Those who have braved the twisting, narrow stone staircase to climb to the top of the near 100m-high bell tower of the Church of St Elizabeth in the historic heart of Wroclaw will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Municipal Stadium Wroclaw. If they have any breath left to take after scaling the more than 200 steps of the tower, that is.
While the church has overlooked Wroclaw’s storybook Old Town from the same site since the 12th century, the foundations of the stadium were laid only three years ago. However, both have become places of devotion for fans following their countries to the capital of Lower Silesia for UEFA EURO 2012.
“Many supporters have been coming to our church during the tournament. We can easily recognise them, because they have the shirts and scarves of their teams,” explained Father Jerzy inside the church, whose cool, peaceful Gothic interior contrasts starkly with the hubbub of the adjacent Market Square and the fan zone. “We are open for foreigners who need a moment of peace and respite. Our church can be their harbour.”
The church, Kosciól Garnizonowy im. Sw. Elzbiety in Polish, has certainly served as a haven for some of the thousands of Czech Republic fans who have spilled across the nearby border to support their team in their three Group A games in the city. After the Czechs’ 4-1 defeat by Russia in their opening match, the church may find itself busier than usual prior to the meeting with Greece on Tuesday.
“Prayers will not hurt. They can only help,” laughed Sandra, who has made the journey of just over 200km from her home in Olomouc to show her belief in Michal Bílek’s side. “If we have faith that miracles can happen, they will.” Another Czech believer, Petr from Morava, added: “We were beaten by Russia, but everything’s not lost yet. We have some great players, like Petr Cech, Tomáš Rosický and Milan Baroš. They are very experienced, and have proved themselves with their clubs. That should help change our fortunes.”