was liberated in 1945, fleeing German troops attempted to destroy it, but they were unsuccessful. Allied troops discovered about 7,000 remaining prisoners, all in desolate condition. Auschwitz-Birkenau remains an example of the destruction of World War II and the hate of one man. Today the site serves as a museum and is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Our visit will include the cell of St. Maximilian Kolbe, O.F.M. Conv., who gave his life in substitution for a prisoner who was to be executed. We celebrate Mass this afternoon in a nearby church named for this saint. We return to Krakow where the balance of the day is at leisure. Dinner is at our hotel. (B, D)


This morning we visit the Convent of Sisters of Mercy in Lagiewniki, where Saint Faustina, the Apostle of Divine Mercy, lived and died. We will enjoy the tour of the Convent guided by one of the sisters. Here we celebrate Mass. Early this afternoon we transfer to Warsaw. This evening we will enjoy our farewell dinner at a local restaurant in Warsaw. (B, D)


This morning we transfer to Warsaw airport for our return flight back home. ( B )

NOTE: While no changes are anticipated, there might be occasions when certain alterations become necessary to this itinerary due to changes in airline schedules or for other reasons. All Masses are subject to final church schedules.