Katowice – The Silesian Sejm and Voivodeship Office Building and the cathedral complex, Katowice
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Katowice – The Silesian Sejm and Voivodeship Office Building and the cathedral complex

Katowice

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Value of the monument

The Silesian Sejm and Voivodeship Office Building and the cathedral complex in Katowice are connected with events which were of great significance for Poland, namely part of Upper Silesia being returned to Poland in 1922 and the establishment of an autonomous Silesian province (voivodeship) as well as the Katowice diocese, which was independent of German church structures. The prestigious architectural investments, which were supposed to represent the aspirations of state authorities and the Polish clergy, became a tangible symbol of the new political situation in the region and the stronger position of Katowice itself, which experienced dynamic development as the capital of the province. In a way, the archcathedral, whose construction was supported by secular authorities from the very beginning, symbolised the role played by the Roman Catholic Church in Upper Silesia, which was the bearer of Polish tradition, culture and language for many years.

What sets the buildings apart is their monumentality and uniqueness. At the time of construction, the Silesian Sejm and Voivodeship Office Building was the largest administrative building in the entire country, as well as the first parliament building in the reborn state of Poland and the only building connecting the functions of a seat of the parliament and the executive. The cathedral, on the other hand, is the only one designed in interwar Poland.

The buildings were constructed on the basis of projects selected in national architectural competitions, which were considered some of the most important in interwar Poland, with participation of the leading Polish architects. The patriotic meaning of the two complexes was reflected in their architectural forms. From the very beginning, the competitions required that Gothic forms, which were considered “Prussian” at the time, be avoided. Indeed, the selected projects included forms associated with Polishness. The Silesian Sejm and Voivodeship Office Building is particularly symbolic. Its Polishness is emphasised by architecture reminiscent of the Classicist style which refers to monumentalism from the time of the Kingdom of Poland and folk motifs processed in the style of the interwar period - which at the time were associated with the national style. Moreover, the building features solutions inspired by the “golden age” in Polish art: a spectacular stairwell surrounded with cloisters and avant-corps reminiscent of fortified towers or palace corner extensions. The archcathedral was erected in the style of modernised Classicism, and the interior mainly featured “crystal” forms, which were equated with the so-called “Krakow school”. In the case of the building of the curia, the main accents consist of neo-Baroque cupolas (in Upper Silesia, Baroque forms were associated with Krakow, which was important for the Polish national identity).

History

In June 1922, an autonomous Silesian province of the Second Republic of Poland was established within the territories of the historic Upper Silesia which were reclaimed by Poland. The newly established province had its own unicameral Sejm, established pursuant to the Organic Statute (Constitutional Act of the Legislative Sejm of 15 July 1920), as well as the Voivodeship Council and a separate Treasury Chamber. Soon after the Polish administration was formed, a decision was made on the need to construct an office building for the Voivodeship and the Silesian Sejm with its seat in Katowice. In 1923, there was a national competition for the project of the building. The selected design was created by Kazimierz Wyczyński, Stefan Żeleński, Piotr Jurkiewicz and Ludwik Wojtyczko, a group of architects from Krakow. The construction of the building was completed in 1929, but the interior finishing works lasted until 1932. In accordance with the assumptions, the works were carried out mainly by Polish companies and Polish contractors. Modern solutions and top-quality materials were used in the process of construction in order to ensure that the building would boast exceptional durability. The original décor of the majority of interiors was not preserved. As a result of utilitarian conversions made during World War II and post-war modifications, part of the fixtures and fittings were moved to various locations.

Construction of the cathedral complex is connected with establishment in 1923 of the Apostolic Administration in the Polish part of Silesia, which in 1925 was transformed into the Katowice diocese. The national competition for the construction of the cathedral and curia buildings held in 1924 ended without a winner; however, the church authorities decided to implement the project of Z. Gawlik, S. Baum and E. Litwin, which had received an honourable mention. The construction began in 1927, in accordance with the project as modified by Zygmunt Gawlik and Franciszek Mączyński. At the initial stage, the design of the interior of the cathedral, which was originally supposed to be neo-Baroque, was modified. Construction of the curia building lasted until 1939, and the cathedral itself was completed in 1955. During the war, the German authorities prohibited not only further construction of the cathedral, but also securing thereof. An anti-aircraft shelter and a Gestapo archive were established underneath the church, and the curia building was turned into an Arbeitsamt, for which purpose part of the rooms were modified. After the war, construction of the cathedral was resumed, but the new political situation had an impact both on the construction process (rendered more difficult due to the expulsion of Silesian bishops from the diocese) and on the project itself (due to ideological reasons, pursuant to a decision of the authorities, the cupola ceiling had to be lowered to 57 m from the original 95 m). The religious building was consecrated on 30 September 1955, and two years later it was granted the rights of a cathedral church. The décor and fixtures and fittings of the church date back mainly to the 1970s and the 1980s and were created by Jerzy Egon Kwiatkowski, Stanisław and Maria Pękalski, and Adam Bunsch. In 1992, the cathedral attained the status of an archcathedral. 

