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Góra Św. Anny: Europe's biggest amphitheatre, Poland

Experienced voyagerExperienced voyagerExperienced voyagerExperienced voyager Joshua Brook
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The impressive, bare Góra Św. Anny (St Ann's Hill) is a magic place that you can't miss when visiting Silesia. It rises to 400 metres at the edge of the Silesian Upland, with a similarly named village at its foot. Originally this was the site of a pagan cult; then a church was built here, which became the centre of religious devotions for Polish Silesians, who came here to venerate the relics of St Anne. In May 1921 the biggest battle of the Third Silesian Uprising was fought at the foot of the hill.
The hill and village, with plenty of ramblers' walks around them, deserve a whole day, or even two. The focus of the remarkable Sanctuary of St Ann is a Gothic/Baroque church, rather unprepossessing outside but with a sumptuous interior, elevated to the status of a basilica by Pope John Paul II. There is also a Baroque Franciscan priory and a picturesque group of 37 Calvary chapels around the church and east of the village. This is a very popular place of pilgrimage, and the 15th-century wooden statue of St Ann in the church is said to have wrought miracles.
A no longer used basalt quarry houses an enormous amphitheatre with about 100,000 seats. This is the biggest natural amphitheatre in Europe, beautifully set against a backdrop of white limestone. It was built in the 1930s by the Nazis to host Party meetings and commemorate the Germans killed in the Third Silesian Uprising. Nowadays it is the only construction of its kind in Europe.
Almost six thousand hectares in the neighbourhood are protected by the Góra Św. Anny Natural Landscape Park, which encompasses scenic hills, historic buildings, rare mixed forests with plenty of beechwoods, and various geological formations including karst landforms - seven springs and rocks. Crossed by a few ramblers' walks, the Park comprises the Góra Św. Anny Reserve (2.5 ha) protecting part of an old basalt quarry with an uncovered volcanic pipe. The diversified grassy terrain with many trees is a perfect place for picnics and walks. More info on: poland.gov.pl

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