On 23 June 1983 at the Siwa Clearing in the Chochołowska Valley a helicopter landed carrying Pope John Paul II. This was the second pilgrimage by the Polish Pope to his homeland, which left many traces in the biggest valley in the Polish Tatra Mountains.
The first of these is an iron cross encased in stone which is placed on the left side of the road in the middle of the Siwa Clearing. It was founded to commemorate the site on which the Papal helicopter landed, which is commemorated by a special plate. On the wall of the PTTK (Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society) shelter bearing de facto the name of John Paul II we will also find plates commemorating the Papal visit and the meeting with Lech Wałęsa, the then leader of the Solidarity Movement. It is worth noting that the Pope and the future President talked outside the shelter, peppered with bugging devices installed everywhere by the police and the security service.
As the Pope went for a trip on this occasion, commemorative traces – a shrine and a plate – will also be found on the sites visited by him, i.e. the Jarząbcze Szałasiki (little huts) in the Jarząbcza Valley. The yellow Papal trail (around 55 minutes’ walk), which is the same as the red trail leading to the Trzydniowiański Wierch (Mount) leads from the hostel at the Chochołowska Clearing to the shrine founded by the inhabitants of the Ciche village. As mentioned by Cardinal Macharski, during the trip to the Jarząbcza originated the idea of the first part of the Roman Triptych, “The Stream” by John Paul II.
On the Papal trail at the Jarząbcza Clearing there is also an iron cross encased in granite. There are various accounts of its origin. According to one of them, it was founded by Father Wojciech Roszek of Poronin; according to another one – it was founded by the family of an Austrian army defector executed on the spot in the year 1872. Interestingly enough, in 1897 an Austrian gendarme shot and killed Józek Stękała-Pytlowiec there, who as a defector had hidden for three years in the Tatra Mountains and was considered to be the last of the Tatra mountain robbers.
The magic of the cinema
In many places the information may be encountered that the shrine of St. John the Baptist at the Chochołowska Clearing was built especially for the needs of the film “Janosik” (shot in the years 1972-1974). According to the official data revealed by the Parish of the Virgin Mary of the Scapular in Witów, which oversees the shrine, it was built in 1958 by highlanders from Witów and Chochołów on the plot of Witów parishioners, Jan Maryniarczyk and Jacek Szwab.
Among the historical data placed in a glass showcase in the building there is not even a mention of its role in the film, which does not exclude such a possibility. Janosik from the film married Maryna in the shrine – but only to some extent. Its exterior was used as the site of the wedding of the mountain robber but the scenes inside were shot… in the church in Dębin Podchalański. Now in the shrine of St. John the Baptist the vows are exchanged by couples from around Poland.
In the summer season (from the first Sunday in June till the last Sunday in October) on Sundays and religious feasts, Masses are said there (at 1 p.m.). Also the Christmas midnights Masses, the Mass on the second day of Christmas and on the first and second days of Easter, as well as on 3rd May, are celebrated there. A crowd gathers at the small shrine on the Fair of St. John the Baptist, too.
More on the history of the shrine of St. John
The hostel at the Chochołowska Valley