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between Rakowicka and 29 Listopada streets
Until the end of the 18th century, each parish church used its own, small cemetery. Burials were also made next to hospitals and beyond the city walls. With the coming of the enlightenment, together with the development of medical science, the awareness of the threats posed by the siting of cemeteries within dense development in cities grew. Following this, at the Four-Year Sejm (1788-1792) the police sanitary commission ordered city authorities to establish municipal cemeteries in more distant areas in collaboration with the clergy.
Due to historical events, including the Partitioning of Poland and the Kościuszko Uprising, the implementation of this idea was postponed, and the decision had to be revived by the Austrian government. In 1801, the city purchased land lying in the village of Prądnik Czerwony, which earlier was the property of the Order of Discalced Carmelites. As this area, covering initially approximately 5.5 ha (13.5 acres) was situated by the road leading to the village of Rakowice, the cemetery came to be known as Rakowicki. It replaced all the church cemeteries had previously operated in the city, with the last to be closed being the one by St Mary’s. After two years of preparation, the first funeral in Rakowice took place in January 1803, when 18-year-old Apolonia Bursikowa found her last resting place here. Today, the first grave is commemorated only by a plaque in the wall of the cemetery by the main entrance.
A brick chapel was built in 1862 in what at the time was the central point of the cemetery. It was the founded by the banker Ludwik Helcel and his wife Anna, who were known for their philanthropic activity, to replace an earlier wooden chapel. It was, for example, from the legacy left by Anna in her will that the construction of the Home for the Poor of the Helcel Foundation was financed in 1890: a facility that operates as a care centre to this day.
In the 19th century the cemetery was expanded three more times, and was finally surrounded by a wall made from the material coming from the demolition of a number of Kraków churches and the so-called Rich Stalls that used to stand by the Cloth Hall in the Main Square. Finally, the oldest part of the cemetery, received a characteristic gate layout: the symbol of passage into the eternal world. In 1920, the necropolis embraced also the military cemetery in Prandoty Street. In 1933–1934, after encompassing land in Modrzewiowa Street reaching up to Prandoty, the cemetery was enlarged for the last time. Today, it covers an area exceeding 42 hectares (104 acres).
The Rakowicki Cemetery is the burial place of many people famous in Kraków and all over Poland: artists, politicians, soldiers, and civic activists. Many of them were laid to rest in magnificent tombs – works of famous architects, sculptors, and artistic stonemason workshops.
When visiting the Rakowicki Cemetery it is worthwhile turning your steps into the alley leading left from the main entrance, to see the oldest epitaphs from 1803-1830 and the funerary monuments from the first half of the 19th century. Somewhat closer to the chapel, in the section marked Cd, you will find the monument known as the Angel of Vengeance, a composition by Konstanty Laszczka, installed on the graves of the victims of the Austrian bombardment of Kraków on 26th April 1848. Walking further along the main alleyway we reach the grave of Jan Matejko, a famous painter and representative of historicism, whose paintings portrayed the most significant events in the history of Poland. The main alley leads us further to the grave of the actress very well known on both sides of the Atlantic: on this side as Helena Modrzejewska, on the other – as Helena Modjeska. An extraordinary grave effigy referring to the Dead Class is what Tadeusz Kantor, painter, set designer, director, and the man behind the Cricot 2 Theatre, designed for his own grave (in section LXXII). Worth a visit also is the section LXIX with the Alley of the Distinguished, known also as the pantheon of Polish contemporary culture. Here lie the graves of Piotr Skrzynecki, the founder of the Piwnica pod Baranami cabaret, and the singer and poet Marek Grechuta.
A frequent reason for visiting Rakowice Cemetery is the grave of Karol, Emilia, and Edmund Wojtyła: parents and brother of Pope John Paul II, situated in the section of the cemetery in Prandoty Street.
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