HOLINESS CLOSED IN COINS
The only Museum of Coins an Medals of John Paul II in the world is in Częstochowa. Established three years ago, it attracts visitors from whole Poland, and also from abroad, although its place is far from the pilgrimage route to the Sanctuary of Jasna Góra. In modern buildings there is the biggest collection of coins and medals connected with the pope from Poland, blessed John Paul II.
In gold and on coppers
The inside of the museum glitters with glow. In illuminated glass-cases thousands of coins and medals have been placed. They come from various parts of the world. Every country which the Holy Father, a pilgrim, visited during his long pontificate, wanted to worship his visit with an occasional coin or medal with the image of the Pope and attributes of his country. Here we find coins and medals from all continents, big countries and small countries. Made of precious metals, decorated with crystals of Swarovski and popular coppers. Coins and medals are in various shapes: circle, triangle, square and oval. Every coin has a description with information about an author of the project and engraver, thickness, diameter and alloy (gold, silver, copper bronze).
The first coins for the honour of John Paul II were minted by Dominika (a small country situated on the island of Caribbean Sea) in 1978, two week after Karol Wojtyła had been elected for the Holy See. Exotic Islands Tristan da Cunha on the Atlantic Ocean are even a smaller state organism which ventured to mint coins with the image of John Paul II. Catholics living there in the number of 117 among 233 inhabitants, decided to mint a coin for him in silver, gold, copper and nickel. We find out from the world of numismatics how great authority John Paul II had, if such microscopic countries situated somewhere on antipodes were trying to perpetuate his image on their coins.
History written with coins
Information included in the iconography of icons and medals allow us to wander in known and unknown facts of history. The oldest coin with the image of John Paul II displayed in the museum is the coin of 1932. Certainly, it is a duplicate of a 10-zloty coin with the image of a woman. The person of the Holy Father was minted also on the image of, among the others, gen. Świerczewski, on the 20th anniversary of the assassination on St. Peter’s Square. In the museum there are also projects o the European currency euro presented, which have never been implemented. We should know that because of the prohibition of placing religious symbolism on coins, it was prohibited to mint euro coins with the image of Christ for Andora country. A similar fate, although probably for different reasons, happened to prototypes of medal which have never been produced. In the collection there are also damaged duplicates with the image of the Holy Father. Treated as waste and having deficits, they were taken out of bins by unknown people and sold on the market. Today they are valuable decoration of many collections.
On a special order
Medals minted by Vatican on the occasion of pilgrimages of John Paul II were made on a special order. Pope gave them personally to personalities of countries which he visited. What is interesting, for 104 pilgrimages of the Holy Father about 150 medals were minted. It was also connected with the fact that John Paul II visited a few countries during one pilgrimage. Valuable annual medals attract visitors’ attention, ordered by Vatican from medalists all over the world. The order was treated by artists as prestigious. In our country this privilege was given to the creator of monuments of John Paul II Czesław Dźwigaj, in the 18th year of the pontificate of the Polish Pope. Both sides of these medals, minted on canvass, covered the column of Bernini on St. Peter’s Square during the Holy Mass of beatification of blessed John Paul II. The set of 26 annual medals in silver was deposited into the Pope’s coffin.
Knowledge of exhibits being in the museum is still being verified. It happened so with the medal of 1994 – the Year of Family. The person of John Paul placed here in the surrounding of two people. One of visitors identified them. These are two popes: John XXIII and Paul VI who are coming to newly-born Christ.
A votive offering
The museum was established as a gift for health of the creator after his recovery from brain stroke. Nine years ago Mr. Krzysztof entrusted his fate to Our Lady of Jasna Góra. Today there is no sign of his illness, and Mr. Krzysztof could share his energy and vigor with other people. He decided to thank God for his recovery and give the votive offering to the Queen of Poland. There are not any cases in life, so the meeting with Wojciech Grabowski, a collector of medals and coins with the image of John Paul II must be recognized as the Providential plan. It was how the idea of establishing the museum of medals and coins with the image of the greatest Pole the Holy Father John Paul II appeared. The collection of 3 thousand medals and coins of Mr. Grabowski enriched a modest but beloved collection of papal souvenirs of Mr. Witkowski. Because the passion of collection was inherited from his father Antoni by Mr. Krzysztof. – I often ‘got a slap on the wrists’ when I was watching collections.
