Wigry is the biggest lake (with the total water surface area of approx. 2200 ha) in Suwalszczyzna (often mistakenly referred to as one of the lakes of Mazurian Region), very deep (73 m) and having an exceptionally long shoreline (over 70 km). Due to unique landscape and ecological values the group of Wigry lakes is protected by international law.
The Camedolite Order monks came from Italy to Poland in 1604 and to Suwalszczyzna land in 1667. The obtained the foundation document for raising Wigry Monastery from a Polish king, Jan Kazimierz, upon consent earlier given by the Pope, Klemens IX – and they took the name Eremus Insulae Wigrenais (Hermitage of Wigry Islands). In 1694-1745 Cameldolite monks constructed a wonderful baroque site. On the hill, surrounded by two rings of revetments, they raised a church and some other buildings: hermitages (hermits’ homes), a clock tower, a chancellor’s house, a royal house, a refectory (dining hall), a porter’s home.
Wigry – once a place of hermits’ contemplation – from 8th through 10th June, 1999 became a place of prayer reverie of the Pope. John Paul II visited the former Mnastery of Cameldolite Orderin Suwalszczyzna in 1999 for the first time as the Pope, but he had been here before. Czarna Hańcza River, crossing Wigry Lake and Augustowska Primaeval Forest to flow into Niemen River, was Priest Karol Wojtyła’s favourite kayaking route. He was on this route from 16th through 30th July, 1954. During one of his subsequent kayaking trips, in summer 1958, while enjoying Suwalszczyzna land: Czarna Hańcza River and Wigry Lake, he was reached extraordinary news: the then Pope, Pius XII, through his decision issued on 8th July, 1958, three months before his death, appointed Priest Karol Wojtyła to the position of a titular bishop and suffragan of Krakow.
The new Bishop of Krakow – though still without his mitre and in „kayaking” clothes went straight from the kayaking camp to Saint Lipka, and the to Miodowa Street in Warsaw. Twenty years later, in 1978, Karol Wojtyła (now a cardinal) stayed in Rome for good, taking over St. Peter’s heritage. 20 more years passed, and 41 years after the memorable holidays at Wigry Lake, Karol Wojtyła came back to Suwalszczyzna, now as the Pope, to stay in the post-Cameldolite sites. He took another trip on Wigry Lake, this time not in a kayak but on “Tryton” boat, which has been carrying tourists along “the Pope’s route” since then every day between 10.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. (every hour and a half), to commemorate that special cruise on 8th June, 1999.
„TRYTON” boat was built in Płock in 1941. In 1966 First Lieutenant Tadeusz Ostrowski and Mr Tadeusz Sobolewski brought it from Warsaw to Augustów, where TYTON was used as a tugboat. In 1999 two 20-tonne cranes for the first time launched the vessel not far from the Wigry Monastery. Quietened engine, reduced emission of of toxic substances in fumes exhausted, closed-cycle sanitation facilities – these are ecological standards which allow “Tryton” for moving around Wigry National Park.
During the second season of cruising Wigry Lake, at night on 15th June, 2000 unknown persons set the central and rare part of the boat on fire, the reasons for this thoughtless crime have remained undiscovered. Owing to joint efforts of ARMATOR Enterprise and Augustów Navigation Office, as well as with financial support from Polish National Insurance Company and symbolic aid from the Office of President of Polish Republic, Mr Aleksander Kwaśniewski, the boat was renovated and sent back to “the Pope’s route” on 20th July.