Situated in the west side of Bochnia, with a number of 9000 parishioners, St Paul the Apostle parish was founded on 25th May 1984 by the then Bishop of Tarnow, Jerzy Ablewicz (1919-1990). The builder of parish church, prelate Jan Nowakowski, was appointed to be the first parish priest.
The parish church of St Paul the Apostle was built on the eastern slope of Kolanowskie Hill in 1981-1986, at the then prelate Stanisław Wójtowicz’s (1912-1984) suggestion. The cornerstone, consecrated by Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) in the Vatican, was solemnly laid on 29th June 1982. The first Holy Mass was celebrated in the bowels of the church on 9th June 1984. The church was dedicated by the Bishop Jerzy Ablewicz on 9th June 1985, and consecrated by the Bishop Wiktor Skworc on the twentieth anniversary of the parish’s existence.
The parishioners of St Paul the Apostle are regularly engaged in work or service with the church, acting in prayer or apostolic groups and assemblies.
Within the parish two brick-built chapels are located. The Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary on Kolanowska Street was built in the mid 1930s. The other, which is found on Krakowska Street, the Chapel of St Rosalie, dates back to 1831. A stone figure of the Holy Trinity dating back to 1898, located on Brodzińskiego Street, as well as a shrine with its nineteenth century painting of Saint Stanislaw the Bishop catch our attention. A short distance away is St Rosalie cemetery where burials were held the until the early 70s. It serves as a memorial site with graves from WW I, a collective tomb for Polish Army soldiers who were killed in action in the area on the first days of September 1939, and an obelisk commemorating the Polish victims of genocide in Ponary (1941-1944).
The church of St Paul the Apostle is a two-storey structure designed by the Cracowian architect Zbigniew Zjawin. It is made up of an upper part, used for sacred purposes, and a lower part utilized for educational, conferential, and catechetic purposes.
This modern architecture is conspicuous thanks to its 48-metre-high bell tower topped with a concrete cross. Three medium size bells are placed there, the history of which is intriguing. The tower is adorned with a two faced chiming clock, which can be easily seen from a long distance away.
The interior of the church has one nave, rising to 25 metres in height with an imposing crystal dome borne by twelve pillars symbolising the twelve apostles. The interior decoration was designed by Józef Sękowski (Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow), and is filled with his works: the great rod hanging on the wall over the high altar makes the focal point of the presbytery. It bears a patina-covered copper sculpture of the crucified Christ, which is 6m high and has an arm-span of 5m.
The sumptuous tabernacle has the shape of a sphere. It is created from salt-like crystals recalling the link with Bochenian salt mining. Close behind the tabernacle is a stately wall relief made of wrought sheet copper, representing St Paul the Apostle in the middle of a circle of the members of the first Christian community.
This patina covered copper was also used to carve the monumental figures of the Apostles with St Paul and St Andrew headmost, the representatives of the Western and Eastern Churches.
In the high altar our attention is caught by the Mensa of Albanian marble, and an antependium made of a half circle bronze sculpture, depicting Melchizedek offering. The artist of this piece is Czesław Dźwigaj (Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow). He also made the pulpits from which the Liturgy is given. In the altar are placed the relics of the Blessed Karolina Kózka.
Near the high altar is a bronze cast baptismal font decorated with Jesse’s Tree-picturing a history of Redemption of mankind. In the crown of the tree are four impressive scenes from the life of Jesus and a silhouette of John Paul II with two patron saints of the Tarnow diocese – St Kinga and the Blessed Karolina Kózka. The whole masterpiece is topped with a 1,5m high figure of the Resurrected Christ.
On the nave walls the original paintings of the Way of the Cross are hung. These depict good and evil, composed accordingly in bright and dark colours, always crossing on the silhouette of Christ. The tablets were created by Lucjan Orzech (Art Department of the Pedagogical University in Cracow). He is also the creator of the poliptych picturing the life of St Paul the Apostle, which consists of 28 paintings on wood tablets, linked with one another and set on the curved balustrade of the organ choir platform.
The space of the church is lit up by the stained glass of artist Józef Furdyna. Over the organ choir platform the largest stained glass window (42 square m) in Bochnia is placed. It depicts scenes of the Nativity.
On both sides of the presbytery are semicircular arcades which separate the aisle chapels from the nave. At the south end is the chapel of Our Lady of Fatima. The stained glass windows in the chapel represent the visions of the Virgin Mary, the Miracles at La Salette, Lourdes, and Fatima. The painting on the altar wall shows the last miracle of Fatima and a pencil-like sketch of a believers’ march, who are led to the miraculous figure of Our Lady of Fatima by her great worshipper – John Paul II. On a balustrade of a small choir is a triptych, which pictures the birth of the Virgin Mary, her Slumbering and finally Ascension.
At the north end is the chapel of God’s Mercy with a painting entitled „Jesus, I Trust in Thee”. The picture is surrounded by wooden figures of angels with symbols of Lord’s martyrdom- a cross, a crown of thorns, a chalice, and a spear. Their creator is Tarnow sculptor Kazimierz Klimkiewicz. In the middle is the reliquary with St Faustyna relics. The chapel is decorated with stained glass windows symbolising God’s Mercy: The Return of the Prodigal Son, the Good Shepherd, and The Good Samaritan.
At the entrance of the chapel of God’s Mercy stands a sculpture of the great advocate of this cult – the Blessed John Paul II (01.05.2011). It presents suffering of the Pope, who suggestively supports the cross of Christ. The sculptor of this oak piece is artist Jacek Osadczuk. He also created a stone figure of the patron saint of the parish in the churchyard. This sculpture was dedicated by the faithful on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the parish in the year of St Paul – 2009.
The interior of the church is completed by a modern 32-pipe organ, made by the Austrian firm-Rieger’s.