Poland: Holy Mountain of Grabarka
Hello from Poland! After visiting many Orthodox churches in the world all year this year, I had the privilege to visit some of them in Poland. Polish Orthodox Church is one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Churches. The church was established in 1924, to accommodate Orthodox Christians of Polish, Belarusian and Ukrainian descent in the eastern part of the country, when Poland regained its independence after the First World War. (Wikipedia)
Today, I would like to invite you to visit the holiest place for Orthodox Christians in Poland – the Holy Mountain of Grabarka.
The Mountain of Grabarka is the biggest Orthodox sanctuary in Poland and a holy place for Orthodox followers. It is compared in significance to catholic Czestochowa. Situated in the forest, away from cities and main roads, it attracts thousands of worshipers and pilgrims every year.
The Holy Mountain of Grabarka is also known as the Mountain of Crosses. On top of the hill, there is an Orthodox church surrounded by thousands of votive crosses. They come in different forms and sizes, from small ones made of sticks, through bigger wooden crosses to few concrete ones. Some of them are already rotten, some brand new, often with epitaphs engraved in Cyrillic alphabet. All of them, however, were brought for personal intention by diseased, distressed and those seeking hope.
Worship in this place and tradition of bringing crosses was born in the 18th century. The famous miracle was recorded in 1710 during the cholera epidemics. Decimated by disease, inhabitants of Podlasie region fled their towns and villages for fear of their lives. At that time an old man experienced a revelation that the only way for salvation was to go to the Mountain of Grabarka with a cross. He went there with some other villagers, brought a cross, bathed his face and drank water from the spring at the foot of the hill and prayed. A miracle happened: all those who followed him were cured and saved. To express their gratitude, the people built a wooden chapel on the top of the hill. It was later extended into the Transfiguration Orthodox Church. Pilgrims have been bringing votive crosses to the hill ever since.
The crosses on this picture have been brought by the pilgrims who attended World Youth Day in Krakow:
At the foot of the Mountain there is a miraculous spring; those who washed themselves with its water and drank it survived the cholera epidemic in 1710.
The Holy Mountain of Grabarka is home of the only female Orthodox convent in Poland. Founded after the Second World War, the Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy is now inhabited by a few nuns.