Bardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz: Photo - PAP/Jacek Bednarczyk
The pantheon, which is located in the crypts of the Church of SS Peter and Paul, will be solely for outstanding figures in the arts and sciences.
“We are opening today the final resting place of prominent men of culture,” Archbishop of Krakow Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz announced on Thursday.
“The pantheon will be our expression of gratitude for their contribution to the spiritual life of our country,” he added.
The site continues the tradition of the riverside "Church on the Rock", which no longer has space for further entombments, a situation echoed in the crypts of Krakow's Wawel Cathedral.
Nevertheless, in spite of the location beneath one of Krakow's most hallowed houses of worship, the pantheon will not only be for those of the Roman Catholic faith.
The pantheon will be a deconsecrated space, allowing for the entombment of atheists and adherents of various religious denominations.
Effectively, the pantheon will be rented from the Curia, rather than run by it.
Meanwhile, the actual decisions regarding who merits a place in the pantheon will be taken by a nine-person committee, headed by the President of Poland.
Today's ceremony marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Father Piotr Skarga, a leading voice in the Counter-Reformation.
The priest was laid to rest in the Church of SS Peter and Paul in 1612. However, the crypts will not be entirely ready for further entombments for some time to come.
Outstanding figures who are not connected with arts will contunue to be laid to rest in Warsaw's Temple of Divine Providence. Four Poles have been entombed there since 2006, including the last president of the wartime and communist era government-in-exile in London, Ryszard Kaczorowski. (nh)