The essence of the series is reflection on the relation: man-nature-sacrum. The space (landscape) plays here an important role as a factor shaping spiritual experiences and community bonds.
The tradition of prayers at the small religious architecture has its source both in the Christianity and pre-Christian beliefs (e.g. sacred groves, poles, stones, monuments, ancient household shrines). The custom, in the form we know currently, was widespread during the Counter-Reformation period. In the nineteenth century it became popular across the whole Europe. The small sacral architecture is still present in most European countries. In many of them, however, these do not serve as objects for religious purposes anymore. In Southern Poland the prayer at roadside shrines & crosses is still quite widely cultivated by local communities and it has remained unchanged for generations. The objects survived the turbulent times of partitions of Poland (eighteen century), both world wars, as well as communism – so hostile to manifestations of religiosity. Often their owners were persecuted.
Due to the custom’s provenance, the space plays an important role. I search common places. I focus on topography, environment, nature of the premises, the appearance and behaviour of the faithful, as well as aspects related to perception of time in its anthropological dimension: cyclicity and linearity. The varied topography and the surrounding of chapels and crosses bring to mind the idea of the centre – axis mundi. The idea comes from the famous religious scholar Mircea Eliade. In his reflection on the essence of religion, he drew attention to the manifold forms of the manifestation of sacred, analysing it in a broad anthropological context (archetypes, myths and symbols).
What the “centre of the world” is? This is the sphere where the chaos transforms into cosmos – ordered reality. The sphere of extraordinary communication, where the heavens connects with the earth, the material dimension permeates itself with the spiritual, the local with the universal and the temporal with eternity. Symbolic “centres of the world” reveal its sanctity and at the same time serve to restore eternal values.
Eliade has repeatedly emphasized that the human longing for the “fullness of being” is related to the space of a sacred dimension. This longing has been evident in many cultures and religions always. The most complete expression of this is found in the archetype of paradise: the mythical centre, the place of the unity of all creatures, primal in its harmony, the holy and marked by God’s presence. Traces of the “longing for paradise” topos can be found already in the beliefs of people from the Mesolithic age (8,000 years BC). Also, Christianity is filled with nostalgia for the lost paradise. Its’ gates are reopened again by Christ himself through death on the cross, which became the tree of life.
For me, an inhabitant of Małopolska (Lesser Poland), the May devotions are something ordinary and obvious. I participated in these as a child and a young man. A chapel or a cross specifies the landmark on the axis of the small towns “microcosm”. I admit, however, that my “photographic eye” opened up on the topic many years later. My experience of emigration was also a reason for this. Sometimes seemingly obvious things are seen only from a far distance or through the perspective of absence. What was so intriguing? It was, above all, an extraordinary space-time of places, objects and people associated with this tradition. Small imago mundi filled with audible and inaudible music of the spheres. Also, my longing for the lost paradise.