Little Chapels in Poland

Statue of Virgin Mary with baby Jesus at dangerous corner

Driving through the Polish countryside, you can't fail to notice the numerous statues of the Virgin Mary or Catholic saints placed close to the road. Many of them are decorated with streamers of ribbons and usually there are fresh flowers left there. I learned from my tour guide, on my trip to Poland in October 1998, that they are called "little chapels" and the custom of putting statues for protection along the road dates back to the pagan days before Poland was converted to Catholicism about 1,000 years ago.

Statue of Virgin Mary in yard of home near intersection

The little chapels are located at a crossroads or any place that might be dangerous on the highway. In Poland, that means almost anywhere on the road since the highways are all two lanes with opposing traffic. When one driver from each opposing lane of traffic decides to attempt to pass, both cars are driving down the center of the road, ready for a head-on collision. Adding to the danger on Polish roads are the many horse-drawn wagons carrying loads of coal, traveling in the same lanes as the cars and trucks. Then there are the pedestrians, all dressed up, who seem to be walking to work along the highway. It was only by the grace of God, and the protection of the Virgin Mary along way, that we made it safely from Krakow to Auschwitz and back on my 1998 trip.

Very old statue on road guards over a bus stop

Near the town of Auschwitz, on the road to Krakow, there is a beautiful Baroque Catholic Church which I stopped to photograph. This church dates back to the 17th century and is perfectly preserved. The Baroque style of architecture was introduced by the Italians living in Poland and is very prevalent. Most of the Polish churches and monuments seem to be the work of Italian architects and artists.

17th century Baroque Catholic church near Auschwitz


Town Square



Polish Houses