It was difficult for me to understand that papillary lines leave a permanent sign on metal. But, well, what is forbidden tastes the best – jokes Mr. Krzysztof. After his father died in 1987, he took over his collection – 52 coins with the image of the Holy Father which became the beginning of collections. Today the museum has over 1800 coins with the image of John Paul II. The unique coin in the world scale is the coins of 200 o denomination of thousand zlotys from the year 1987 in the sample, released nearly in 5 copies, and the coin from Haiti from 1983. The whole collection consists of over 8.8 thousand exhibits. Besides coins and medals there are also souvenirs of the Holy Father and relics of all degrees with certificates.
Patrons of art and donators
Being an owner of the collection is one thing and exhibition infrastructure is another thing. Mr. Witkowski asked French owners of the company President Electronics, whose chairman he is in Poland, for a possibility to allocate some part of the building of the company for the museum of John Paul II. – I used simple arguments – he says. – I said that in a few years’ time nobody would remember CB-radios, and the museum and its exhibits will remain forever. They agreed. The modern museum consists of not only a multimedia exhibition hall, but also of the auditorium, café and the shop with numismatics. The collection is still being enriched. – We are looking for collections for our museum in the whole world. We always buy in a few copies. We allocate some of them for exchange or sale – says Mr. Witkowski.
This way of establishing the institution of the public utility, through the patronage of art refers to the ancient tradition, which was taken over by Christianity, adding an aspect of faith to it. Mighty rulers of this world, thanking for health, gift of offspring, return from a dangerous journey, built churches, chapels for God and funded: hospitals, care houses and schools. IN the secular world patrons of art built secular institutions: universities, museums, libraries. Krzysztof Witkowski referred to these glorious traditions with his votive offering.
Once a month, on the 18th, at 6 p.m., on the birthday of Karol Wojtyła, the museum organizes meetings with people connected with John Paul II. Arturo Mari- a photographer of John Paul II has been at these meetings several times, dr. Wanda Półtawska – a witness in the beatification process of blessed John Paul II and a close cooperator of cardinal Karol Wojtyła, her husband prof. Andrzej Półtawski, related to Fr. Karol Wojtyła from the times of the academic pastoral ministry, also prof. Gabriel Turowski, Eugugeniusz Mróz, the only living friend of Karol Wojtyła from the times of the junior high school, archsbihop Stanisław Nowak, being in friendship with the Holy Father, and also the editor-in-chief of ‘Niedziela’ Fr. Inf. Ireneusz Skubiś and many others. The creator of the museum wants to direct the meetings from the year 2014 onto presenting teachings of John Paul II. They were inaugurated on 18 December 2013 by prof. Andrzej Półtwaski, who was speaking about the encyclical ‘Evangelium vitae’. Other encyclicals are going to be presented by friends of the Półtawski family. The program has already been elaborated till the year 2020, to the 100th anniversary of the birthday of the Polish Pope. The museum is a sanctified place. It was sanctified by cardinal StanisławDziwisz and archbishop WacławDepo celebrated the Holy Mass here in the intention of the Witkowski family.
Collections are still enlarged by new exhibits. They are not only coins and medals, but also other souvenirs of the Holy Father John Paul II, as well as other popes: Benedict XVI and Francis. The recent purchase of the museum is a figure of John Paul II made by the Salesian Friars Kruczcy. People related to the Holy Father gave the museum valuable souvenirs from their collections. Here we find the zucchetto of John Paul II, pope Francis with an autograph and the zucchetto of Benedict XVI. A book with dedication of John Paul II was given to the museum by archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki, the second secretary of the Holy Father. There are also relics of John Paul II: lock of hair and a fragment of the cross of the Good Friday, which was held in hands by John Paul II. Liturgical robes are eye-catching, as well as replicas of the papal ring, crosier and the pectoral cross, Stole, and a papal pallium from 1978, uncollected from a tailor Gammareli. In the collection there are also medals designed by prof. Jerzy Sztuka. The smile medal o bishop Antoni Długosz, was the same property of John Paul II, medals of Krzysztof Pabiańczyk and a medal minted for the VI World Youth’s Day and keys for Częstochowa, which were given to John Paul II by the president of the town at that time, Tadeusz Wrona.
Creators of the museum invite everybody to come and see the unique collection. Collections are breath-taking, and histories connected with them have the value of an university lecture given by exhibitors of the museum in a colourful and interesting way. In the year of canonization of blessed John Paul II it is worth looking at his person with the eyes of other nations which he visited during his 104 pilgrimages. Only then we realize the truth that the adjective ‘Great’ with John Paul II has its deep justification.
Museum of Icons and Medals of John Paul II
ul. Jagiellońska 67/71, 42-200 Częstochowa;
tel. +48(34)365-19-82; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.jp2muzeum.pl