The Sanctuary of St. John Paul II

The brand-new Sanctuary of St. John Paul II — built on the outskirts of Kraków, where he served as archbishop — is an impressive place to visit.

When you travel around Europe, you rarely see new churches. And the old churches you see often feel more dead than alive…more for tourists than for worshippers. But in Poland, churches are alive with the faithful.

In small Polish towns, there’s a strong tradition of building huge, architecturally daring churches as a sign of both civic pride and deep respect for their Catholic faith. Particularly during communism (when atheism was the official state religion), building a bold new church was a statement. The architecture of these modern houses of worship sometimes feels more slapdash and on the cheap than the great churches of an earlier age (which were often built over centuries). But the spirit that fills them is powerful.

If you can’t see the video below, watch it on YouTube.