The exhibition “Pax et Bonum. Franciscan Orders in Poland” has been organised with a special thought about the participants of the World Youth Days, who can visit it free-of-charge.
The coat of arms that the Franciscans have been using for centuries presents the hand of Christ and the hand of St. Francis which are holding a cross together. The coat of arms is provided with a caption in Latin, Pax et Bonum, i.e. Peace and Good. The Latin motto of Franciscan Orders is a frequent adage placed on Franciscan churches, college buildings and monastic houses.
Peace and Good. A very simple idea that promotes joy and spiritual cheerfulness. It is an authentic evangelical message. A warm handshake of St. Francis. A greeting rich in joy and poetry.
To understand the idea of the Franciscan Order, its history and popularity which has continued unabated since the 13th century until the modern times, the person of its founder is of key importance. Giovanni Bernardone, better known as St. Francis of Assisi, was the son of a rich Italian merchant and a Frenchwoman, thence his nickname Francesco (i.e. Frenchman). Young Francis led a carefree life, filled with joy and delight. As a soldier, he took part in wars between Italian cities. However, grave experiences led to his thorough spiritual transformation. He decided to become the follower of Christ. In 1206, he donated all his property to the poor and from that moment, he started to live from the work of his hands and alms. He led the life of a simple preacher who summoned people to follow the Evangelical way of life and to renounce all earthly possessions. St. Francis’ social radicalism, as well as his charisma and joy of life immediately won him a number of pupils and followers. His teachings were met with common enthusiasm due to the fact that the contemporary Italy, France, and also Germany (in a lesser degree) were places where similar ideas were taught for decades. What distinguished St. Francis from other representatives of ascetic monastic movements was the fact that these movements, sooner or later, became conflicted with the Catholic Church, whereas St. Francis managed to win its support, in spite of a certain dose of hesitation. St. Francis set up a mendicant order and started to implement Christ’s motto: to respond with kindness and sensitivity to human injustice and the beauty of the world.
Already in 1209, St. Francis and his followers procured the oral approval of Pope Innocent III for the completely new principles of common life that they adopted. The rule of St. Francis was finally approved in 1223 by Pope Honorius III. The Franciscans started a new type of monastic community: the mendicant order. The name derives from the fact that initially, the main source of sustenance for the Franciscans were alms.
In the course of time, the first Franciscan Order was divided into three branches: the Friars Minor Conventual (O.F.M. Conv.), the Friars Minor (O.F.M.), in Poland known as the Bernardines or Reformed Franciscans, and the Friars Minor Capuchin (O.F.M. Cap.). Each of these branches relies on the original rule approved over 800 years ago.
In 1212, St. Clare of Assisi applied to St. Francis with a request for permission to live together with a few other women in observance of his spiritual rule. This was the beginning of the Second Franciscan Order (Poor Clares), where the emphasis was put on contemplative prayer in enclosed nunneries.
Groups of lay people who lived in marriages or as single people and who wanted to follow the path of St. Francis accompanied the Franciscans. In 1221, St. Francis established the Third Franciscan Order. Later, some of the communities from this Order started communal life in monasteries as the Third Regular Order (Bernardine Nuns, Albertine Brothers). The Secular Franciscan Order still exists today.
The exhibition was divided into two parts. The first one shows the portraits and the scenes from the life of St. Francis, along with images of his co-workers and followers (St. Clara, St. Anthony of Padua) and subsequently portraits of selected saints worshipped in individual Franciscan branches: St. Bernardine of Siena, St. John of Capistrano, St. Joseph of Leonessa, St. Joseph of Cupertino, St. Pacific of St. Severino. There are also persons important in the history of the Order related to Poland who lived in the Middle Ages (St. Kinga, St. Salomea, Jakub Strepa) and in the modern times (Brother Albert Chmielowski, Alojzy Kosiba, Maksymilian M. Kolbe, Aniela Salawa and the blessed Martyrs from Peru). The second part of the exhibition presented in the Gothic Room features portraits of monks and nuns painted between the 17th century and the modern times.
The authors include numerous anonymous or forgotten painters, but it is also possible to find the names of well known artists: Grzegorz Czarnic, Michał Stachowicz, Adam Chmielowski, Władysław Rossowski, Ferdynand Olesiński, Tadeusz Popiel and Józef Mehoffer.
