Polish cemetery Posted by on Jun 14, 2011 in Culture

When I moved to USA I noticed a huge difference between cemeteries in Poland and here…

Polish cemeteries (polskie cmentarze) are unique (wyjątkowe). I did not see such a rich variety of graves’ styles anywhere else in the world. This is partly due to the fact that Poles are Roman Catholic. For Roman Catholics the death is important part of human existence (ludzkiego istnienia). The death (śmierć) does not end human life since we all have eternal spirit. For a long time Catholic Church was very skeptical towards burning bodies, crematoria are still rare in Poland. Therefore the graves (groby) are large, since each person need to be buried in a coffin (trumna) which is of the size of a human body.

People are buried in a single graves, in marriage graves or in the family graves or crypts. The cemeteries are divided into the community cemeteries, which include people of different beliefs and non-believers and in the parish cemeteries. The religious cemeteries are not all Roman Catholic, Lutheran churches have their own Lutheran cemeteries, Orthodox churches have Orthodox cemeteries. There are several Jewish cemeteries, in Kraków at least three. There are also military cemeteries (cmentarze wojskowe).

There are regional differences (regionale różnice) in the outlook of the cemeteries. Polish highlanders (górale) are very skilled in wood carving, you can see it on the old Zakopane cemetery – to the right, the complex sculptures are done from wood.

There are several old and historical cemeteries in Poland. These cemeteries have a unique atmosphere since there are filled with old trees or bushes. They contain historical graves from different ages built in different styles.

Two most famous old cemeteries are Powązki cemetery in Warsaw and Rakowice cemetery in Kraków. But there are much more.

Rakowice cemetery is a main necropolis in Kraków. It is situated almost in the center of the town. It was open in 1803 and it replaced several church cemeteries of the downtown. Its size was increase several times in XIX and XX century to the current area of 52 hectares. It also encompasses a military cemetery.

Salwator cemetery is situated in a beautiful part of Kraków, on the hill. The road to the Salwator is a beautiful old alley uphill surrounded by old trees, leads from the monastery of St. Norbert nuns, through the old St. Salwador chapel near the St. Bronisława hill with a beautiful panorama to Kraków downtown and to the nearby Salwator district, one of the nicest districts of the town.

Another old cemetery situated above the banks of Wisła river is a Tyniec cemetery, next to the old Tyniec Benedictines monastery from XI century.

The most famous cemetery of Warsaw is Powązki necropolis (picture on the left). Powązki necropolis consists of a whole complex of cemeteries. It has an old part with tombs of many famous and important people for Polish culture and so called “Avenue of the Meritorious” – Aleja Zasłużonych. It also contains a military cemetery with large number of those involved in the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis during World War II, the Battle of Warsaw, and the September Campaign.

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)



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About the Author: Kasia

My name is Kasia Scontsas. I grew near Lublin, Poland and moved to Warsaw to study International Business. I have passion for languages: any languages! Currently I live in New Hampshire. I enjoy skiing, kayaking, biking and paddle boarding. My husband speaks a little Polish, but our daughters are fluent in it! I wanted to make sure that they can communicate with their Polish relatives in our native language. Teaching them Polish since they were born was the best thing I could have given them! I have been writing about learning Polish language and culture for Transparent Language’s Polish Blog since 2010.


  1. rita prokopowicz:

    Would like to receive songs used in Poland by children. Thank you

  2. Katie:

    I was searching for cemeteries around my ancestors villages, and came across your site. I noted you saying that America cemeteries are different. And, that Poland they are unique because they are mostly Catholic. In America it is usually determined by a town or city council as to what kinds of stones, etc is permitted. But, in some very small towns, where some of my relatives are buried, whatever people want is allowed. All of my families are buried in Catholic or Polish cemeteries.

    I just read on a site that in Polish cemeteries graves are rented for 50 years? Wow. So, where are the bones of my ancestors? The graves of my great grandparents are over 100 years old here in the states, and in the same place. Was space somehow an issue for some reason?