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The sculpture originates from a wayside shrine and represents St. Onuphrius the hermit.
The massively built saint is kneeling with his hands folded at the chest in prayer. He is naked, with his body covered only with his long hair and a beard with a surface underlined with carved undulating lines. He has a broad face, hair with a parting across the middle of the head, a straight long nose, opened eyes and lips surrounded by facial hair.

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The sculpture originates from a wayside shrine and represents St. Onuphrius the hermit.
The massively built saint is kneeling with his hands folded at the chest in prayer. He is naked, with his body covered only with his long hair and a beard with a surface underlined with carved undulating lines. He has a broad face, hair with a parting across the middle of the head, a straight long nose, opened eyes and lips surrounded by facial hair.
Legend has it that Onuphrius spent most of his life in a desert, living in a cave, studying the Holy Scripture, praying and living an ascetic way of life. In folk tradition, Onuphrius is a patron saint of hackney cab drivers, textile workers and pilgrims. Shrines representing St. Onuphrius, like this one, were built nearby secluded forest roads.

Elaborated by the Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków, © all rights reserved

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Wayside crosses and chapels

Wayside wooden crosses were usually several metres high. With time, the wood decayed and had to be dug in again; this was usually done after All Souls’ Day. This action was repeated until the cross became quite small. Chapels and crosses, which were an expression of...

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Nowica, wayside chapel, 1918,
source:
 National Digital Archives

Wayside wooden crosses were usually several metres high. With time, the wood decayed and had to be dug in again; this was usually done after All Souls’ Day. This action was repeated until the cross became quite small.
Chapels and crosses, which were an expression of folk religiosity, were erected at crossroads, intersections, and also at the ends of villages or small towns, on the border between the inhabited space and the space of nature. It was believed that the presence of a holy sign would not only ensure the safety of the inhabitants, but also effectively ward off evil spirits and demons.
It was also common to put up cholera crosses that commemorated epidemics of this disease.
The founders of chapels maintained the shrine, as well as its surroundings. They planted trees nearby, mainly lime trees and chestnuts which bloom, smell and attract insects in the spring. Sometimes, it happens that by determining the age of a tree, one can also determine the date when the chapel was erected.

See in our collection:
Chapel entitled “Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross”
Wayside shrine “Pensive Christ”
Shrine with a scene of the Scourging of Christ


Currently, wayside chapels can be found not only in rural areas, but also in the centres of big cities. They are often a sign of the past of the places in which they stand and a testimony to how developing cities took over rural spaces, of how borders are being pushed back, and what changes are taking place in the landscape.

Elaborated by Anna Berestecka (Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums), 
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland.

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Folk shrines: churches, boxes and canopies

Shrines are a material expression of popular piety, so characteristic of the Polish landscape. Among their various forms, we can find both churches and shapes and finally different types of canopies.

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Shrines are a material expression of popular piety, so characteristic of the Polish landscape. Among their various forms, we can find both churches and shapes and finally different types of canopies.
The shrines were located in the centre of the village, on its borders, in fields, in the forest, along roads leading to a settlement, and especially at their intersections, in places of tragic accidents, battles, and extraordinary events. In the nineteenth century, the custom of hanging them on the walls of houses and setting them up in front of farmsteads became widespread. In Małopolska, including Podhale, shrines used to be hung from almost every cottage.
Shrines intended for hanging often had original forms, referring to the local sacral architecture. They served as a cover for the statues of the saints placed inside them, which were believed to guarantee safety and prosperity.
In Podhale, they were mostly depictions of Christ: Pensive, Crucified, Falling under the cross, The Holy Trinity, the Mother of God with the Infant Jesus, Pieta as well as the figures of saints, especially John of Nepomuk and Florian. The authors of the sculptures were local carpenters and woodcarvers who knew well various types of wood and the principles of its processing, and crafted them for the needs of the village community or a family circle. They found patterns in rural churches; they also obtained them from roadside figures or pictures brought from pilgrimage sites.
The theme of the sculptures depicting the Passion of the Lord, which were popular in Podhale, was influenced by the pilgrimage centre in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, where, in 1602, Michał Zebrzydowski funded the first Polish Calvary. Since the seventeenth century, people from Podhale, Silesia, Slovakia, and Hungary made pilgrimages to that sanctuary. Religious experiences related to the participation in the mystery of the Christ’s Passion on Good Friday, the opportunity to observe images of saints, and devotional pictures brought from the place of worship were often a source of inspiration for the folk artists from Podhale.

Read more about the shrines erected among lilacs and lime trees, roadside crosses and shrines, and about the iconography of the Pensive Christ: what troubles the Christ from the shrine.

Elaborated by Anna Kozak (The Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane), © all rights reserved

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Sculpture “St. Onuphrius”

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Audio

Rzeźba „Święty Onufry” odc. A Tells: Piotr Krasny
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Rzeźba „Święty Onufry” [audiodeskrypcja] Tells: Fundacja na Rzecz Rozwoju Audiodeskrypcji KATARYNKA
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Rzeźba „Święty Onufry” odc. B Tells: Piotr Krasny
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