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Wawel Hill is not the only place in Kraków commemorating the great ones of the Polish Nation. In 1880 a special ceremony was held in the crypt of the Pauline Church on Skałka Hill inaugurating the Distinguished Persons’ Crypt, and the mortal remains of fourteen illustrious Polish writers, artists, and scholars were laid to rest next to the tomb of the medieval chronicler Jan Długosz. Skałka Church is the last resting-place of 19th-century poets and writers Wincenty Pol, Lucjan Siemieński, Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, Teofil Lenartowicz, Adama Asnyk, and Stanisław Wyspiański; painters Henryk Siemiradzki and Jacek Malczewski; the composer Karol Szymanowski; and the actor Ludwik Solski. In the 1950s the distinguished astronomer Tadeusz Banachiewicz was interred here; and in 2010 the poet and Nobel prizewinner Czesław Miłosz. In the corridor leading to the crypt there are memorial tablets in tribute to the philologist and scholar of Polish and Slavonic culture Aleksander Brückner; and Karolina Lanckorońska, scholar, patroness and benefactress of Polish culture. The Distinguished Persons’ Crypt in Skałka Church is full. The efforts of Kraków’s academic community to open a second vault in the same church proved unsuccessful. In view of this, in

the autumn of 2009 the group launched a project to found a national pantheon for distinguished persons of the arts, letters, and culture in the crypt of the Church of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul in Kraków, on the ulica Grodzka near Wawel Hill. Four hundred years ago the mortal remains of Piotr Skarga, a distinguished writer, preacher, and orator, were buried here. The project won the support of eleven of the city’s schools of higher education, the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Metropolitan Curia of the Archdiocese of Kraków. Finally a foundation was set up in 2010 to conduct the complex restoration project on an area of over 300 square metres in the crypt, which has been exempted from ecclesiastical jurisdiction and today makes up the national pantheon for the great artists and writers of Poland. Thereby a new place has been created in Poland’s old capital where individuals with distinguished service to the country’s arts, culture, and scholarship will be paid a posthumous tribute. Under the legal provisions which have been adopted decisions on who is to be buried there will be made by a chapter of seven members, without regard to the religion or worldview of the person being considered for the honour, the sole criterion being the contribution he or she made to Polish culture. The new pantheon was inaugurated on 27th September 2012. On 17th September 2013 the world-famous dramatist and writer Sławomir Mrożek was the first to be interred in it.

Franciszek Ziejka

Former Rector of the Jagiellonian University (1999–2005)

The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul on ul. Grodzka accommodates the National Pantheon. The writer Sławomir Mrożek is buried here

Paweł Kozioł

St. Leonard’s Chapel. More recently the body of General Władysław Sikorski, Commander-in-Chief of the Polish forces in World War Two and Prime Minister of the Polish Government-in-Exile, who died in an air crash off Gibraltar in 1943, were brought back to Poland and laid to rest in St. Leonard’s Chapel. In 2010 President Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria, who died in the Smoleńsk air crash, were laid to rest in the crypt of Wawel Cathedral. The decisions made by the Polish people during the period of the Partitions to bring home the bodies of Poland’s two greatest Romantic poets, Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki, and lay them to rest in Wawel Cathedral, was deeply symbolic. Efforts for the return of the mortal remains of Mickiewicz from the Montmorency Cemetery near Paris started in 1869 and were completed in 1890. It took even longer – 32 years – to retrieve the body of Słowacki from Montmartre Cemetery. It was finally reinterred in Wawel Cathedral in 1927. The attempt to bring back the body of the third Romantic Bard, Zygmunt Krasiński, proved abortive. In 1993 a memorial plaque for the “fourth Bard”, Cyprian Kamil Norwid, was put up next to the tombs of Mickiewicz and Słowacki, and four years later an urn containing earth from the common grave in which Norwid had been buried at Montmorency was installed next to the memorial. Finally, on 28th February 2010, a medallion with the portrait of Fryderyk Chopin, a replica of the one on his grave in the Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, was mounted on the wall of the Bards’ Vault.

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