• New Polish Pantheon in Kraków
Sunday, 30 September 2012 1 Comment
Last week it was announced that a new Polish Pantheon would be established in Kraków. The existing Krypta/ Panteon Zasłużonych (Crypt/Pantheon of the Distinguished), under St Stanisław’s Church on Skałka, has no more room.
The existing Crypt was first brought into use in 1880, and first honoured Jan Długosz, an early Renaissance historian and diplomat. Over the past 130 years, the Crypt of the Distinguished has become the final resting place of just twelve more men (no women), most of whom were writers and many of whom had Kraków connections.
1880 Jan Długosz
1881 Wincenty Pol
1881 Lucjan Siemieński
1887 Józef Ignacy Kraszewski
1893 Teofil Lenartowicz
1897 Adam Asnyk
1902 Henryk Siemiradzki
1907 Stanisław Wyspiański
1929 Jacek Malczewski
1937 Karol Szymanowski
1954 Ludwik Solski
1955 Tadeusz Banachiewicz
2004 Czesław Miłosz
Wyspiański was also a renowned artist, and his interment and that of the painter Siemiradzki seem to have opened the way for other non-literary figures to be included: Malczewski (painter), Szymanowski (composer), Solski (actor and theatre director) and Banachiewicz (mathematician and astronomer).
As the above list indicates, the Crypt was used very intermittently, so can hardly be said to be representative of the great and the good from the worlds of the arts and sciences over the last 130 years. I wonder whom the authorities have got in mind for the new Pantheon, which will be under the Church of SS Peter and Paul, close to Kraków’s city centre? They could, I imagine, disinter some who are already dead, such as the composers Witold Lutosławski (Warsaw) or Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (Katowice), but somehow I think that is unlikely. When Krzysztof Penderecki’s time comes, he might be a likely candidate, not least because he is Kraków born and bred. Among literary figures, Wisława Szymborska – who died earlier this year and, like Miłosz, was a Nobel laureate – might be considered. It remains to be seen how the new Pantheon will mark the resting places of those who have been cremated.
The Poles are attached to their great figures and believe in good memorials. Being given a magnificent tomb in such a crypt, however, is no guarantee of long-lasting recognition or significance, especially outside Poland, as the list of those in the existing Crypt makes evident.
Sometimes you can find just as much dignity and remembrance in a graveyard open to the air. The Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw is a case in point. It is the resting place of huge numbers of distinguished people from all walks of life, from times of both peace and war. There is a particular area with a cluster of composers and performers, including Lutosławski, Baird, Serocki, Rowicki and many others. I make a point of going to Powązki when I am in Warsaw for more than a couple of days. Next time I go, I will search out the grave of my friend and distinguished music critic and thinker, Andrzej Chłopecki, who was buried there three days ago.