The Roman Catholic order of Carmelites came to Przemyśl in 1620. Their church was founded by the duke of Podolia, Michał Krasicki, and constructed in the years 1627-1631 most probably according to the design of Galleazzo Appiani. The interior is explicitly Baroque, including a pulpit with a ship-like shape.
In 1772 after the First Partition of Poland the city fell under Austrian rule, which by a decree of Joseph II liquidated the order in 1784. The Austrian authorities also blocked the ongoing construction of a Greek Catholic Cathedral (an already erected belfry was later turned into a clock tower) and instead offered the town's Ukrainian population the confiscated Carmelite Church as part of a plan to solidify their rule over the newly acquired territory by setting its inhabitants against each other.
In 1884, Ukrainian architect Mykola Zakharevych, a professor at Lviv Polytechnic, designed and built an addition a dome modeled that was modeled on St. Peter's Basilica in Rome which also incorporated elements of Ukrainian wooden church architecture. This dome was meant to symbolize the Ukrainian congregation's connection to the Vatican.
Soon after the Second World War a Soviet controlled communist government expelled most of the Ukrainians from Przemyśl during the Operation Vistula, including most of the clergy and bishop Josaphat Kotsylovsky (Jozefat Kocyłowski), who was martyred.
In 1946 Carmelite friars, who were forced to leave their monasteries in Soviet Ukraine, settled in Przemyśl and returned to the empty church. In 1991, shortly after Poland regained full independence and the Church was able to freely operate, the church building became a focal point of Polish-Ukrainian tensions.
The Roman Catholic Church decided to transfer the building to the Greek Catholic Church for the period of five years during which the Greek Catholics would construct a new sanctuary in Przemyśl and then give the church back to the Carmelite Order. The Ukrainians, who perceived the return of the building as historical justice, had no intention of doing so. Local Poles occupied the church to prevent its transfer, and the Roman Catholic Church transferred a former Jesuit church to the Greek Catholics. Pope John Paul II wished to return the church to the Ukrainian Catholics who had used it prior to their expulsion by the Soviets.
The Carmelites begun modification of architectural details of the Cathedral to give it more of a Latin-rite appearance and erase traces of the church's links to Ukrainian Greek Catholicism. The belltower was a target due to its easily seen Cyrillic inscriptions. Roman Catholics in the city argued that the church which was originally Roman Catholic, confiscated and given to Ukrainians by Austrian authorities, was rightfully returned to the Poles. In 1996, against the orders of the conservator general of historical monuments in Poland, Prof. Andrzej Tomaszewski, the Carmelites destroyed the Habsburg-era dome of the church, claiming that it disrupted Przemysl's 'Polish' skyline, an act which sparked protests amongst Ukrainians in Przemyśl. The Carmelite church continues to serve the faithful of the Latin Rite.
The church includes a plaque commemorating victims of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.References:
The Church of St Eustace was built between 1532-1632. St Eustace"s is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The church’s reputation was strong enough of the time for it to be chosen as the location for a young Louis XIV to receive communion. Mozart also chose the sanctuary as the location for his mother’s funeral. Among those baptised here as children were Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, future Madame de Pompadour and Molière, who was also married here in the 17th century. The last rites for Anne of Austria, Turenne and Mirabeau were pronounced within its walls. Marie de Gournay is buried there.
The origins of Saint Eustache date back to 13th century. The church became a parish church in 1223, thanks to a man named Jean Alais who achieved this by taxing the baskets of fish sold nearby, as granted by King Philip Augustus. To thank such divine generosity, Alais constructed a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Agnès, a Roman martyr. The construction of the current church began in 1532, the work not being finally completed until 1637. The name of the church refers to Saint Eustace, a Roman general of the second century AD who was burned, along with his family, for converting to Christianity, and it is believed that it was the transfer of a relic of Saint Eustache from the Abbey to Saint-Denis to the Church of Saint Eustache which resulted in its naming. Jeanne Baptiste d"Albert de Luynes was baptised here.
According to tourist literature on-site, during the French Revolution the church, like most churches in Paris, was desecrated, looted, and used for a time as a barn. The church was restored after the Revolution had run its course and remains in use today. Several impressive paintings by Rubens remain in the church today. Each summer, organ concerts commemorate the premieres of Berlioz’s Te Deum and Liszt’s Christus here in 1886.
The church is an example of a Gothic structure clothed in Renaissance detail. The church is relatively short in length at 105m, but its interior is 33.45m high to the vaulting. At the main façade, the left tower has been completed in Renaissance style, while the right tower remains a stump. The front and rear aspects provide a remarkable contrast between the comparatively sober classical front and the exuberant rear, which integrates Gothic forms and organization with Classical details. The L"écoute sculpture by Henri de Miller appears outside the church, to the south. A Keith Haring sculpture stands in a chapel of the church.
The Chapel of the Virgin was built in 1640 and restored from 1801 to 1804. It was inaugurated by Pius VII on the 22nd of December, 1804 when he came to Paris for the coronation of Napoleon. The apse chapel, with a ribbed cul-de-four vault, has at its centre a sculpture of the Virgin and Child of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle that the painter Thomas Couture highlighted by three large paintings.
With 8,000 pipes, the organ is reputed to be the largest pipe organ in France, surpassing the organs of Saint Sulpice and Notre Dame de Paris. The organ originally constructed by P.-A. Ducroquet was powerful enough for the premiere of Hector Berlioz" titanic Te Deum to be performed at St-Eustache in 1855.