The Most Famous


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This page contains a list of the greatest Polish Religious Figures. The pantheon dataset contains 2,272 Religious Figures, 40 of which were born in Poland. This makes Poland the birth place of the 12th most number of Religious Figures behind India and Egypt.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Polish Religious Figures of all time. This list of famous Polish Religious Figures is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Polish Religious Figures.

Photo of Pope John Paul II

1. Pope John Paul II (1920 - 2005)

With an HPI of 89.13, Pope John Paul II is the most famous Polish Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 136 different languages on wikipedia.

Pope John Paul II (Latin: Ioannes Paulus II; Italian: Giovanni Paolo II; Polish: Jan Paweł II; born Karol Józef Wojtyła [ˈkarɔl ˈjuzɛv vɔjˈtɨwa]; 18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005) was the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 until his death in 2005. He was elected pope by the second papal conclave of 1978, which was called after John Paul I, who had been elected in August to succeed Pope Paul VI, died after 33 days. Cardinal Wojtyła was elected on the third day of the conclave and adopted the name of his predecessor in tribute to him. Born in Poland, John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI in the 16th century and the second-longest-serving pope after Pius IX in modern history. John Paul II attempted to improve the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, and the Eastern Orthodox Church. He maintained the Church's previous positions on such matters as abortion, artificial contraception, the ordination of women, and a celibate clergy, and although he supported the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, he was seen as generally conservative in their interpretation. He was one of the most travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,340 and canonised 483 people, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the preceding five centuries. By the time of his death, he had named most of the College of Cardinals, consecrated or co-consecrated many of the world's bishops, and ordained many priests. He has also been credited with helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland as well as the rest of Europe.John Paul II's cause for canonisation commenced one month after his death with the traditional five-year waiting period waived. On 19 December 2009, John Paul II was proclaimed venerable by his successor, Benedict XVI, and was beatified on 1 May 2011 (Divine Mercy Sunday) after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints attributed one miracle to his intercession, the healing of a French nun called Marie Simon Pierre from Parkinson's disease. A second miracle was approved on 2 July 2013, and confirmed by Pope Francis two days later. John Paul II was canonised on 27 April 2014 (again Divine Mercy Sunday), together with John XXIII. On 11 September 2014, Pope Francis added these two optional memorials to the worldwide General Roman Calendar of saints. It is traditional to celebrate saints' feast days on the anniversary of their deaths, but that of John Paul II (22 October) is celebrated on the anniversary of his papal inauguration. Posthumously, he has been referred to by some Catholics as "St. John Paul the Great", although the title has no official recognition.

Photo of Maximilian Kolbe

2. Maximilian Kolbe (1894 - 1941)

With an HPI of 78.66, Maximilian Kolbe is the 2nd most famous Polish Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 51 different languages.

Maximilian Maria Kolbe (born Raymund Kolbe; Polish: Maksymilian Maria Kolbe [maksɨˌmʲilʲan ˌmarʲja ˈkɔlbɛ]; 8 January 1894 – 14 August 1941), venerated as Saint Maximilian Kolbe, was a Polish Catholic priest and Conventual Franciscan friar who volunteered to die in place of a man named Franciszek Gajowniczek in the German death camp of Auschwitz, located in German-occupied Poland during World War II. He had been active in promoting the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, founding and supervising the monastery of Niepokalanów near Warsaw, operating an amateur-radio station (SP3RN), and founding or running several other organizations and publications. On 10 October 1982, Pope John Paul II canonized Kolbe and declared him a martyr of charity. The Catholic Church venerates him as the patron saint of amateur radio operators, drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, and prisoners. John Paul II declared him "The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century." His feast day is 14 August, the day of his death. Due to Kolbe's efforts to promote consecration and entrustment to Mary, he is known as the Apostle of Consecration to Mary.

Photo of Faustina Kowalska

3. Faustina Kowalska (1905 - 1938)

With an HPI of 76.78, Faustina Kowalska is the 3rd most famous Polish Religious Figure.  Her biography has been translated into 44 different languages.

