Beauty Hidden in Plain Sight
Nestled among forests, sprawling hills, and farming villages that epitomize the word quaint is an extensive network of churches known as the Wooden Architecture Trail. Located in Southern Małopolska in Poland, these churches, some of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, are served daily by cycling priests.
The majority of these churches date back to the 15th and 16th centuries, quite an amazing feat for a wooden structure. Many have interesting interiors as well, though it seems as though most are closed outside of service for their preservation.
Six churches are designated as World Heritage Sites:
- St. Michael the Archangel Church in Dębno
- St. Leonard Church in Lipnica Dolna
- Church of St. Phillip and St. Jacob in Sękowa
- Church of the Assumption of Holy Mary and St. Michael the Archangel in Haczów
- Church of All Saints in Blizne
- St. Michael the Archangel Church in Binarowa
However, you would do yourself a disservice to only seek out these six churches. There are over 200 other structures not designated as Sites, most of which are just as interesting and pleasing to look at as those which are.
Incidentally, I don’t recommend walking from site to site, as there’s not much to see in between. The villages themselves, being practical farming towns, aren’t especially pretty. And the distances between churches range from 2 to 10km.
Those traveling priests must have legs of steel; some cycle in between multiple churches to perform services at each one, usually an hour apart. Can you imagine biking to 3 or 4 churches each morning…and then back if you’re not lucky enough to have a cyclical route?
So grab yourself a car and a map. Pick a sunny afternoon to cruise around and enjoy the churches and nature. I don’t recommend doing a group tour as then some of the magic of stumbling upon these structures is lost.
These churches dot the landscape to the point where you can pretty much count on finding one in every village. And when a village amounts to as little as five houses, that means there’s a lot of exploring to do.