History of Niepokalanów

History » History of Niepokalanów

Prince Jan Drucki-Lubecki, charmed by the figure of Fr. Maximilian and fascinated by his plans of winning the world for the Immaculate, offered him a convenient ground for building a new monastery but he gave a condition as well: 24 Holy Masses annually in the chapel of the new monastery until the end of time and 2 Holy Masses annually in the Duke's palace chapel for the living and the dead members of the Prince's family. Those conditions had to be accepted by the provincial board. Before it happened Fr. Maximilian ordered to place a statue of Our Lady the Immaculate on the chosen ground so that She could take that place into Her possession. Meanwhile the provincial board did not accept the conditions assuming that it was too risky to burden the future generations with such a duty. Fr. Maximilian informed the duke about the board's decision himself:

- What will happen with the statue, which the fathers have put on my ground? - Prince Jan asked.

- Your offering has been given to the Immaculate into Her possession so you must decide yourself - Fr. Kolbe said quietly and bowed his head sadly. After a tense moment the Prince said peacefully:

- Well then. I offer the ground without any duties on the side of the monastery.

Fr. Maximilian started the building the monastery immediately in a simple and cheap way.

The consecration of the monastery took place on the 7th of December 1927. It was given the name "Niepokalanow".

The first 14-year-long period of the monastery's existence and activity was connected closely to the life of the Founder as when He was at Missions in Japan he kept close contact with the Polish branch visiting it and being very much interested in its development.

The monastery, with its 20 monks at the beginning reached 772 inhabitants including the seminary students in 1939. The printing machines park increased so that just before the World War II there were 3 rotational machines, 7 intertypes and linotypes, a few platen presses. The publishing house used about 1600 tonnes of paper annually for about 60 million copies of papers.

In the second year of the war the publishing house managed to issue one edition of "Rycerz Niepokalanej" ("The Knight of the Immaculate"), which aroused the hope of surviving the bondage.

After the death of the Founder the con-friars tried to keep his work with all their power. Although almost 50 friars died but the others kept praying and worked for the good of the Church and the homeland. Help for prisoners, the poor and refugees was organised, a course of secret teaching was held, a PCK (Polish Red Cross) circle functioned.

In July 1945 "The Knight of the mmaculate" started again and its sale soon reached 700 000 copies; a secondary college originated and the small seminary opened again.

In the next years (1948-1954) a church was erected, partially on the foundations prepared in 1939 already, to the design (both the outside body and the interior design) of architect Zygmunt Gawlik.

For some time the amateur theatre of the Niepokalanow Secondary College performed plays and friars performed Golgotha, that is the Christ's Passion Mystery Play, for a few years during Lent.

Although the authorities of the People's Republic of Poland confiscated the Niepokalanow printing house in 1949, the publishing house survived three more years.

In the following year, i.e. 1950, Primate Priest Stefan Wyszynski created a parish at the monastery church which gathers 8000 faithful now.

The first half of the 50s was particularly difficult in the life of the monastery. Despite that fact its inhabitants tried to serve those who came to visit the church devoted to the BVM the Immaculate, the Omni-mediatress of All Glories. The consecration of the new house of God was performed on the 3rd of October 1954 by Bishop Waclaw Majewski who replaced the imprisoned Primate Priest. Four bells: the Knight of the Immaculate, Maximilian, Francis and Anthony had been blessed before. They were placed in the church tower and their tones are harmonised into a chord.

Professional con-friars worked eagerly at decorating the interior of the church; the most meritorious were carpenters, stonemasons, sculptors; blacksmiths made the tabernacle, chalices, the monstrance and made the metalwork of the altar ret-able. Almost all sculptures in the church were by Friar Maurycy Kowalewski, an artist from Niepokalanow, with the help of other con-friars.

