Former Piarist complex, Chełm
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Former Piarist complex

Chełm

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A Baroque architectural complex incorporating the most outstanding of all Late Baroque churches in the Lublin region which also remains the best surviving example of a church from the so-called “Lubartów group” - a group of churches which were all erected according to a uniform spatial concept devised by Paweł (Paolo) A. Fontana, an eminent architect, the most distinctive feature of their design being the composite layout, combining elements of central-plan and longitudinal designs, as well as the presence of an octagonal nave. Inside the church, visitors can still admire the surviving Late Baroque trompe l’œil painted decorations by the painter Józef Meyer (mid-18th century) as well as a complete set of fixtures and fittings which includes Rococo sculptural decorations created at the time when the church itself was built and originating from distinguished ateliers in Lviv.

History

The complex of the Piarist church and college came into being in a number of stages. The church was erected in years 1753-1763, replacing an older parish church which had most likely been made of wood back in the early 15th century and which was subsequently lost to the blaze in 1578. That church was then replaced by a brick structure in 1585, demolished to make way for the surviving Baroque church during the mid-18th century. The new church was funded by Andrzej Wolski and his wife Marianna as well as by Wacław Rzewuski and was intended to complement the brick and stone Piarist college building which was built back in the late 17th century, after the Piarist monks took over the parish in 1667. The church was designed by Paweł (Paolo) A. Fontana, with the architect Tomasz Rezler being responsible for the oversight of construction works. In 1758, the Late Baroque wall paintings inside the church were executed by Józef Meyer. The comprehensive set of interior fixtures and fittings designed in the Late Baroque and Rococo style was created in years 1774-1781 at the atelier of Michał Filewicz in Lviv. The church underwent restoration in years 1836-1839, 1870, 1878, 1929 and 1970-1974, without losing any of its original form in the process. The only major parts which were replaced included the roof cladding, with the original roof tiles being superseded by sheet metal in the 1970s, as well as the floor tiles, replaced in years 2000-2002. In years 1970-1974, a comprehensive restoration of the polychrome decorations took place, with the interior fixtures, fittings and sculptural décor being subjected to renovation works in years 1998-2002.

The Piarist college was built in stages, its construction beginning in 1714 and coming to an end somewhere around the year 1730. The original, wooden college buildings were erected in years 1668 - 1672. The brick edifice of the college (the western wing) was built on its current site before 1714 alongside the earlier brick and stone parish church which stood there at the time. The extension of the college, effected through the addition of side sections, took place after 1720, with the architect Dominik A. Bellotti being tasked with the oversight of the construction works; these works continued after 1726 under the master brickmason Jan Rosochalski. Following the completion of the new church in the second half of the 18th century, the southern wing was added, connecting the college and the church. From 1795 onwards, the building was used as a government-backed school maintained by the Piarist order. In 1865, the building was converted to serve as a Russian lower-secondary school (gymnasium), while during the interwar period it was used as a general school, rectory and district governor’s office. In years 1965-1966, some of the ground floor vaults were reconstructed, having collapsed some time before. From 1966 onwards, a part of the building serves as a museum. In 1997, the building underwent partial renovation works, followed by a restoration of the façade in the year 2000. The brick and stone middle wing was extended under the direction of the architect Dominik Bellotti after 1720, with further works taking place after 1750, resulting in the construction of the eastern connecting section. A series of comprehensive renovation works was carried out in years 1838-1865; in years 1964-1968 the building was partially adapted to serve as a museum.

The figure of Our Lady of Graces was created in 1753, with the accompanying statue of St Joseph Calasanz being added in 1759; both sculptures were made according to a uniform design created by P. A. Fontana.

Description

The complex occupies the inner part of a spacious plot of land surrounded by a wall (formerly serving as the city boundary wall) to the south and the west. The front part of the parcel lies adjacent to the main street (Lubelska street), with the entire complex serving as the terminating vista of the Pijarska street. The church occupies the eastern part of the complex, its front façade facing the north. The northern wing of the monastic building abuts the chancel of the church, while the western wing thereof stretches all the way towards the north, reaching the fence which runs along Lubelska street. The church and the college form a semi-open courtyard, lying west from the church and connected to a spacious square located in front of the church. Inside the courtyard there is a pair of widely spaced sculptures, located midway between the front façade and the fence.

The church was designed in the Late Baroque style; it is a brick structure with plastered walls and brick vaults, its interior walls covered with wall paintings. The roof and the cupolas of the towers as well as the roof lantern which crowns the steeple are clad with copper sheets; originally, the roofs of the main body and the chancel of the church were covered with roof tiles. The church features a composite layout incorporating elements of both the central-plan and longitudinal designs, the middle nave section being designed on an elongated octagonal floor plan, the chancel being longer than the remaining arms of the church. By way of comparison, the bay incorporating the pipe organ gallery, positioned on the longitudinal axis, is notably shorter. A pair of identical transept bays are positioned on the transverse axis of the church, the entire design being supplemented by four smaller chapels extending from the ambulatory, positioned on the diagonal axes. The chancel, terminating in a straight wall, is flanked by a pair of two-storey annexes which incorporate two sacristies, a treasury, a library as well as a staircase and the patron’s pews upstairs. The load-bearing structure of the nave is based on an alternating layout of four large and four small arches which, together, form a triumphal arch-like arrangement and feature simplified Corinthian pilasters rising above convex pedestals which serve as the support for statues depicting the Fathers of the Church as well as the pulpit. The western arcade is intersected by a basket-handle arch which supports the pipe organ gallery with a sail vault underneath. The main cornice which runs around the nave arcs upwards to follow the curve of the four largest arches; semi-circular panels topped with a reverse-ogee arch are positioned above the smaller arcades. The tripartite vault is supported by arches below, with a barrel vault featuring a pair of lunettes being used for the middle section, while the front and rear sections feature half-dome ceilings with two lunettes and a deep-beam wall in the chancel. The transept bays as well as the space above the pipe organ gallery and in the chapels located in the ambulatory all feature groin vaults, their ribs being barely visible. The transept chapel walls are partitioned by pilasters rising above the pedestals below and following the shape of the corners of the walls. The side walls of the chapels feature an entablature, with arched sections of the architrave positioned above the openings in the wall. In the corners of the chapels that radiate away from the ambulatory one may spot dual faux pilasters with cornices which follow the profile of the impost blocks of the arches located alongside the nave; right next to them are dual half-arches positioned along the edges of the vault. The layout of the openings in the side walls follows that of the transept chapels, with single windows topped with segmental arches visible in the upper part of exterior walls.

