Poland is a country containing thousands of churches dating back centuries, and in today’s Poland, more and more churches are being built. Many of the churches are famous and touristic, but for those with a taste for the unusual, this eclectic mix contains some more obscure options. From underground churches to flower art to human skulls, this is a perfect list for the keen Instagrammer or church buff touring Poland.
How’s this for a special place? An underground church inside a salt mine! Yes, the second of Krakow’s must-see, out-of-town UNESCO World Heritage Sites comes in the form the winding subterranean tunnels of Wieliczka. First opened in the 13th century, the great complex of tunnels and caverns is said to span more than 170 kilometres in total length. Just 3.5 kilometres of those are now open to tourists, but even that’s enough to showcase the sheer artistic majesty of what lurks beneath the surface. Visitors can expect carved gnomes and mystical figurines on route to St. Kinga’s Chapel. This special church is a mind-blowing cathedral hall where everything – right down to the shimmering chandeliers – is formed from salt crystals, and the outside world seems to come to a halt.
Hold on a second, a chapel full of skulls? Yes, and perhaps the most fascinating church on this list is this spooky ‘Skull Chapel‘ in the town of Czermna. The chapel was built in 1776 and acts as a mass grave to local people who died in the Thirty Years War (1618 – 1648), the Silesian Wars in the 1700s and those who died from disease. The chapel was the idea of a Czech priest named Václav Tomášek. The bones and skulls make for a spooky work of art in a holy place. Under 18s should be accompanied by an adult as this is not a trip for the faint-hearted.
St. Paraskevi Church is a wooden Gothic church located between Uście Gorlickie and Skwirtne in a remote and tiny village called Kwiatoń. It is known as a ‘wooden tservka’, which is a group of similar looking churches all located in the Carpathian region, an area that spans Poland to Ukraine border. This church is made of brown wood, with wooden tiled roofs and circular wooden domes at the top. This group of churches has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. St. Paraskevi Church was originally a Greek Orthodox Church but has since been converted into a Roman Catholic Church.
In the tiny village of Sękowa sits a truly stunning little church dedicated to St. Philip and St. James. This wooden church is located in the southern part of the Małopolska Province, south of Tarnów and south east of Kraków. It is one of the most unique looking churches in Poland. It is distinctive due to the fact that the roof covers most of the church and the walls are not very high. The roof is steep, and there are two towers in the church. The church dates back to 1520 and still contains an original wooden crucifix from the 16th century. The church was partially destroyed during the Second World War but has since been restored to its former glory. The Church of St. Philip and St. James is part of a series of churches in the region listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of the prettiest villages in Europe, Zalipie, houses a truly intriguing church. The entire village is covered in flower art – a trend that continues when you step inside St. Joseph’s Church (Kościół Rzymskokatolicki Pw. św. Józefa Oblubieńca). This is an unusual church where the walls are decorated with flowers, all personally hand-painted by residents of this village who also attend the church. The church is open to the public throughout the week, and Catholic Masses are held at weekends. Weddings also occur here in this artistic church. Another of the reasons that this church surprises people is that there are no flowers or art on the exterior – the secret awaits inside its doors.
The town of Jawor in Poland’s Silesia province plays host to one of Poland’s most exquisite and calm ‘peace churches’. These churches need to be seen to be believed. The architecture and style of both the exterior and the interior are intricately designed works of art. This church was part of a trio of peace churches, along with two others in Głogów and Świdnica. The Głogów one burned down in 1758 and was never restored. However the church in Jawor and the one in Świdnica were restored and as a result were added as a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site in 2001. The churches are historically important for both the Polish people and the German people. This one in Jawor is dedicated to the Holy Ghost and contains over 200 paintings, located on the walls and balconies. There is a Sunday service open to all at 11a.m.
St. Barbara’s Church (Kościół Rzymskokatolicki Pw. św. Barbary) is the main (and only) church in the village of Kokoszkowy in Poland’s Pomerania province. This church has some interesting curiosities about it. One side is completely made of red brick, yet the other side is made of larger stones and rocks, with a large wooden tower and upper section. When you view both sides of the church in a photograph, you would assume they are two completely different churches. This church also features a cemetery, which dates back to the 14th century. It is a Roman Catholic church. Inside the church, there are two bells and altars from the 18th century. The church survived a lot of the bombings and destruction during World War II.
Równia is a village in southeastern Poland that is famous for its church, known as Cerkiew Opieki Matki Bożej w Równi. It was a Greek Orthodox church dedicated to the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos and has been a Catholic church since 1976. It was probably built at the beginning of the 18th century and has been renovated a few times, most recently in 1975. This distinctive and unusual church sits in loneliness on the edge of the village with fields behind it. It is not always open to the public, so be sure to check with the local tourist information in Równia if you need to get inside.