Accepted paper:

Co-existing, contested, competing? Religious heritage spaces of the Royal Hill in Kraków


Anna Niedźwiedź (Jagiellonian University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses religious heritage spaces on the Royal Hill in Kraków. The Hill is perceived in Poland as a national pantheon, a historical monument and a Christian pilgrimage site. It also attracts spiritual practitioners who locate one of the earth chakra - the energy spot - at the hill.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses the complexity of discourses and practices related to religious heritage spaces at the Royal Hill in Kraków. The hill, known also as the Wawel Hill, hosts the medieval Roman Catholic cathedral (with royal tombs) and the Royal Castle (where the royal historical treasure and the State Museum are located). Wawel Hill is perceived in Poland as a national pantheon, a historical monument as well as a pilgrimage site connected to the cults of medieval and contemporary Polish saints. It is where a reliquary of the late pope (St. John Paul II) is exhibited next to the relics of Kraków's medieval bishop, St. Stanislaus, the patron of Poland. Various discourses - historical and contemporary, Christian and national, touristic and political - shape the religious heritage spaces of Wawel Hill today. The controversial burial of the late Polish president Lech Kaczyński in the Wawel Cathedral after a 2010 plane crash in Russia, triggered a public dispute about national heritage sites, the Catholic Church and contemporary relations between religion and politics. However, the complexity of Wawel Hill stretches even further. The popular belief that one of the 'earth chakras' is located there attracts spiritual seekers and meditation practitioners. These groups publicly perform their practices at the site, even though the cathedral and museum managers oppose them and confine access to a very small 'energetic area'. Ethnographic material collected in Kraków reveals the multivocality of the Wawel Hill, therefore, where the 'religious heritage spaces' are variously defined, lived, practised and negotiated.

panel D06
Religious heritage spaces: disputes and convergences