The exhibition also presents fabrics, liturgical vestments and vessels, as well as documents related to the saltworks grants for the Franciscan orders. The saltworks grants are one of the reasons due to which the Cracow Saltworks Museum Wieliczka has been involved in church issues. Starting from the middle of the 13th century, the Polish rulers assigned salt or a part of income from the Cracow Saltworks for the Orders of St. Clare in Cracow, Stary Sącz and Wrocław. A document from 1633 presented at the exhibition shows numerous privileges granted to friars and nuns; the document was issued by King Vladislaus IV and provided the Order of St. Agnes at Stradom (Bernardine Nuns) with PLN 40.00 annually from the Cracow Saltworks along with four salt blocks from Wieliczka.
The second important reason for presenting the Franciscan Order in Wieliczka is its continuous presence in the city since the end of the 16th century. According to tradition, Bernardines from Cracow were working in the Wieliczka parish of St. Clemens already in 1592. They performed pastoral work for the employees of the Wieliczka Saltworks who worked underground, including trips to the mine to the gravely injured miners.
At the end of the 16th century and during the first quarter of the 17th century, Wieliczka was experiencing great troubles: collapsing houses caused by absence of protection in the mine, earthquakes, fires and epidemics, a decrease in the city’s income, salt theft and growing religious tension between the Catholics and the Arians and later the Calvinists who were gaining influence in the city. These issues resulted in the fact that the city councillors, together with the mayor, decided to summon the new Polish community of Friars Minor, known as Reformed Franciscans, for help. This idea was supported by the management of the salt mine, Cracow’s bishops and King Sigismund III Vasa. The monks arrived in 1623 and erected a wooden chapel and a small monastic house on an area donated by the burghers. In 1624, construction of a brick church was started. The new church was financed by Seraf Sebastian Koszucki, shaft foreman. In 1718, the church and the surrounding buildings were destroyed by fire. The reconstruction, completed in 1721, was supported by King Augustus II who assigned the saltworks income to this purpose, via the contemporary saltworks manager, Jerzy Sebastian Steinhauser.
Every quarter, the monastery received 120 Polish złoty from the Saltworks; in 1699, this sum was replaced by 40 barrels of salt per year. In 1773, the Reformed Friars from Wieliczka received a salt allotment of 12 pounds of salt per monastery inhabitant annually plus additionally 15 pounds annually for the poor whom the monastery fed. The allotment functioned until the beginning of the 1930’s. In 1925, the Ministry of the Treasury confirmed the right of the monastery to the allotment in the amount of 320 kg of salt per year.
Starting from 1823, the monastery received an annual levy “for priests working for the salvation of souls of Wieliczka miners” – 9 bushels of rye. The “rye alms” were soon replaced by a cash equivalent, and continued to be paid until the mid 1930’s.
The signs of Friars Minor can also be found under the ground. The salt Chapel of St. Anthony of 1698 (1st level of the mine) features images of saints whose worship was promoted by the Reformed Franciscans: St. Anthony of Padua, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, Apostles Peter and Paul, St. Peter of Alcantara and St. Casimir. What is more, in front of the main altar, two figures of kneeling monks carved in salt have been placed. This iconographic programme was probably influenced by the Reformed Franciscans from Wieliczka, who later started to perform pastoral duties in this underground chapel.
The “PAX ET BONUM. Franciscan Orders in Poland” exhibition is accompanied by a presentation of photographs of Cracow photographer Michał Grychowski, which show the everyday life and duties of modern monks and nuns from various Franciscan orders. The photographs are placed in various places, outside of the complex of the Saltworks Castle.
The exhibits presented at the display derive from the following collections:
Monastery of Conventual Franciscans in Cracow
Franciscan Monastery in Cracow
Franciscan Monastery in Wieliczka
Bernardine Monastery in Cracow
Monastery of Friars Minor Capuchin in Cracow
Convent of St. Clares in Stary Sącz
Convent of St. Clares in Cracow
Convent of Bernardine Nuns in Cracow
Monastery of Albertine Brothers in Cracow
Cracow Saltworks Museum Wieliczka and Ms. Lidia Olesińska