Maria Faustyna Kowalska (born Helena Kowalska; 25 August 1905 – 5 October 1938), also known as Saint Maria Faustyna Kowalska of the Blessed Sacrament and popularly spelled Faustina, was a Polish Roman Catholic nun and mystic. Her apparitions of Jesus Christ inspired the Roman Catholic devotion to the Divine Mercy and earned her the title of "Secretary of Divine Mercy". Throughout her life, Kowalska reported having visions of Jesus and conversations with him, which she noted in her diary, later published as The Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul. Her biography, submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, quoted some of the conversations with Jesus regarding the Divine Mercy devotion.At the age of 20 years, she joined a convent in Warsaw. She was later transferred to Płock and then to Vilnius, where she met Father Michał Sopoćko, who was to be her confessor and spiritual director, and who supported her devotion to the Divine Mercy. With this priest's help, Kowalska commissioned an artist to paint the first Divine Mercy image, based on her vision of Jesus. Father Sopoćko celebrated Mass in the presence of this painting on Low Sunday, also known as the Second Sunday of Easter or (as established by Pope John Paul II), Divine Mercy Sunday. The Catholic Church canonized Kowalska as a saint on 30 April 2000. The mystic is classified in the liturgy as a virgin and is venerated within the church as the "Apostle of Divine Mercy". Her tomb is in Divine Sanctuary, Kraków-Łagiewniki, where she spent the end of her life and met confessor Józef Andrasz, who also supported the message of mercy.

Photo of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 - 1945)

With an HPI of 76.01, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is the 4th most famous Polish Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 56 different languages.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German: [ˈdiːtʁɪç ˈbɔn.høː.fɐ] (listen); 4 February 1906 – 9 April 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity's role in the secular world have become widely influential, and his book The Cost of Discipleship is described as a modern classic.Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer was known for his staunch resistance to the Nazi dictatorship, including vocal opposition to Hitler's euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews. He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. Later, he was transferred to Flossenbürg concentration camp. Bonhoeffer was accused of being associated with the 20 July plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler and was then quickly tried along with other accused plotters, including former members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office). He was hanged on 9 April 1945 as the Nazi regime was collapsing.

Photo of Saint Casimir

5. Saint Casimir (1458 - 1484)

With an HPI of 73.68, Saint Casimir is the 5th most famous Polish Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.

Casimir Jagiellon (Latin: Casimirus; Lithuanian: Kazimieras; Polish: Kazimierz; 3 October 1458 – 4 March 1484) was a prince of the Kingdom of Poland and of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Second son of King Casimir IV Jagiellon, he was tutored by Johannes Longinus, a Polish chronicler and diplomat. After his elder brother Vladislaus was elected as King of Bohemia in 1471, Casimir became the heir apparent. At the age of 13, Casimir participated in the failed military campaign to install him as King of Hungary. He became known for his piety, devotion to God, and generosity towards the sick and poor. He became ill (most likely with tuberculosis) and died at the age of 25. He was buried in Vilnius Cathedral and his cult grew. His canonization was initiated by his brother King Sigismund I the Old in 1514 and the tradition holds that he was canonized in 1521. The age of the Protestant Reformation was not conducive to the cult of saints. Veneration of Casimir saw a resurgence in the 17th century when his feast day was confirmed by the pope in 1602 and the dedicated Chapel of Saint Casimir was completed in 1636. Casimir became a patron saint of Lithuania and Lithuanian youth. In Vilnius, his feast day is marked annually with Kaziuko mugė (a trade fair) held on the Sunday nearest to 4 March, the anniversary of his death. There are more than 50 churches named after Casimir in Lithuania and Poland, including Church of St. Casimir, Vilnius and St. Kazimierz Church, Warsaw, and more than 50 churches in Lithuanian and Polish diaspora communities in America. Women's congregation Sisters of Saint Casimir was established in 1908 and remains active in the United States.

Photo of Angelus Silesius

6. Angelus Silesius (1624 - 1677)

With an HPI of 73.33, Angelus Silesius is the 6th most famous Polish Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.