The upper part of the chancel is adorned with pilasters the design of which follows that in the larger chapels, with widely spaced pairs of pilasters rising beneath the barrel vault terminating in two wide lunettes, each of which incorporates a pair of windows. A short barrel vault section can be seen in the area above the altarpiece. A window topped with a segmental arch pierces the upper part of the terminating wall.

The marble floor is arranged in a chequerboard pattern. The vaults are adorned with trompe l’œil and figural paintings; the walls of the main body of the church as well as of the chancel, the sacristy and the treasury all feature a painted marbleized finish.

The front façade of the church consists of a pair of pronounced, three-storey towers, positioned diagonally and connected to the main body of the church with their corners. The towers flank a receded, slightly convex middle section of the façade, following a two-storey design and topped with an arched pediment with two massive volutes at the bottom. The towers and the front façade feature exterior decorations in the form of simplified, stacked Doric pilasters which frame the decorative niches and windows topped with semicircular arches and featuring simple, austere surrounds. The towers are crowned with two-tier, squat cupolas topped with pinnacles with crosses on top. The lower sections of the side façades as well as the rear façade follow a single-storey design and vary in height, with the chapels around the ambulatory being significantly lower. Their walls are adorned with faux pilasters on the corners and angled sections of the walls. The gable walls of the transept chapels are topped with segment-headed pediments with an ogee-arch upper section. Windows with decorative surrounds are positioned axially in the individual walls. The façades of the octagonal pseudo-tholobate of the nave are adorned with faux pilasters that follow the angles of the wall, with an entablature running the circumference of the tholobate providing the finishing touch. The walls are pierced by single windows, positioned on a diagonal axis. The nave is covered by an eight-faced roof with a short roof ridge from the centre of which rises an octagonal arcaded steeple with a lantern and a bulbous cupola.

The fixtures and fittings of the church include a stylistically uniform ensemble of architectural altarpieces adorned with sculptures in the Rococo style, the sculpted pulpit, the cornucopia-shaped baptismal font standing by the left pillar, featuring a sculpted backboard and canopy, as well as the Regency-style parapet of the pipe organ gallery. The arcaded passages between the transept chapels and the chapels in the ambulatory conceal four wooden confessionals embedded in the outer walls of the church. The sacristy and the treasury also feature integrated, Late Baroque fixtures and fittings.

The former Piarist college is a single-storey building with avant-corps extending from both sides of the main body (western wing) and a two-storey connecting building (southern wing) at the extension of the eastern avant-corps, reaching towards the western sacristy of the nearby church. The main body of the building features a symmetrical layout, with the staircase positioned on its middle axis; the interior follows a three-bay layout with a hallway in the middle bay, while the side sections of the building (the avant-corps) feature single-bay, tripartite interiors arranged in an enfilade layout. The connecting wing features a tripartite interior with a gateway on the axis of the ground-floor section; the interiors flanking the gateway follow a two-bay layout, with the front suite of rooms incorporating vestibules with staircases inside.

The façades follow a multi-axial layout and feature no partitions whatsoever; they are topped with a pronounced cornice above which rise multi-pitched roofs clad with sheet metal.

The pair of statues take the form of tall, hexagonal Doric pillars set upon plinths. The statues of the saints themselves are positioned atop smaller plinths which taper downwards and feature decorative cornices.

The church is accessible to visitors during the day; the section of the college which serves as a museum may be visited during the museum opening hours.

compiled by Roman Zwierzchowski, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Lublin, 02-10-2014.

Bibliography

  • Katalog Zabytków Sztuki w Polsce, Vol. VIII, dawne województwo lubelskie, R. Brykowski and E. Smulikowska (eds.), vol. 5 Powiat chełmski, Warsaw 1968
  • Former Piarist church, currently the parish church of the Sending of the Apostles, Chełm, record sheet, compiled by
  • Roman Catholic parish church of the Sending of the Apostles (part of the former Piarist complex), compiled by B. Stanek-Lebioda, 1993
  • The college and monastery (part of the former Piarist complex), Chełm, record sheet, compiled by K. Słowik 1993
  • Former Piarist complex, Chełm, record sheet, compiled by B. Kruk, 1996
  • Parish church of St Anne, Lubartów, record sheet, compiled by
  • Skrabski J., Paolo Fontana. Nadworny architekt Sanguszków, Tarnów 2007

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1713
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Chełm
  • Location: Voivodeship lubelskie, district Chełm, commune Chełm
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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