The trail of sanctuaries and pilgrimage centres – historical background
Sanctuaries and pilgrimage centres in Lower Silesia are irregularly distributed, due to the history of the region and the changing ethnic and religious relations. As a frontier area, Lower Silesia was often passed from owner to owner, and belonged to various state organisations. It was initially a part of the Bohemian state, and of the Polish state from 990. In the mid-14th century it constituted a part of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, and thus passed under the rule of the Habsburg family in 1526. After the first Silesian War it became a part of Prussia and later – of Germany. After WWII it was once again Polish. The Hussite Wars (1428-1434) had a major influence on the final shape of religious relations. Many churches, originally Catholic, were destroyed during the warfare. From the 16th century, Protestantism was the dominate denomination in Lower Silesia. Catholicism developed in places where monasteries were functioning (e.g. Krzeszów, Lubiąż, Trzebnica). On the territories of the Kłodzko Lands (historically and culturally connected with Bohemia until 1742), the situation was different – this region was predominantly Catholic, which was reflected in the numerous sanctuaries: in Wambierzyce, Stary Wielisław or on Góra Igliczna. Their development was connected with the worship of miraculous images (especially Marian images) which had began already in medieval times. The worship reached its peak in the Counter-Reformation era. Stations of the Cross were installed by pilgrimage centres, propagating the cult of the Passion of Christ. Throughout the centuries, the places attracted pilgrims from Bohemia, Moravia, Germany and Poland. This variety was reflected in numerous inscriptions referring to the pilgrimage routes as Polish, Czech, or German.
As the Counter-Reformation developed, the religious life of the Protestants was substantially limited. After the Thirty Years War, pursuant to the provisions of the Peace of Westphalia, and in line with the principle cuius regio, eius religio (whose realm, his religion), the Swedes – as the guardians of the Protestants – persuaded the Bohemian king and emperor to grant the Silesian Lutherans the right to erect three churches in the three duchies dependent directly on the monarch (Świdnica, Jawor, and the now non-existent church in Głogów). They were named the Churches of Peace. The new churches were to be built within a distance of a cannon shot from the city walls. They were to be constructed with impermanent materials, such as wood and clay, and without the use of nails. The churches were preserved intact until present times.