Although cemeteries can be seen as a rather unusual attraction, they often draw visitors on the merits of its cultural heritage and historical value. While visiting the diverse local necropolises, you will clearly see the Bielsko-Biała’s multicultural past, as well as the present characteristics.
Each burial ground, somewhat isolated from the rest of the surrounding world, hides some secrets, tells a story and in a strange way makes time stop for a while.
All Saints Day celebrated on 1st of November has a special place in the cultural heritage of Polish people regardless of faith. A visit to any of the cemeteries during that time might be a moving experience. The graves are decorated with candles and flowers, and vigils are held. All this create a unique atmosphere, in which it’s easy to become lost in thoughts about the passing of time.
Catholic Cemetery in Bielsko
The 18th and 19th centuries have witnessed many discontinued use of churchyards as burial grounds. Lack of space and hygiene were the main reasons. Here, situation was no different. The old cemetery in front of St. Nicolas Church could not hold any more burials, thus in 1884 a new place just at the outskirts of the town was selected. Of course, with the growth of the town, this cemetery became quite centrally located.
In the World War II’s turmoil records of many people buried there were lost and frequent new burials often not registered. Additionally, the graves were destroyed or reused over the time. So, you won’t see many all graves there. Still, the cemetery draws an interesting portrait of the local’s society. The inscriptions on the tombstones show names of some great Bielsko-Biała’s families, as well as common citizens. There are teachers, politicians, doctors, artists, priests, engineers, workers of all kind, known and unknown soldiers.
Just as you enter through the large gate, you will see a 19th century stone cross. The cross was renovated after being destroyed in 1945 by a Soviet plane, which on its way from a combat flight got rid of the cargo bombs by throwing them on the cemetery. Many graves were also destroyed at that time.
By the entrance you will see the remains of neo-gothic cloisters that in the past surroundered the entire place.
Location: ul. Grunwaldzka
Catholic Cemetery in Biała
This is one of the oldest Catholic cemeteries in Biała that’s been officially functioning since 1790, although these grounds were used for burials of the Polish confederates’ soldiers years earlier. By an administrative decree, the cemetery that surrounded the nearby Church of Divine Providence had to be moved outside the town’s territory and this location was chosen as a new burial place. Later, the cemetery was extended and over time the nameless and unattended graves were reused. Today, there are more than 5 thousands graves and tombs, and the necropolis continues to be used.
Here, among the graves of simple workers and citizens, you will find tombs of the Catholic mayors, social and political activists, artists and industrialists. The oldest part is fenced by a large brick wall with adjacent neo-Renaissance cloisters type of tombs.
The cemetery lacks decorative and sumptuous tombs. Regardless of their status, most of the people are buried in simple and modest graves. Most of the visitors come here to see the last resting place of the grandfather of the Pope John Paul II.
The entrance is a large gate (present in most of the Christian cemeteries), which symbolizes transit between the worlds of the living and the dead. There are also two sandstone crosses from 19th and 20th centuries.
Location: ul. Cmentarna, opp. the Football Stadium
Old Protestant Cemetery
The decision to build this cemetery has been accelerated by the cholera epidemic of 1831. Until then the Protestants were buried along Catholics in the common cemetery at the St. Trinity Church. The necropolis was used until World War II, but arleady in the 1909 the lack of space and a considerable number of burials forced to open a new cemetery nearby. Since then, this cemetery started to be called the Old Protestant Cemetery.
After the war, the cemetery, due to its German character, was destroyed by vandals. Additionally, the communist authorities ordered to spray with paint and erase inscriptions and German names from many tombs. Soon after, the cemetery was closed and its gate remain closed to this day, except on All Saints Day (1st of November) and Night of Museums (May) when you can visit it yourself or join guided tours.
Most of the tombs remain negclected but some have been restored with the efforts of citizens. Among them is the tomb ofTeodor Sixt, a mysterious industrialist who left his fortune to the city. There are also more graves of the most noble and richest residents of the past. The oldest preserved tombstone dates from 1857.
The cemetery is surrounded by a high brick wall with a neo-Gothic gate. Nowadays, the place looks like an overgrown park, full of trees, entwined ivy and birds.
Location: ul. Modrzewskiego
New Protestant Cemetery
Located less than 600 meters north from the Old Protestant Cemetery, this necropolis was establish in 1909 to provide a larger space for new burials.
Numerous monumental tombs remind that some of the greatest citizens of the city were buried here. Mayor Karol Steffan, Edward Schnack – founder of the local museum, an opera artist Felicia Kaszowska-Krotowska, protestant pastors and factory owners were among them.
