Information about trail
The route is about 170 km long and leads though picturesque towns and villages, Augustów Forest, nature reserves and Wigry National Park. Pilgrimage through the Papal Trail The Luminous Mysteries is a unique opportunity to experience God, history and nature of our beautiful region of Mazury, Augustów, Sejny and Suwałki. The 170 km long route leads through picturesque towns and villages, Augustów Forest, nature reserves and Wigry National Park. Individual stages of the Papal Trail, which is open all year round, can be travelled by different means: on foot, on horseback, on a bicycle, quad or motorcycle, and on skies in winter. It is important that while you are traveling through these beautiful places you find time to ponder on a message John Paul II left for us in his meditations on The Luminous Mysteries.
I Stage Ełk – Rajgród
The Papal Trail The Luminous Mysteries was initiated, inaugurated and blessed by His Excellency Bishop Jerzy Mazur SVD on 14th June 2008 during the youth day celebrations in our Diocese.
The Trail starts in Ełk from the place where on 8th June 1999 John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist during one of his visits to Poland.
The trail begins in the John Paul’s II Square by his monument. You need to approach the promenade and go to the parish dedicated to John Paul II (Maksymiliana Kolbego Street). There you will find the first signs of the trail, which will lead you out of the town.
Ełk is the biggest city in the Mazury region.
The most important tourist attractions include:
– Ełk’s Cathedral built in the 20th century,
– 19th century church dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Houses from the 19th/20th century,
– Water tower erected in 1895,
– Solidarity Park
– A promenade around Ełk’s Lake.
– Mazury Comedy Festival – MULATKA International Folk Festival for Children and Youth – Tęcza
– Mazury’s Hot Air Ballooning Competition Fire and Water Festival
Ełk is not only famous for its beautiful landscape but also its delicious cuisine. A number of events and food festivals such as the Contest for President’s Ladle, Travel with Good Taste and Frutti di Lago will give you a chance to try traditional dishes. The trail leads along the beautiful river Ełk.
You will pass a village called Prostki. Between Prostki and Bogusze you can find a unique border post from 1554. It commemorates the establishment of the borders between Prussia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was erected in place where three borders – Polish, Lithuanian and Prussian converged.
The post is similar to a small shrine. Ostrykół. The modern church replaced the temple, which burned down 1656. The current building was built in 1667 in a baroque style. This wooden church, formerly protestant, now catholic, is dedicated to the Feast of the Cross. The inside reveals many interesting details such as: baroque altar from 1683, pipe organ from 1799, interesting candlestick, the pulpit from 1690 and the 18th century statue of an angel.
II Stage Rajgród –Studzieniczna
Sanctuary Dedicated to Virgin Mary the Queen of Families dominates the shore of the lake
– 19th century roadside shrines,
– roadside shrine by Żabia Street in Rajgród,
– church – Sanctuary dedicated to Virgin Mary the Queen of Families,
– the tomb chapel of Bagiński family built in 1826,
– a manor house with Natural wonders in the area: Rajgród Lake is a ribbon lake with a surface of 1514 ha, about 54 km of the shore line, the average depth of 17 m and the maximum depth of 52 m.
The lake has five branches, which usually present a favourable sailing conditions.
Forests occupy almost 30% of the region, these are mostly coniferous forest dominated by pines. There are ten resorts dotted around the forests at the shore of the lake. Biebrza National Park, located close to Rajgród, has a unique swamp-peat area called “Red Marsh”. In the lower course of the Jegrznia River and Kuwasy Canal there are thousands of hectares of unique wetlands, bogs and peats called “Red Marsh”. The reserve is a habitat for unique swamp vegetation, birds and moose. Czapliniec Nature Reserve near Bełda village was founded in 1930 and formally recognised in 1958. It occupies 11.58 ha protecting the breeding colony of the grey heron and preserving 200 years old pine forest and 140 years old spruce forest and some marshland.
From Rajgród the second stage The Second Luminous Mystery – The wedding in Cana will get you to the sanctuary of Virgin Mary in Studzieniczna. The monument to the Pope by the sanctuary commemorates his visit in this place on 9th June 1999, which he specifically requested when he visited our Diocese. He said these prophetic words: I was here many times but as a Pope it is the first and possibly the last time. Sanctuary in Studzieniczna is located on the series of small islands, which used to be a hermitage created in 1715 by one of the Camaldolese monks. Later the place was inhabited by other hermit – ex-military Wincenty Murawski (also known as Morawski). He was a passionate herbalist and a truly pious man. The water from the well he had dug probably had healing powers, especially in cases of eye infections. Initially the portrait of Virgin Mary accompanied the soldiers during their fights, hanging on an oak tree but later it was moved to the wooden chapel erected by Murawski in 1790. The current brick chapel with wooden foundations was built in 1872.
III Stage Studzieniczna – Mikaszówka
This stage of the Papal Trail leads around the Studzieniczańskie Lake, Białe Lake, Augustów Canal and through the river locks allowing for the kayak and other river traffic. When traveling through this picturesque route please consider The Third Luminous Mystery – The Proclamation of the Kingdom. You will reach Czarna Hańcza – the biggest river in Suwałki, meandering through this unique geological and ethnographical region. Please notice the number of boulders, river cascades and ravines – the remnants of huge glaciers. This place is also special because of its inhabitants. Pagan Yotvingians were the first tribe to inhabit this land and from them the people of Prussia and Lithuanian trace their origins. Throughout the ages Suwałki became a home for Poles and Lithuanians, Jews and Russians. It is a land of work and prayer – as these are the things most valued by the local communities. Mikaszówka is a charming village on the shore of Augustów Canal. The central point of the village is occupied by the church dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene and a historic parish, one of Wojtyła’s favourite places to stay during his visits. In 1955 a local rector met a mysterious Tourist who turned out to be Karol Wojtyła, a bishop at a time. When the Pope recalled this encounter years later he always joked: how about going to Mikaszowka? Mikaszówka is located in the very centre of Augustów Forest, which is a perfect place for doing water sports, cycling and walking tours. Augustów forest is a part of a larger forest complex covering the territory of Poland, Lithuania and Belarus, which is one of the largest forests in Europe covering 250 000 hectares. Poland has 100 000 hectares of this forest complex, substantial part of this territory is covered by lakes: Wigry, Sajno, Białe Augustowskie, Serwy, Necko, Pomorze, Studzieniczne and Kolno.
