Today we attended St. Mary’s Basilica for a morning church service. The services ran on the hour from 6am through 11am.
Walking into the church it was really breathtaking to see each little fine detail of decoration the church had. Gold plated pillars, extravagant depictions of the Crucifixion of Jesus and separate alters within the church to worship at. It was obvious how much this church meant to the people of Krakow. Even though we were not all Catholic, we immersed ourselves within their culture to fully understand who they are. There were a few differences we noticed when comparing the Catholic church in America to now being in Poland. Instead of taking communion in your hands, they give the bread to you in your mouth. They also didn’t use hymnal books, but knew most of the songs by memory, which shows how important the faith is. This is not something that is easily forgotten because it is rooted so deep in their tradition and culture. It was also interesting how people came in during the middle of the service, walking right up to the front. In the US, that would be considered disrespectful. We also took an interest in how well behaved the children were. It seems from a young age, they have a high respect for the service and know not to misbehave whereas in a Catholic church back home, it’s extremely common to see children acting out or crying or complaining or not even paying attention.
After the conclusion of mass we waited for the the festival of Epiphany parade to start. This parade was to conclude in Rynek Glowny central square located in the Old Town historical district. Swieto Trzech Kroli is the name of this public holiday in Poland. Each one of the three kings start at a different location in Krakow, making their way to the town square. On their way to the square Christmas carols are sung by the king and the people of Poland that are following him. When all three kings come together they take the stage where they then form the Christmas nativity scene. This public holiday recognizes the official end of the Christmas.
Looking back to what we have learned in the past couple of days, it makes sense how dedicated the Polish are to their faith. According to our tour guide, their religion was one of the only things that got Polish people through the communist regime. When there was so much turmoil and pain throughout Poland, nothing else could save them.
The city of Krakow itself has so much pride in its town and its people. Their faith is the main factor that unities this town, which at one time was so divided by those trying to conquer it.