The cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, Białystok
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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The cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven

Białystok

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One of the so-called great cathedrals, designed in a variety of the Gothic Revival style known as the Vistula-Baltic style; most of these churches were erected in the former Kingdom of Poland in the late 19th and early 20th century as a symbol of Catholicism and the Polish national identity.

History

The efforts to obtain the permission for the construction of a new parish church in Białystok have started with reverend Wilhelm Szwarc, who took the first actions in this regard towards the end of the 19th century. It was at his initiative that in 1896 the design for a new church was produced by Józef Pius Dziekoński. The Imperial Russian authorities, while reluctant to grant permission for the construction of a new church, have ultimately allowed for the existing church to be extended. In 1898, Stefan Zwierowicz, the bishop of Vilnius, authorised the commencement of construction works. In 1899, J. P. Dziekoński came up with a new design, taking into account the requirements as to location. A Committee for Church Construction was established and swiftly commenced the fundraising activities, gathering the necessary capital and preparing the site for construction. The construction itself began in April 1900. In 1902, the chancel of the existing church was demolished, with the main body of the old temple now adjoining the side of the new church, positioned at a right angle towards it. In 1905, the interior scaffolding was taken down and the church was finally consecrated. The Wędrowski construction firm continued further works on the masonry, which was ultimately completed in 1907. The completion of basic construction works was followed by the installation of the interior fittings. The church received its altarpiece, dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Częstochowa, the pulpit (installed in 1908), the side altarpiece of St Anthony and the tympanums above the entrance portals. Later on, the main altarpiece was added, designed in the form of a Gothic-style retable by Wincenty Bogaczyk and crafted in Warsaw by the company owned by Mr Szpetkowski in years 1913-1914. The altarpieces dedicated to the Crucifixion of Jesus (1916) and St Roch were installed at a later date. During the interwar period, the first series of renovation works was conducted, with the church being consecrated once again in 1931. In 1977, the chapel of Our Lady of Mercy was added.

Description

The cathedral is located in the north-eastern part of the Kościuszko market square (known today as the John Paul II Square), on a small hill surrounded by a retaining wall; a broad flight of steps leads up the hill towards the entrance portals.

The church was designed in the Gothic Revival style. It was erected on a Latin cross floor plan, with a semi-decagonal chancel facing north. A sacristy and a chapel, both preceded by their separate porches, are found on both sides of the chancel, with the chapel opening up into the side aisle of the church. The nave of the old church adjoins the western side of the cathedral. The main body of the cathedral follows a three-nave basilica layout with five bays and a vestibule as well as a single-nave transept. The silhouette of the cathedral consists of several distinct sections - the main body, the northern sacristy, the chapel and the porches all covered with multi-pitched pyramid roofs which lend them the appearance of low, squat towers. The nave, the chancel and the transept are all of identical height and are covered with tall gable roofs, with a three-sided roof used for the end section of the chancel. The side aisles are covered with mono-pitched roofs. A slender, openwork steeple is located at the intersection of the nave and transept. On the northern side, the church features a pair of quadrangular towers with octagonal top sections, topped with crown-like arrangements of triangular gables adorned with wimpergs and pinnacles, above which rise the slender spires of the towers, surmounted by crosses. On the ground-floor level of the front façade there is a trio of pointed-arch archivolt portals topped with wimpergs. The rose window above the central portal is partially concealed beneath an openwork, curtain-like arcade. The entire structure is reinforced by a system of buttresses along its sides, with flying buttresses rising above the roofs of the side aisles. The façades are pierced with decorative, pointed-arch windows and topped with an arcaded crowning cornice. The stepped gables of the front façade and the transept are adorned with pointed-arch blind windows. The interior follows a three-nave layout and features a double barrel vault, with a stellar vault and diamond vault used for the transept crossing and the area above the organ gallery respectively. The main nave of the church opens up towards the side aisles with pointed arches resting on pillars. The arches and pillars are accentuated by vertical shafts with stone capitals adorned with foliate motifs. The vestibule opens up towards the nave and the aisles through a trio of apertures, with the middle one being topped with a Tudor arch, whereas the ones on the sides feature pointed arches.

Site accessible to visitors.

compiled by Grażyna Rogala, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Białystok, 22-12-2014.

Bibliography

  • Białystok. Kościół prokatedralny pw. Wniebowzięcia NMP, part 1. Dokumentacja historyczno-architektoniczna, compiled by J. Pyzia, Białystok 1982, typescript of the Polish Monument Conservation Workshops (PPKZ), archive of the Regional Office of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Białystok;
  • Jabłoński K. A., Biały i Czerwony. Kościoły białostockiej parafii farnej, Białystok 2008, pp. 116-181

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1900-1907
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: pl. Jana Pawła II 1, Białystok
  • Location: Voivodeship podlaskie, district Białystok, commune Białystok
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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