Holy Cross Church

Warsaw, Poland

The Church of the Holy Cross is one of the most notable Baroque churches in Poland's capital. As early as the 15th century, a small wooden chapel of the Holy Cross had been erected here. In 1526 the chapel was demolished, and a newer church was erected. Refurbished and extended by Paweł Zembrzuski in 1615, the church was too small to fill the needs of the growing city. Initially located well outside the city limits, by the 17th century it had become one of the main churches in the southern suburb (przedmieście) of the city that had in 1596 become Poland's capital.

In 1653 Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga gave the church to the French order of Missionary Friars of Vincent de Paul. However, three years later Warsaw was captured by Swedish armies during the Deluge. Pillaged, the church was found to be damaged beyond repair. During the reign of King John III Sobieski the church's remnants were demolished, and it was decided to erect a new shrine. In the 18th century this became the origin of the gorzkie żale tradition.

The main building was constructed between 1679 and 1696. Its main designer was Józef Szymon Bellotti, the royal architect at the Royal Court of Poland. It was financed by abbot Kazimierz Szczuka and the Primate of Poland Michał Stefan Radziejowski. The façade was relatively modest and reminded of Renaissance facades of the nearby churches. The two towers surrounding the façade were initially square-cut. Between 1725 and 1737 two late Baroque headpieces by Józef Fontana. The façade itself was refurbished by Fontana's son, Jakub (in 1756) and ornamented with sculptures by Jan Jerzy Plersch.

From 1765 the church was one of the most attended by Polish King Stanisław II Augustus. It was also there that the King established the Order of St. Stanisław and bestowed it upon loyal servants annually on May 8. On May 3, 1792, the Polish Diet gathered there on the first anniversary of the May 3rd Constitution. During the Warsaw Uprising of 1794, the stairs leading to the main entrance were destroyed and had to be replaced with new ones designed by Chrystian Piotr Aigner.

During the Partitions, the church gained much importance, especially after the 1861 demonstration held before it, which was brutally put down by Russian Cossack troops — sparking the January 1863 Uprising.

On Christmas Day 1881, an outbreak of panic following a false alarm of fire in the crowded church caused the stampede deaths of twenty-nine persons. Jews were blamed for starting the panic, and the Warsaw pogrom of 1881 ensued.

In the late 19th century the church interior was slightly refurbished, and in 1882 an urn containing the heart of Frédéric Chopin was immured in a pillar. Some decades later, a similar urn was added with the heart of Władysław Reymont. In 1889 the external staircase leading to the main entrance was reconstructed, and a sculpture of Christ Bearing His Cross by Pius Weloński was added.

During the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, the church was severely damaged. On 6 September 1944, when the Germans detonated two large Goliath tracked mines in the church (they usually carried 75–100 kg of high explosives) the facade was destroyed, together with many Baroque furnishings, the vaulting, the high altar, and side altars. Afterward the church was blown up by the Germans in January 1945.

Between 1945 and 1953, the church was rebuilt in a simplified architectural form by B. Zborowski. The interior was reconstructed without the Baroque polychromes and frescos. The main altar was reconstructed between 1960 and 1972.

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Details

Founded: 1682
Category: Religious sites in Poland

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4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Muhammad Mahfuzur Rahman (12 months ago)
This is a very important Roman Catholic Church in Warsaw. It is situated opposite to some establishment of the University of Warsaw, and close to Copernicus Institute. The interior is simple but neat, clean and very well maintained. It contains several tombs of Polish dignitaries, but significant for keeping the heart of Polish legendary pianist Frederick Chopin, which is embedded in a pillar.
nazif JT (2 years ago)
It was an amazing experience to be able to view the interior. Don't let the huge number of visitors stop you from entering the Church. It is worth it.
biji varughese (2 years ago)
Lovely 18th century chruch, interiors is beautiful, filled with paintings & art work, side alters are just too good with huge pictures dominating the walls. Highly recommended..
Manuel Fernández López (2 years ago)
Awesome building, but you should be respectful with the prayers. The most remarkable fact of the church is that you can find Chopin's heart. Although the heart is not visible per se, there is a plaque in one of the columns at the left of the altar that shows the place where it rests.
Александр Alex (2 years ago)
Interesting Cathedral in the center of city. Interior is very beautiful outside and wonderful inside. Huge building, that you can't not notice, walking in city. Atmosphere is very warm, quiet and religion. It will be interesting for visiting as for just tourists and believers.
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