After walking around Cracow for a few hours we entered the Jewish district of the city, Kazimierz. The area didn’t look much different to the rest of the city, not at all as far as we could see, and we had to check our wee city map to make sure we had actually stumbled across the small town square we were looking for.
The reason for our confusion might be due to the many churches in the district, and some of those were massive. The few synagogues we found were not very prominent and we had to double check both signs and map before we were convinced the buildings were in fact synagogues.
There are few Jews in the area I’m from, and despite having done a fair bit of travelling I have never before seen a synagogue. I thus thought I’d be quite fascinated with these buildings, but what stands out in memory after that day was a brief visit to the Church of St Catherine.
Norway is mostly protestant and the churches are very different to catholic churches. The grandness of a huge and immensely decorated catholic church is thus quite captivating to me and I often seize the opportunity to have a look around when I find a church with an open door. I am not religious, but like to see churches as places where one can go to find peace of mind, peace of heart, and a place to leave your sorrows, even if you don’t share the religious view of the congregation. When we entered the Church of St Catherine, a small sign told us that mess was in progress and tourists were asked to wait to explore the premises. I have never been to mess before and always find buildings and places a lot more interesting when they mean something to someone, and seeing the place being used as it is meant to be used was even more interesting. I thus joined the worshippers on one of the benches furthest from the altar.
I straightened my back, relaxed my shoulders and took a deep breath. The monotonous voice of the priest (if that is his correct title) filled the large room (through speakers). I could not understand anything except the often repeated name Jesus. I sat and listened while pondering some of life’s many questions. I had no intention of offending anyone, neither did I feel like was doing anything anyone could have strong feelings against. I have great respect for churches because of the importance they play in people’s lives. While I sat there numerous tourists walked around taking pictures of the church, ignorant of or ignoring the sign on the entrance door. I sat until the end of the sermon. As people left the church I stayed behind and took a photo of the interior, no flash, only an inaudible wee click as the shutter was pressed. I then slowly walked out, turned towards the altar, where the worshippers had turned making the sign of the cross, bowed my head slightly before continuing outside.
Once outside again the sky seemed brighter, the grass seemed greener, people were friendlier and I felt a lot more relaxed than I was going in.