Palace of Branicki family, Białystok
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Palace of Branicki family

Białystok

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The palace, originally conceived as the main residence of Jan Klemens Branicki, is of exceptional significance for the history of Polish art and architecture. Both the palace and its surroundings are modelled after the grand, opulent residences of the French royalty and aristocracy of the 17th century.

History

The palace was erected on the site of the former fortified manor of the Wiesiołowski family, dating back to the 16th century. Towards the end of the 17th century, the manor house was redesigned by Tylman van Gameren at the initiative of Stefan Mikołaj Branicki. During the 18th century, the manor and the surrounding lands located in the area of the city of Białystok were inherited by Jan Klemens Branicki (1689-1771), the great crown hetman, who set out on the task of redesigning both the palace and the entire complex - a task that would take him almost all of his life. Initially, the architect responsible for redesigning the palace was Jan Zygmunt Deybel, although in the later years he was joined by a number of other well-known designers and construction specialists: Jan Henryk Klemm, Jakub Fontana, Ricaurd de Tirregaille and Jan Sękowski. The interiors of the palace were graced by sculptures created by Jan Chryzostom Redler, the paintings executed by Szymon Czechowicz, Antoni Herliczka and Sylwester Mirys as well as by plasterwork decorations crafted by Antoni Vogt and Feliks Iwaszkiewicz. Once the redesign was complete, the palace attained the form of a Late Baroque residence with a distinctly French flavour. In the course of alteration works, a second storey was added to the corps de logis of the building, with both the side wings and the outbuildings being extended. The palace interiors were all completely remodelled and received a new, opulent décor. In the years 1755-1759, a new staircase was constructed, its sculptural decorations drawing admiring glances from visitors. When Jan Klemens Branicki died without heirs in 1771, followed by his wife, Izabela (1808), the palace was taken over by tsar Alexander I of Russia. In 1821, one of the palace wings was converted to serve as an Orthodox church for the local army garrison. In 1838, the building was adapted to serve as a girl school known as the Institute for Noble Ladies, its interiors converted to perform the function of an educational establishment. In 1846, the left wing of the palace was adapted as a hospital and apartments for the girl school teachers. Towards the end of the 19th century, the first-floor section of the corps de logis was redesigned, with the original, Rococo décor being lamentably lost in the process. The Institute remained in operation until 1915, when it was evacuated due to the impending threat of war. Until 1918, the palace remained occupied by the Germans, who converted it into a hospital. During the interwar period, the edifice became a province administration building which also housed the offices of the district governor as well as a court. The building was destroyed and burned down during World War II. Once the war came to an end, the reconstruction works headed by the architect Stanisław Bukowski began, encompassing both the palace itself and its surroundings, including the entrance gate, the pavilions and the perimeter fence. The works were finally completed in 1962. In the course of the reconstruction works, the palace was restored to its former glory, regaining its mid-18th century appearance. From 1950 onwards, the Branicki palace has served as the Medical Academy (currently known as the Medical University).

Description

The palace is situated in the centre of Białystok, in the eastern section of the surrounding palace and park complex. On the eastern side of the palace lie two large courtyards: the avant cour and the cour d’honneur, surrounded by gardens that stretch to the west and the north. The church was designed in the Baroque style. It was designed on an inverted U-shaped plan, its rectangular corps de logis connected with the side wings by colonnaded walkways. The palace consists of a number of distinct sections, including the cuboid main body - a three-storey structure with a number of avant-corps of varying length and width - as well as the single-storey wings which flank it and the two-storey outbuildings linked to the palace by colonnaded galleries. The palace itself is covered with a hip roof, with its corner extensions being crowned with decorative cupolas; the outbuildings feature tall hip roofs or flat roofs, the latter concealed beneath parapet balustrades. The façades of the palace are highly decorative, their design being predominantly symmetrical and based on the use of regular axial divisions; the individual façades are partitioned with pilasters and decorative panels, adorned with sculptural decorations and topped with ornate balustrades. The representational first-floor level makes an extensive use of French windows to emphasise its grandeur. The walls of the ground floor level are adorned with decorative rustication and separated from the rest of the structure by a string course. The three-axial avant-corps projecting from the front façade is topped with a triangular pediment and crowned by a sculpture of Atlas supporting the terrestrial globe. The garden façade is similarly disposed, its entrance preceded by a colonnaded portico with a balcony.

The historical building can be viewed from the outside; some of the palace interiors are likewise made available to visitors.

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

Bibliography

  • E. Zeller-Narolewska, Pałac Branickich w XIX i XX w. in: “Biuletyn Konserwatorski Województwa Podlaskiego”, issue 7, Białystok 2001, pp. 7-16;
  • Białystok. Zespół pałacowy d. Branickich, compiled by T. Szyburska, Warsaw 1972, typescript PPKZ, collection of the Regional Monument Protection Office in Białystok.

General information

  • Type: palace
  • Chronology: 1 poł. XVIII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Kilińskiego 1, Białystok
  • Location: Voivodeship podlaskie, district Białystok, commune Białystok
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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