Wednesday, January 31, 2007
The town of Piekary Slaskie: A Polish joke
The town of Piekary Slaskie (pop. 60,000) is located in the uplands of Upper Silesia, the most industrialized and densely populated region of Poland. But its roots go back to the Middle Ages, and it's still an important place of pilgrimage to the Blessèd Virgin Mary, which makes it very dear to me.
As all good medieval cities should, Piekary Slaskie boasts a coat of arms. From time immemorial it was as pictured on the left: two men holding hands. But according to Adam Cioch, that all began to change in 2003. He writes,
.... Four years ago in fact, when the debate over the rights of gays and lesbians began to receive media coverage in Poland, a portion of the town's inhabitants became aware of the homosexual content of Piekary Slaskie's symbol. The municipal council then initiated discussions over the modification of the coat of arms, which quickly swerved to the ridiculous.
The "anti-gay" party argued that since the shields were causing a misunderstanding and since Piekary is the "spiritual capital of Upper Silesia" (because of its Marian sanctuary), the town ought to have a symbol "serious and proper." No need to add that the debate got its initial momentum from the local clergy before the media got hold of the affair.
As for the "pro-gay" party, it was for saving the ancient symbol as much for the preservation of tradition as for not ridiculing the city further in the eyes of the country. [a Simply Appalling translation]
And I had so been hoping to include Piekary Slaskie in my round of pilgrimages! But surely the Virgin will understand.