Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Cemeteries are always regarded as the place where our relations rest in peace. Sometimes they are, however, art monuments. This article intends to tell about some of the most important and well-known cemeteries in Poland. Of course one can go further with mentioning Polish cemeteries abroad (such as Monte Cassino) or in former Polish boundaries (like the one in Lviv – today’s Ukraine). As the article does not allow me to describe all of them, I decided to choose 3 most important ones, all situated in today’s Poland.
POWAZKI CEMETERY IN WARSAW
The oldest Warsaw cemetery was founded in 1790 in town’s historical area. It is the most important necropolis of the capital of Poland and maybe even the whole country, as many noble people are buried there. Its tombstones have been ranked among the most precious monuments of architecture of Warsaw. Among 2,5 million of people buried in Powiazki, there are many honored ones, such as the soldiers of national uprisings, writers, poets, artists, bishops – some of them lay in the ‘Avenue of the Meritorious’ that was established in 1924. In mausoleum there are ashes of victims of concentration camps of WW II. Some of the notable people, who rest in Powiazki, are: Krzysztof Kieslowski (director), Zbigniew Herbert (poet), Irena Sendler (awarded by Yad Vashem with a title of Righteous Among the Nations) and many others.
RAKOWICKI CEMETERY IN KRAKOW
The cemetery was founded in 1800-1802 on the way to the village called Rakowice, due to the introduced law that forbid to bury the death within the city centre. It is the burial place of average Krakow citizens as well honorable scholars, those who fought for country’s independence. There are separate burial plots for those who were killed during the November, January or Krakow Uprisings and both World Wars. The gravestone monuments are works of such artists as Slawomir Odrzywolski, Tadeusz Blotnicki or Karol Hukan. The most notable Poles buried in Rakowice cemetery are: Jan Matejko (painter), Karol and Emilia Wojtyla (parents of the later Pope John Paul II) or Helena Modrzejewska (actress).
CEMETERY ON PEKSOWY BRZYSK IN ZAKOPANE
It is one of the most interesting, and at the same time one of the smallest, necropolis of Poland. Among 500 people buried there, 250 are honored for Zakopane or whole Tatra Mountains region. The sculptures and chapels (wooden, made of iron or stone), typical crosses with curved mountain motives create unforgettable site. The cemetery is to be found in all of the guides around Zakopane. The cemetery was created around 1850 but already since 1920’ only honorable people or those who owned family tombstones were buried there. Some of the notable Poles resting in Zakopane old cemetery are: Kornel Makuszynski (writer of books for children), Stanislaw Witkacy (painter) or Sabala (the most popular Goral – mountain inhabitant in Zakopane).
One needs to be aware, that apart from old cemeteries there are also many necropolis in Poland, such as churches or cathedral at the Wawel Castle, where other poets, painters or Polish kings are buried.