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Procession of the Relics of St Stanislaus in Krakow

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On May 8th, the church in Poland keeps the feast of one of the nation’s Patron Saints, Stanislaus, bishop of Krakow and martyr (1030-79; made bishop in 1072). There is a great deal of uncertainty about the details of his life, but the broad outline is that he reproved and excommunicated King Bolesław II for his great cruelty and immoral life, and was for this reason murdered while celebrating Mass by the king in person. Devotion to him as a Saint began immediately after his death, and was confirmed when Pope Innocent IV formally canonized him in 1253. The presence of his relics in the church of the Wawel Castle made it a shrine of great importance and a place of pilgrimage; the Polish kings were traditionally while kneeling before the silver sarcophagus which contains them.

Each year on the Sunday after his feast, the bishop of Krakow leads a procession from the Wawel to “the Church on the Rock”, a shrine built on the site of the martyrdom about a kilometer away. Relics of Stanislaus and many other Saints, pictures and statues are carried in the procession, which is attended by all ranks of clergy and religious, lay confraternities and pious associations; many people wear historical costumes as well. In recent times, this procession has become a national event of some importance. Pope St John Paul II, who was elected in October of 1978, wanted his first trip back to Poland to coincide with the feast, which that year would have been the ninth centenary of the Saint’s death. However, the Communist government, fearful of what it meant for the Pope to personally celebrate a bishop martyred for resisting an immoral goverment in this fasion, refused permission, and the trip was delayed until June.

By the kind permission of Mr Adam Wojnar, and of Dom Jakobus, a canon of Herzogenburg Abbey in Austria, who administers a Facebook page dedicated to the variosu orders and congregations of Augustinian Canons Regular, here are some photographs of the procession from this past Sunday. (©Adam Wojnar)

University faculty in academic regalia.

A relic of St Adalbert, archbishop of Prague, who is (somehow) called Wojciech in Polish, who went as to Poland as a missionary in the later 10th century, and was martyred in Krakow. He is also honored as one of the national Patron Saints.

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