Post-Industrial Revolution: John Paul/Jan Paweł/Karol Jozef Wojtyla

The last pope, John Paul II (or Jan Paweł) was born in Poland. John isn't his original name though, he was actually called Karol Jozef Wojtyla.

He is everywhere - his face is all over the churches and on every object in all the little gift shops (pens, candles, badly photoshopped pictures of Jan with dove/dolphin/eagle)

He is all over this gate to the Gdańsk shipyards. Actually, this isn't just any gate, it is the famous Gate Two, which was where the civilian population came to support the striking shipworkers in the industrial actions of the 1980s. Interesting to note a Black Madonna image on the left of the gate as well - an unexplained phenomenon in Christian iconography.

I think this particular instance of Jan Paweł's image is to do with his recent beatification by the Catholic church.

Solidarność was/is a union strongly based in the Catholic faith. Jan Paweł visited Poland a few times in the 80s and spoke in veiled language, supporting the union's actions.

A few days ago I asked Roma whether part of Solidarnoś's campaign in the 80s was for freedom of religion, and she said no, it was for freedom of Catholicism.


Coming from a comparatively secular country like the UK, it is surprising how deeply religion permeates Poland. Everyone gets confirmed whether they are Catholic or not. Most kids just do it so that they fit in at school.

In Puck we visited a church and it was full of Byzantine style iconography - painted sculptures and all seeing eyes. I wasn't able to get any photos because I felt bad snapping away while people were praying inside (that was another thing - I've never visited a church where people were actually praying as I walked in).

Here are some shots from the entrance hall.

They've really gone in for the man of sorrows thing here, with JC all sad and bleeding, and yet his pose isn't quite right. Maybe he has a headache, or he has forgotten his keys.