For history buffs and pilgrims who are planning on visiting Poland and would like to walk in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II no visit can be complete without visiting the pope’s hometown of Wadowice. Wadowice is a city located in southern Poland about 50 kilometers from Krakow with a population around 20,000. The city is rich in history associated with John Paul, this is where he was born, raised and later visited several times as pope.
John Paul II Family Home and Museum
No visit to Wadowice can be completed without visiting John Paul’s family home just off the main square. The home located on #7 Koscielnej Street (ul. Koscielnej 7) just off the main square. Since Karol Wojtyla’s election as pope in 1978 his family home has quickly turned into a place of pilgrimage for people from all over Poland and the world.
This is the home where on May 18, 1920 Karol Wojtyla was born, raised, and spent his youth. Between 1919-1938 the family occupied two rooms and a kitchen. Both Karol Wojtyla and his father left Wadowice in 1938 so Karol could attend Jagellonian University in Krakow. The last of the residents moved out of the home 1981-1982 and it was renovated and turned into a museum. The museum officially opened on John Paul’s 64th birthday on May 18, 1984. Since then the museum was run my nuns and each year it has seen between 300 thousand and 400 thousand pilgrims and tourists from all over the world.
With John Paul’s beatification and canonization and the expectance in the number of visitors to rise the museum was renovated and enlarged. The visitors can still walk through the original rooms where Karol Wojtyla lived with his family.
Because few objects survived from the time when Wojtyla family lived in Wadowice the museum was turned mostly into a biographical exhibit, which includes photographs of and personal belongings of John Paul. One of those items is a cassock that was worn by John Paul immediately preceding his election in 1978. Other items include documents hand written by the pope and items given to him by others like a rosary given to him to Sister Lucia of Fatima.
Price of a ticket to visit the museum is 18,00 zl per person or 25,00 zl with a foreign language guide. Tickets can also be reserved online in advance.
Just a short walk from the family home and museum
one can visit a Basilica called Bazylika Ofiarowania Najswietrzej Maryi Panny which played an important role in young Karol Wojtyla’s faith. This is where Karol Wojtyla was baptized and received his first communion. During his visits to Wadowice John Paul would visit this church for prayer and reflection. Inside the basilica one can see the baptismal font where young Karol Wojtyla was baptized. In 2011 Archbishop of Cracow Stanislaw Dziwisz gave as a gift to the basilica relics of John Paul, his blood which are stored in a special papal chapel.
Wadowice is famous for its kremowki. They are made of two layers of puff pastry filled with vanilla pastry cream and sprinkled with powder sugar. During John Paul’s visit to Wadowice he stated that while a student after his exams he would go eat kremowki with his friends. Those comments were publicized by the media and created “papal” kremowki which are famous in Poland and even abroad. Karol Wojtyla would get his kremowki at a confectionery shop that was owned by Jewish cake maker Karol Hagenhuber who moved to Poland from Vienna. Those who like like to try a kremowka can visit one of several confectionery shops located on the main square.
Wadowice is a small city and all the tourist sites are located short walking distance from one another. All of the sites can be seen in several hours. One might also like to visit Krakow which is rich in not only John Paul's history but also history of Poland. Krakow is where John Paul served as archbishop and visited often as pope. A lesser known tourist destination yes important in the life of Karol Wojtyla is the town of Niegowic located about 30 miles south of Krakow. This is where Karol Wojtyla served for the first time as a parish priest. Wherever one chooses to travel Lesser Poland Voivodeship (Powiat Malopolski) in which Krakow and Wadowice are located, is the best place to visit in Poland if one wishes to walk in the footsteps of John Paul II.