The new cemetery was designed by a Vienna architect Hans Mayr on the model of the Italian campo santo. Apart from the main burial garden, the complex contains a squared yard that is surrounded by an arcaded-wall with open cloisters that holds tombs and epitaphs tables. There is also a chapel and auxiliary buildings. The cemetery bears characteristics of Neo-Baroque and Art Nouveau styles.
Location: ul. Listopadowa
Protestant Cemetery in Biała
This protestant cemetery is located in the middle of the city centre, just behind a health clinic and a busy bus stop. Many people, including some of the citizens, have no idea that the high brick wall at the crossing of Piłsudskiego and Komorowska Street hides the oldest cemetery in Biała. This still functioning cemetery was opened in 1783. The tombstones hold the names of many honoured citizens of Bielsko-Biała, pastors, mayors, artists and entrepreneurs who, especially at the turn of 19th and 20th, had a valuable influence over the shape of the city.
Here, in the sector II, you will find the oldest tombs in the city. Many stelas, obelisks, classical graves, table and urn-shaped tombstones and epitaph tables that almost sink into the surrounding walls are of great historic and artistic values. Amongst 293 old graves, the tomb of Rudolf Teodor Seelinger, a mayor of Biała in the mid-19th century, stands out.
Just after World War II, many of the tombstones with German names were damaged and painted with black paint in an attempt to remove any signs of German-past of the city.
Location: ul. Piłsudskiego 15
Jewish Cemetery - Kirkut
There is only one Jewish cemetery left in Bielsko-Biała. It’s still a functional burial ground for the small Jewish community and a powerful remainder of the vital presence of Jewish population in the history of the city.
Established in 1849, the cemetery holds the remains of more than 3600 people, of whom many names include visionaries and elite of Bielsko-Biała. Among them is Karl Korn, the main architect of the city; Salomon Pollak, an activist, visionary and honorary citizen of the city; Salomon Halberstam, a collector of rich and unique Jewish manuscripts; prof. Michael Berkowitz, a teacher and writer; and local rabbis and factory owners.
When visiting the graveyard, you will see young and old tombs, obelisks and steles with inscriptions in Hebrew, Yiddish, German and Polish. It’s a valuable prove for former multicultural character of the city.
The oldest graves are located in the sector F. Unfortunately, more than half of graves and tombstones were destroyed or stolen from the cemetery during World War II. Some of them were reconstructed, most disappeared forever.
Karl Korn, who is buried here, was also designer of the funeral house visible as you enter the necropolis. The building constructed in 1885 in the neo-Roman style is the only Jewish sacral construction left in the city.
In the left part of the necropolis, just behind an internal wall, there are graves that were moved from the Jewish cemetery in Biała that was closed down in 1966 by the authorities.
Interestingly, within the territory of the necropolis, the last resting place have some soldiers of Austro-Hungarian army, Polish legionnaires, Russian prisoners and three Bosnian Muslim soldiers.
A monument commemorating the Jewish citizens of Bielsko-Biała who were murdered by Nazis or died in exile during World War II, was unveiled in 2009.
Location: ul. Cieszyńska 92
Phone: +48 33 812 24 38
Soviet Army Cemetery
Nearly 11 thousands bodies of the soldiers of the Soviet Red Army are buried in this necropolis, none of their names are known. These soldiers died in the 1940s during World War II.
The cemetery is located just outside of the city centre, accessible only on foot (no place to park a car), and although maintained, it’s rarely visited. The remains of the soldiers were places in 300 graves in 21 quarters, each marked only with an inscription of the Red Army’s star.
In the centre of this historic cemetery, you will see a large stone monument depicting soviet soldier kneeling on one knee and raising left hand. Designed by a local artist Ryszard Sroczyński and made in 1950s.
The cemetery was originally located on the square in front of the Church of St. Nicholas, and was moved to the present location in the 1960s.
Location: ul. Lwowska
Polish Military Cemetery
This military cemetery was founded in 1921 to suit the needs of the Bielsko’s garrison. It’s a resting place of numerous Polish soldiers who fought during World War I and II. Only a few of them are known by name. Some Polish young scouts who gave their lives for their country are also buried here. There is also a large mass grave of fallen soldiers who died in the battle nearby.
The memory of the fallen soldiers is sustained during patriotic celebrations that take place in the cemetery, and additionally by the erected monument honouring ‘fighters for freedom and democracy’. In the recent years, two additional monuments were unveiled. First one commemorates heroes of the Home Army (the Polish resistance movement during World War II) and second the Polish officers murdered by the Soviets in Katyń in 1940.
Location: ul. Saperów, Oś. Wojska Polskiego