Roman Catholic chapel, currently serving as the Orthodox chapel of St Mary Magdalene, Białystok
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Roman Catholic chapel, currently serving as the Orthodox chapel of St Mary Magdalene

Białystok

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The Baroque chapel, funded by Jan Klemens Branicki, was constructed during the period of the city’s rapid expansion in the 18th century. The structure is one of the oldest chapels in the Podlasie region designed in the form of a rotunda, with very few of such designs surviving to the present day. The history of this small chapel remains inextricably linked to the more than 200 years of religious coexistence of Roman and Greek Catholics as well as Orthodox Christians in Białystok.

History

In 1758, Jan Klemens Branicki donated two voloks of land located on the hill near the road leading towards Suraż to the administrative ecclesiastical body operating alongside the chapel of St Roch (1750) which was responsible for the maintenance of designated places of worship, attended to by a priest known as the altarist. The chapel of St Mary Magdalene was erected in the very same year and was consecrated by Ignacy Massalski, the bishop of Vilnius. The brick chapel was erected on a circular plan, with an entrance on the northern side. The roof topped by a small cupola was clad with copper sheets. Inside, the altarpiece incorporated the painting of St Mary Magdalene as well as a sculpted crucifix. A number of trees were planted on the hill, with the path leading towards the chapel being lined with lime trees. The chapels of St Mary Magdalene and St Roch were then brought under a single administration, both of them forming part of the parish in Białystok. A Catholic cemetery, established in 1806, was gradually forming around the chapel. A site for a new, Uniate cemetery was allocated on the eastern side of the hill. In 1864, the chapel was taken over by the Orthodox Church - an act intended as a form of retaliation in the wake of the thwarted January Uprising. It was most likely at that point that a pair of rectangular annexes adjoining the northern and southern sides of the structure were added, with the original cupola being replaced by a rather more bulbous design typical of Orthodox churches. After World War II, the Roman Catholic church made efforts to regain control of both the chapel and the cemetery; in 1958, the District Court in Białystok held that the ownership of the chapel and part of the burial ground would be vested with the parish of St Roch. Due to the fact that this judgement was later appealed against, however, the administration of the contested site was finally taken over by the municipal authorities. From 1991 onwards, under the provisions of the applicable legislation, the tserkva became the property of the parish of St Nicholas in Białystok.

Description

The chapel is located in the centre of the city of Białystok, near the Central Park, on a hill overgrown by trees, surrounded by the Kalinowskiego and Kijowska street and positioned adjacent to the grounds surrounding the opera house. It was designed in the Baroque style, with a number of alteration works being performed at a later date. The building is made of brick, its walls covered with plaster. It was originally designed on a circular plan, with the two rectangular side annexes being a later addition. The entrance is positioned on the northern side of the structure. The chapel consists of the main body - a rotunda topped with a dome surmounted by a cylindrical shaft supporting a bulbous cupola - as well as two cuboid annexes covered with a low gable roof (the northern annex) and an equally squat three-sided roof (the southern annex). A small steeple rises from the ridge of the roof above the entrance. The façades are devoid of any decorative flourishes save for a pronounced, profiled crowning cornice. The side façades follow a three-axial layout, with a window topped with a semi-circular arch positioned on each axis. The roof lantern is adorned with profiled cornices, its walls pierced by small windows likewise topped with semi-circular arches. The interior is a single, open space.

The chapel is open to visitors.

compiled by Grażyna Rogala, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Białystok, 23-12-2014.

Bibliography

  • Jabłoński K. A., Biały i Czerwony. Kościoły białostockiej parafii farnej, Białystok 2008, pp. 73-77.
  • Record sheet, Kaplica rzymskokatolicka, ob. prawosławna pw. św. Marii Magdaleny, compiled by J. Tołłoczko, 1993, 1993, archive of the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Białystok.
  • Sztachelska-Kokoczka A., Oleksicki A., Białystok w czasach Branickich (lata 1708-1795), [in:] Historia Białegostoku, Białystok 2012, pp. 152-153;

General information

  • Type: chapel
  • Chronology: 1758 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Sosnowa , Białystok
  • Location: Voivodeship podlaskie, district Białystok, commune Białystok
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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