Angelus Silesius (c. 1624 – 9 July 1677), born Johann Scheffler and also known as Johann Angelus Silesius, was a German Catholic priest and physician, known as a mystic and religious poet. Born and raised a Lutheran, he adopted the name Angelus (Latin for "angel" or "heavenly messenger") and the epithet Silesius ("Silesian") on converting to Catholicism in 1653. While studying in the Netherlands, he began to read the works of medieval mystics and became acquainted with the works of the German mystic Jacob Böhme through Böhme's friend, Abraham von Franckenberg. Silesius's mystical beliefs caused tension between him and Lutheran authorities and led to his eventual conversion to Catholicism. He took holy orders under the Franciscans and was ordained a priest in 1661. Ten years later, in 1671, he retired to a Jesuit house where he remained for the rest of his life.An enthusiastic convert and priest, Silesius worked to convince German Protestants in Silesia to return to the Roman Catholic Church. He composed 55 tracts and pamphlets condemning Protestantism, several of which were published in two folio volumes entitled Ecclesiologia (i.e., Ecclesiology). He is now remembered chiefly for his religious poetry, and in particular for two poetical works both published in 1657: Heilige Seelenlust (literally, "The Soul's Holy Desires"), a collection of more than 200 religious hymn texts that have been used by Catholics and Protestants; and Cherubinischer Wandersmann ("The Cherubinic Pilgrim"), a collection of 1,676 short poems, mostly Alexandrine couplets. His poetry explores themes of mysticism, quietism, and pantheism within an orthodox Catholic context.

Photo of Itzhak Stern

7. Itzhak Stern (1901 - 1969)

With an HPI of 71.59, Itzhak Stern is the 7th most famous Polish Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 18 different languages.

Itzhak Stern (25 January 1901 – 1969) was a Polish-Israeli Jewish Holocaust survivor who worked for Sudeten-German industrialist Oskar Schindler and assisted him in his rescue activities during the Holocaust.

Photo of Stanislaus Kostka

8. Stanislaus Kostka (1550 - 1568)

With an HPI of 69.27, Stanislaus Kostka is the 8th most famous Polish Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.

Stanisław Kostka S.J. (28 October 1550 – 15 August 1568) was a Polish novice of the Society of Jesus. He is venerated in the Catholic Church as Saint Stanislaus Kostka (as distinct from his namesake, the 11th-century Bishop of Kraków Stanislaus the Martyr). He was born at Rostkowo, Przasnysz County, Poland, on 28 October 1550, and died in Rome during the night of 14–15 August 1568. He entered the Society of Jesus in Rome on his 17th birthday (28 October 1567), and is said to have foretold his death a few days before it occurred.

Photo of Stanislaus of Szczepanów

9. Stanislaus of Szczepanów (1030 - 1079)

With an HPI of 68.85, Stanislaus of Szczepanów is the 9th most famous Polish Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.

Stanislaus of Szczepanów (Polish: Stanisław Szczepanowski; 26 July 1030 – 11 April 1079) was Bishop of Kraków known chiefly for having been martyred by the Polish king Bolesław II the Generous. Stanislaus is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as Saint Stanislaus the Martyr (as distinct from the 16th-century Jesuit Stanislaus Kostka). He is the first Polish-born saint.

Photo of Hyacinth of Poland

10. Hyacinth of Poland (1185 - 1257)

With an HPI of 67.47, Hyacinth of Poland is the 10th most famous Polish Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

Hyacinth (Polish: Święty Jacek or Jacek Odrowąż; ca. 1185 – 15 August 1257) was a Polish Dominican priest and missionary who worked to reform women's monasteries in his native Poland. He was a Doctor of Sacred Studies, educated in Paris and Bologna.

Pantheon has 40 people classified as religious figures born between 1030 and 1972. Of these 40, 7 (17.50%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living religious figures include Stanisław Dziwisz, Anna Wierzbicka, and Stanisław Ryłko. The most famous deceased religious figures include Pope John Paul II, Maximilian Kolbe, and Faustina Kowalska. As of October 2020, 6 new religious figures have been added to Pantheon including John Albert Vasa, Jan Łaski, and Johann Dzierzon.

Living Religious Figures

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Deceased Religious Figures

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Newly Added Religious Figures (2020)

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Which Religious Figures were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 21 most globally memorable Religious Figures since 1700.