The Shrine of Divine Mercy
The convent of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, where Sr. Faustina Kowalska lived and died, was founded in Krakow in the second half of the 19th century. This humble nun was given the grand grace of closeness with Jesus Christ. Her mystical visions were described in her Diary, which still remains the most frequently translated Polish book. The future saint experienced her postulant and novitiate in the Łagiewniki convent and took her first and perpetual vows there. From 1936 until her death she stayed in Łagiewniki permanently, working in the garden and at the convent gate. She died on October 5, 1938 and was buried in the tomb at the convent cemetery. The mystic was officially proclaimed blessed in 1993 and she was canonized in 2000. In the same year, the Feast of Mercy was also announced. Both of these acts were performed by Pope John Paul II, who prayed in the convent chapel as a young man on his way to work in the nearby Solvay chemical plant.
The convent chapel dedicated to Saint Joseph in 1891 is the centre of the cult of Divine Mercy. It was here that in 1943 the Krakow confessor of Sister Faustina consecrated the first image of Merciful Jesus donated to the chapel as a votive offering by painter Adolf Hyła, thus initiating solemn services in veneration of the Divine Mercy. On the first Sunday after Easter 1944, the second image of Merciful Jesus was consecrated. This image soon became famous for its graces as evidenced by numerous votive offerings put in showcases around the chapel. Its copies and reproductions were spread all around the world and the image brought the fulfilment of Jesus’ words uttered to Sister Faustina: “I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world.”Since the beatification of Sister Faustina (1993), her relics have rested in a marble coffin in a side altar under the miraculous image “Jesus, I Trust in You.” In the balustrade under the altar there is a kneeler facing St. Faustina's relics, which is supposed to be a site of veneration of the Saint by pilgrims.
The newer part of the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy consists of buildings constructed in the recent years. Witold Cęckiewicz, an architect from Krakow, authored the main design. The Basilica was built in the years 1999-2002. It is a two-storey ellipsoidal structure resembling a vessel. It is capable of accommodating five thousand people. The idea of the temple’s design refers to rays emitted from the heart of Merciful Jesus whose image is located in the middle of the presbytery. Beneath the image there is a golden tabernacle in the shape of the globe and a sculpture of a shrub torn by wind. The Basilica was consecrated by Pope John Paul II on 17 August 2002 during his last pilgrimage to Poland. At that time, the Holy Father also entrusted the world to Divine Mercy. Since 6 March 2003 the church has had the title of basilica minor. During the pilgrimage of Pope Benedict XVI to Poland in 2006, the monument of John Paul II was unveiled on the viewing tower, which measures 76 metres and is the tallest viewing point in Krakow. In the lower part of the basilica, there is a central chapel devoted to Sister Faustina, and four side chapels. Next to the upper part of the basilica there is the Chapel of Perpetual Adoration of the Holy Sacrament.