The Ways of St. James in Poland

The Way of The Cross in Olesnica Mala


In the XIIth century the area near Olesnica Mala wasn’t inhabited. Here aged oaks were rustling, wild animals were pasturing. The climate was more humid and warmer than today. The Gnojna River was flowing among meadows, it used to be wide and moody river which often overflowed. The Prince of Silesia, Boleslaw Wysoki (Boleslaw the Tall) decided to build here a ‘hunting’ castle from where he could go to hunt a big game. The animals he wanted to hunt were: aurochs, European bison, bears, deer, wolves and eventually beavers. Hunts took place with using dogs. It was really onerous to lead hunting dogs from Wroclaw and because of that the prince ordered his people in a new-organized village to look after his dogs. This village is named Psary till today.

The prince died in 1201. His successor was Henryk Brodaty (Henry the Bearded). He was the one of the most outstanding princes of Silesia. His wife was Jadwiga, the countess of Andrechs in Bavaria, subsequent saint who is worshipped now in Trzebnica. Around 1220, Henryk, probably thanks for his wife was talked to bring The Templars’ Order to Olesnica Mala. This order was very popular those days. It waged fights with Muslims and protected the pilgrims who were wandering to the places connected with life and death of Jesus Christ. These tasks were very expensive and that’s why in whole Europe were established their property called ‘komandorias’ which profits were given to this respectable purpose. The prince gave the Templars area which today concerns the area from Godzikowice up to Kolnica and two other villages: Brozec and Jaworow. Friars who came here from Sipplingenburg – the oldest ‘komandoria’ in Germany – quickly started to bring colonists from the area by the Rhine and establish new villages: Owczary, Chwalibozyce, Jutrzyna, Kowalow, Klosow, Baków, Bierzow, Mlodoszowice and the last one – Czestocice. They also changed the organization of production in Jaworow and Brozec.

The Templars worshipped Saint Maria a lot. Two of their villages had names connected with Her. Chwalibozyce used to be named Frauenheim – it means “our Lady’s grove”. This “our Lady” was of course the Mother of God. Jutrzyna used to be called Marienau what can be translated as Mariow or the Village Of Maria. The oldest church belonged to the Templars was situated in Jaworow. It was built probably in mid-XII century. In their villages the Templars created good economic conditions to build churches and of course they were being built. Two of them have been survived till our times. These churches are in Chwalibozyce and Kowalow. A great curiosity is the Templars’ cross which limbs have lily’s shape, situated at the roof of chancel of church in Chwalibozyce. Unfortunately, this cross is damaged. In minster in Olesnica Mala Temlpars collected relics of many saints. The relic of their benefactress, Saint Jadwiga, they worshipped the most

The enemy who destroyed the Templars was French king Pfilip IV Beautiful. He made weak and submissive Klemens V the Pope eliminate the order. He ordered to kill many friars and take all their money. Material goods the Templars had to give to other order of knights – Joannits. A few other villages were bought or donated to Joannits but during the Reformation they had to some of them give back to the prince of Brzeg area. In the XIX century they owned: Brozec, Jaworow, Klosow, Owczary, Czestocice, Kalinowa, Niemil, Brylow, Olesnica Mala, and missing today Wischau and Keszyce. The komandoria of Olesnica Mala was destroyed several times and grabbed by the army of enemy. However, with lots of power and means it was possible to rebuild the monastery. Joannits bring painters and other artists who contributed to the thing that this monastery showed the wealth of the order. Probably, one of these painters painted the picture of the Mother of God with Child on sheet metal. This painting was hung on old oak which was growing just by the road which crossed the so-called Middle Forest. There was also placed some kind of canopy above it, probably to protect it before quick destruction. This forest was oak forest placed near border line of fields of Olesnica Mala, Owczary and Czestocice. When summer storm had overturned this oak in 1876, the painting was replaced on another impressive tree, to the place where now the Way of the Cross is situated.

This very old picture was shot through with hunting gun. There are many versions which explain how this profanation took place. One of them tells that in forest, near the oak with the picture was hunting a hunter. He saw a beautiful black deer with gold cross between his antlers so he aimed at it and fired. Unluckily, he missed and the deer frightened by the bang escaped to the forest. Angry hunter didn’t know what to do. He saw a picture of the Virgin Mary on the tree and to get rid of anger he shot towards it. Other version, maybe more likely, tells that the picture was shot through by a young forester from Olesnica Mala who had some kind of disease. In these two versions the perpetrators died very quickly.

Years ago very often happened that religious people pledged a lot. One of the oaths was made by one of the female inhabitants of Olesnica Mala, Eleonora Kache. She solemnly promised herself that she would take the picture of the Virgin Mary which was profanated by gunshot to Prague where in one of the churches was canon Padrock – former inhabitant of Olesnica Mala – who went to the university and stayed there. This woman who was in her fifties wrapped the  painting with cloth, took it on her arms and went. During her way she was eating only bread and salt which she had brought with her. When she was thirsty she drank the water from brooks. She didn’t look for place where she could spend nights, she prefered sleeping in forests, under trees. She didn’t know the way, she hadn’t any map but she reached her target and she founded in Prague the church where was her familiar priest. Padrock was really happy when he saw an inhabitant of his family village with the picture he knew. He consecrated it solemnly and ordered Eleonora to go home. Her return road wasn’t long. She came back to Olesnica Mala with the belief that she made a huge thing

Placing this painting on former place was a great religious ceremony for whole neighbourhood. There were coming pilgrimages to the picture from all area. This place became very popular after the situation when really sick Krystyna recovered after hours of praying under this picture.

Eleonora died in 1897 as a 70-year old woman. She was really respected in a village. She didn’t have her own property or close family that’s why her gravestone was treated by the richest inhabitants of the village – the Lorka brothers. In the same year the priest rector of Jutrzyna parish who was from Jaworów decided to order the area and build shrines. The people who were hired by him cut trees and leveled the square in the middle of which built big shrine and surrounded it by metal fence. In its niche behind the glass was placed a miraculous painting. Around the central shrine there were placed 7 smaller ones with doubled niches for painting of The Way of The Cross and a cross with the image of Jesus Christ carved from sheet metal.

This place was still popular. Before the shrines’ founder’s death, the priest Seidel wrote his will and all his savings intended for building the chapel where the painting was supposed to place. The executor of the will was the priest Padrock. Unfortunately, Seidel’s wish wasn’t realized. The First World War broke out and it brought many disasters but also a huge inflation. The money was enough only for shrines’ repairs

The Second World War avoided happily the Way of the Cross and the shrine with miraculous painting of the Virgin Mary with Child. New inhabitants of the nearest area are less interested in this painting. In the sixties somebody stole it, later the paintings from the Way of the Cross also missed. With time two shrines overturned and only their ruins have remained till today

In 1999 an inhabitant decided to renew almost forgotten the Way of the Cross. Thanks to his efforts the area around shrines was cleaned, a new cross was built and consecrated but still is so much to do.

High Road


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