At the same time a movable nativity was an attraction for visitors. Its success brought the idea of working out the panorama of the Church history in Polish millennium (in 1966). Soon after the idea started to be realised. Religious songs, interesting texts and suitable historical figures beginning with Piast and finishing with St. Maximilian and John Paul II gave an incredible effect creating a very attractive whole. At the time when religious word was dimmed outside churches, the Millennium Panorama met social request. It showed what the Church gave Poland and what Poland gave the Church. It was created thanks to the common effort of friars and fathers under the supervision of the first executor Friar Felicissimus Sztyk. About 140 figures move in front of the spectators' eyes on the background of light-acoustic effects marching in front of the figure of Our Lady of Częstochowa. It is estimated that the number of visitors so far has reached a few million people. Apart from the Polish version the text was recorded in (created by Friar Felicissimus a few foreign languages: Italian, French, German, and English.

Numerous sanctuaries in Poland and in the world have their Calvaries while the sanctuary in Niepokalanow offers the pilgrims watching the Passion of Christ Mystery Play which is a performance of movable scenes and figures staged in a theatre room which has its place under the left wing of the field altar behind the basilica. The Mystery Play was first staged on Palm Sunday 1963. Since then it has attracted pilgrims and beside the Millennium Panorama it has been a permanent point of the visiting programme in the sanctuary. The Niepokalanow Mystery Play directs a message for the spectators which has a form of a question: "Who is Jesus Christ for me?". The performance helps to answer that question. The statues, decorations, moving and lighting mechanisms were made by friars: Friar Felicissimus Sztyk and Friar Wlodzimierz Blaszczyk. The statues speak with voices of famous Polish actors. The Mystery Play was filmed and it is available on video cassettes.
Niepokalanow has slowly become a famous sanctuary not only in Poland but abroad as well. There are religious services and religious meetings held there. The Martyr of Auschwitz attracts human hearts rousing the hope of the distressed and the faith of the doubtful.

The monastery experienced the beatification and canonisation of its Founder especially ceremoniously. Although a comparatively small number of friars went to Rome to take part in those celebrations but the TV broadcast and press reports let them take part in that remarkable event indirectly when our Fellow-citizen reached the acknowledgement of the Church.

However, from the time when Cardinal Aleksander Kakowski, the Archbishop of Warsaw, visited the monastery in 1929, there came a lot of Polish and foreign hierarchs, but since the time of the beatification and the canonisation of Fr. Maximilian numerous cardinals, bishops and even lay high rank officials pilgrimage to Niepokalanow sanctuary to pray in the new church and in the cell of the Saint.

The monastery visitors' book holds names which are famous in the Catholic world.

A very special guest was Holy Father John Paul II. One year after the canonisation of St. Maximilian, i.e. on the 18th of June 1983, the Noble Pilgrim visited Niepokalanow. He served a Holy Mass for a congregation of about 300 000 faithful at the altar that had been specially built for that occasion under the open sky and preached a sermon on the victory of good over evil.

After 29 years of a break, in October 1981 "The Knight of the Immaculate" was issued again. Niepokalanow regained its connection with lots of friends.

The Niepokalanow Sanctuary, the youngest among other is devoted to the BVM the Immaculate the Omni-mediatress of All Glories. It does not suit the traditional frames of the name a "sanctuary" as there are no miraculous images or some famous relic. The force attracting to this place is the idea and the spirit of the Founder, the example of his great devotion for the BVM the Immaculate, his modern way of realising the Gospel in life. St. Maximilian himself receives great adoration there as well, which is proved by the faithful praying in his chapel and numerous votive offerings.

Just like our whole country Niepokalanow has changed externally as well: new buildings have appeared, erected of brick and concrete using new technologies. Only a few old barracks have survived, especially the chapel, where St. Maximilian served the Holy Masses. The old administration house where there is the Saint's cell together with the "square" at the pond and the radio building have been preserved in the original state from the times of St. Maximilian. The other buildings were totally renovated so that they could be used by the publishing house.

Since the beginning of its existence Niepokalanow has awoken interest of the representatives of the Church, the faithful and journalists. There have been people among them who have spoken about the monastery and its achievements with hatred but great numbers of pilgrims and tourists are enthusiastic about what they have seen and experienced in Niepokalanow.