Crosses and Road Chapels in Poland

Poles were always very religious people. Everybody who would travel through Poland would see numerous crosses, figures of saints, statues and chapels on the sides of the roads. Local people take care of these religious symbols, a traveler can see fresh flowers and even freshly lit candles inside the small shrines.
The crosses are often situated on the crossroads - to prevent the accidents. They are also often located on the mounts, hills and even in the highest mountains in Tatra (there is a famous cross on Kasprowy Wierch - a mountain heading over Zakopane, a capital of Polish Tatras with a huge cross on it) - to bring a good fortune and prevent accidents. During the history the crosses and chapels were also built to prevent the epidemic, to commemorate a special event, a tragedy or the accident.
The roadside crosses are made from wood or from metal, sometimes they stand on a special rock shelf with the information about who and when founded it. More elaborate religious symbols remind a miniature chapel. Jesus and St. Mary figurines are the most frequently seen, but also other saints are present - st. John Nepomucene - a patron of farmers. St. Laurentius (Wawrzyniec) was very popular in Posen (Poznan) region of Great Poland (Wielkopolska). See chapels devoted to St. Laurentius.

Introduction by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn





Jerzy took these photos outside Cracow, along a distance of about 15 kilometers. On average every two kilometers there is some religious site. Of course, it doesn`t mean they are put up only in the countryside. They are in the cities and towns too, but not so numerous. The roadside religious sites may take different forms and shapes.

A simple wooden cross is showed below (click inside the picture to magnify it)


Crosses are sometimes more elaborate, made of stone, concrete or metal:



Very often it is a figure of a holy person, mostly Virgin Mary



Sometimes it looks like a pillar or a tower


Or even a column:


The biggest, but also the rarest are small chapels with religious statues or even little altars inside:


Apart from shrines on the roads there are also sites with religious symbols to commemorate victims of accidents. Such sites are usually marked with a simple cross, not too high, sometimes with a plaque. They are not graves, of course. According to Polish law, putting anything like that on the side of the road requires a permission from the road maintenance service. But permissions are not given.... So, practically, all those crosses are illegal. But the road services are tolerant and don`t remove them.

text and photographs by Jerzy



Check travel articles and culture & music articles in Polish Culture Website. Check also Travel to Poland, check also links to external sites devoted to Polish travel and hotel websites. Check variety of articles devoted to the Polish pope John Paul II, read also about Church in Poland; Are Poles good Catholics?.



I recommend Eyewitness Travel Guide to Poland (Eyewitness Travel Guides) by Teresa Czerniewics-Umer, Malgorzata Omilanowska, Jerzy S. Majewski, DK Travel Writers


This comprehensive book about Poland, showed below, may also be useful for you:
The Rough Guide to Poland by Mark Salter, Jonathan Bousfield



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