The Heritage-Scape of a City: The Case of Kraków

The Polish HERILIGION project focuses on Kraków and explores how contemporary attitudes towards various religious/spiritual heritages are being formed and practiced here. Kraków carries a complex symbolic meaning since it is a former Polish capital, old royal residence, national mausoleum and ‘sacred city’ where kings, local Christian saints, Jewish tzadiks, national heroes, artists and poets are buried. Its historic centre is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and attracts numerous visitors from Poland and abroad.

Kraków is interpreted here as an arena where contemporary discourses on religion(s), heritage(s), past(s) are being practiced, articulated and negotiated by various actors: city council, politicians, churches and religious institutions, inhabitants, tour operators, museums, tourists, and pilgrims… Our aim is to ethnographically grasp complex relations between these different agencies participating in the city’s heritagization. We analyze how various identities are promoted and shaped at different religious-heritage sites producing Kraków’s multilayered ‘heritage-scape’.

Kraków’s heritage-scape is approached through various cases studies
1) lived Catholicism in the context of the heritagization, museumification and festivalization of the cityscape (the city during Catholic World Youth Day in 2016; branding the city as the ‘city of John Paul II’; annual Epiphany celebrations and Passion Plays in public spaces; challenging and redefining ‘Catholic heritage’ with regard to other Christian denominations and religious traditions);
2) the politicization of ‘religious heritage’ in relation to specific religious sites, objects and practices (city’s heritage and national identity formation);
3) Neo-Pagan celebrations and Slavic reenactment movement as an introduction of pre-Christian religions into the heritage-scape of the city;
4) Jewish heritage (heritagization of Kazimierz as a ‘Jewish district’; Jewish Culture Festival and disputes on ‘Jewish heritage’ in Poland and in Kraków; city’s forgotten synagogues and abandoned Jewish prayer houses).
‘Maps of the city: Heritages and the Sacred within Kraków’s Cistyscape’ was an exhibition that popularized the ethnographic research undertaken by the HERILIGION project. The exhibition was organized by the Polish team and hosted by the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków (Nov. 2017 – Feb. 2018).


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