IV Stage Mikaszówka – Sejny
From Mikaszówka the trail leads through Augustów Forest, passing by Czarna Hańcza to reach the Basilica of Visitation Virgin Mary in Sejny. Here you can see a unique statue of Virgin Mary from 15th century, one of the oldest in Europe. While walking this 30 km long trail please consider The Fourth Luminous Mystery – The Transfiguration. In 1975 cardinal Karol Woityła visited Sejny and crowned the statue of Virgin Mary with papal crowns. the Visitation, three nave basilica, initially in renascence style, later rebuilt in the baroque style. Inside you can see eleven baroque and rococo altars from the 18th century;
– Monastery built in 1619-1706 and rebuilt at the end of the 18th and beginning of 19th century. It is a two-storey building with corner towers;
– Former Bishop’s castle from the second half of the 19th century;
– Neo-Gothic church dedicated to Częstochowa’s Virgin Mary (former evangelical church) from the mid-19th century;
– Chapel dedicated to St. Agatha from 1789;
– Classicist town hall from 1840; Synagogue from 1860-1870, currently an art gallery;
– Former Talmudic House, currently an education centre “Borderland of arts, cultures and nations”;
– Apartment blocks from the 19th century;
– Brick mausoleum, belonging to the Wolmer family, erected in 1830 in the Catholic cemetery;
– Monuments: of the bishop of Sejny Antoni Baranowski and the Sejny Uprising in 1919.
Sejny, a town on the Papal Trail The Luminous Mysteries, is a place where you can see the evidence of long coexistence of various religions, cultures and nations. The town was inhabited by Poles, Lithuanians, Belarusians, Jews and Russians. They were craftsmen, tradesmen, teachers, etc. They experience joys of everyday life, celebrated successes but also endured the horrible times of war, pandemics and invasions. Sejny was founded in the at the end of 16th, beginning of 17th century. The settlement initially developed thanks to the monks of Dominican Order, who built their monastery and the church there. They also founded first school in the area. Mid-18th century the monks wanted Sejny to develop commercially so they invited the Jewish tradesmen to settle in town. The Jewish community thrived, they built a synagogue and their own school. Sejny ended up in the Prussian Partition after Poland’s territory has been divided between Austria, Prussia and Austria. The Prussian government confiscated everything that belonged to the Dominican monks and nuns. In 1804 the members of the congregation were forced to leave after two hundred years of living in Sejny. Their monastery, however, remained an important building for local education and culture. The middle school was opened in the monastic buildings. Sejny became the capital of the Diocese and in 1829 the monastery was used as a seminary. It became an important education centre for Poland and Lithuania. During the Second World War the town witnessed atrocities of occupants. In 1939 the Jews living in Sejny were displaced and brutally murdered. Russians resettled all the Old Believers of the Orthodox Church from Sejny into newly created Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. Today Sejny is a county town with a consulate of the Lithuanian Republic. The town is a good base for exploring the region and an great spot for the history-lovers to discover its exciting past.
V Stage Sejny – Wigry
The last stage of the Papal Trail The Mysteries of Light leads from post-Dominican complex in Sejny through Wigry National Park to the town of Wigry. When traveling through this last stage of the trail please consider The Fifth Luminous Mystery – The institution of the Eucharist. This place used to be inhabited by Camaldolese monks who prayed, worked and contemplated God in these beautiful surroundings. Today you get a chance discover this region anew. Tourists can stay in the monk’s hermitage, buy a nourishing meal and experience the calmness and quiet atmosphere of this place. Worth seeing Late baroque church with beautiful interiors Papal Apartments and the Chapel, where John Paul II rested and prayed during his stay in the monastery in 1999 Underground crypt in a church with small niches in which forty monks were buried. Two niches have glass finish so you can see the bones blackened by time. The wall is decorated with a fresco depicting Dance Macabre – the personification of Death is inviting a monk to dance with her. The clock tower, which is an excellent viewing point. Temporary exhibitions Couple of centuries ago Wigry used to be a home for white monks of Camaldolese order. They prayed, worked and praised the Lord in silence. The monastery was funded by king Jan II Kazimierz Waza in 1667 and thanks to the hard working monks it became one of the wealthiest communities of this kind in Europe. Currently, the church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception is in the very centre of the Wigry monastery complex. The church was build by the Camaldolese monks in 1694-1745. From 1818 the church was serving as a Cathedral for Diocese of Wigry until it was transformed into a parish church and serves this function to this day. The building was erected in the baroque order on the Latin-cross plan. The shorter arms of the cross form the chapel and the sacristy. The oldest artefact in the Wigry complex is located on the floor in the chapter house. It is a stone slab from 1715 with an epitaph in Latin: Blessed are those who die believing in God, as their deeds will follow them – so says the Holy Spirit. Here, in Wigry, Karol Wojtyła spent time with his friends and stayed here as a pope John Paul II during his visit to Poland.