It is said that every country has its own genius loci, its "spirit of place," meaning that particular characteristic that makes it distinctive. Holland has tulips and windmills, Egypt has the pyramids, and Italy its Roman architecture. For Poland, that spirit of place, that special individuality that marks it, must be the tens of thousands of roadside chapels, crosses, and shrines that dot both its cityscape and landscape.
Anyone who has traveled to Poland has to agree that it is impossible not to notice the innumerable crosses, religious statues, and little chapels that seem to be everywhere one looks. Enter a courtyard in Warsaw or Kraków and discover a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary mounted on a pedestal with fresh flowers at her feet. Walk down a city sidewalk and there's a figure of St. Florian or of the Holy Family. Driving through a small town, a niche under the eaves of a home contains a figure of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Nailed to a tree is a little open wooden box with a small image of Our Lady of Częstochowa. Quite by accident you may spy a tall wooden cross hidden in the woods, just off the beaten path, or see one standing alone and majestic in an open meadow. They are simply everywhere. Some are of a size that denote power and substance. Some are so small as to evoke a sense of humility. Some are threadbare and worn, yet emit an aura of permanence and timelessness. All of them seem to blend in harmoniously with the environment and beautify it. What are these objects? What do they mean? How did they come to be here, in this particular place? Who set them here? Why are they important?
A thousand years of Christianity, and the Polish Catholic tradition in particular, have left their mark on the landscape of Poland. Spirit of Place: The Roadside Shrines of Poland is a unique look into the tens of thousands of roadside chapels, crosses and shrines that dot both its cities and countryside and tells of Poland’s faith, history and culture.
Here are some photos from Spirit of Place: The Roadside Shrines of Poland that help tell the unique story of Poland's landscape.
Spirit of Place: The Roadside shrines of Poland published by Hippocrene Books, Inc. 2023. Available on Amazon.
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.