Description

The Silesian Sejm and Voivodeship Office Building and the cathedral complex are situated in the southern part of the centre of Katowice. They are situated approx. 550 m apart from each other.

The Silesian Sejm and Voivodeship Office Building was constructed on a quadrilateral floor plan with prominently projecting corners. The semi-circular Chamber of the Sejm covered with a cupola ceiling is incorporated into the courtyard area, which is located inside the building. The building features six storeys: the ground floor in the base section, four floors above, and the top floor in the crowning section. The butterfly roof is concealed by the wall of the attic. The main decorative accent of the façades of the avant-corps are smooth pilasters in the giant order and a relief band at the level of the capitals of the pilasters which runs along all of the façades. Decorative motifs in the band section consist of legionary eagles, fasces, cartouches incorporating the “RP” (“Republic of Poland”) monogram and coats of arms of Silesian towns and cities. The four façades between the avant-corps have alternately seven or thirteen axes, accentuated with fluted pilasters. The main entrance to the building is located on the western façade.

In accordance with the assumptions, the architecture of the building was multifunctional. The compact structure of the building combined the Sejm chambers, the voivodeship offices, as well as the residential apartments of the marshal and the governor (voivode). Not counting the chamber of the Sejm and the grand stairwell located in the central part of the building, all representative rooms, including the Reception Hall (currently the Marble, Blue, and Gold Halls), were places in the main (west) wing on the second level. The avant-corps contain holiday and residential apartments, as well as offices of the Marshal of the Sejm in the south-west avant-corps (they served as exhibition rooms after the war) and of the Governor of the province in the north-west avant-corps. The apartments were adjoined by rows of administrative facilities, located in the south and north wing, which were connected with the functions of the Marshal of the Sejm and the Governor of the province (after the war they were used as office spaces), with the conference hall of the Silesian Voivodeship Council at the end of the north wing.

The representative rooms of the building were characterised by the opulence and diversity of the décor, while the office administrative part was maintained in the elegant and modest Biedermeier style partially influenced by Art Deco. The Chamber of the Sejm is the most important room in the building. The entrance thereto is preceded by a grand stairwell. It is compositionally reminiscent of classical Greek amphitheatres. It is a two-level hall covered with faux white marble, constructed on the plan of a semi-circle, with an elliptical glass cupola ceiling. The first level contains the place where sessions were held, with benches arranged in sectors ascending and radiating from the central point of the presidium. The second level consists of a gallery for the public observing sessions of the Sejm (this part of the Chamber has remained intact). The semi-circular wall of the Chamber of the Sejm was accentuated with five decorative portals leading to the lobby. In the spaces between the portals, there were bronze busts of propagators of the Polish national thought across Silesia: Karol Miarka (1825-1882), Juliusz Ligoń (1823-1889), Paweł Stalmach (1824-1891) and the Reverend Józef Londzin (1862-1929), created by the great artist of Greater Poland - Marcin Rożek. In the 1980s, the original sculptures, destroyed during World War II, were replaced with works by sculptor Augustyn Dyrda.

The cathedral complex is comprised of the archcathedral, the curia building and the garden. The archcathedral in the style of modernised Classicism, which is made of brick and partially of reinforced concrete, is the dominant element of the complex. The building was erected on a square floor plan with a narrower presbytery (from the north) and a chancel, partly sunken into the body, terminating in an apse (from the south). The centrality of the plan is emphasised by the copula supported by a low tholobate and crowned with a lantern. The façades, covered with slabs of dolostone, with a rusticated base section and splayed, mainly tall windows with semi-circular arches, are crowned with a cornice and a balustrade. The front façade is set apart by a portico which features eight columns grouped in pairs, and the side façades by two sumptuously decorated portals. The interior has two levels. The décor of the upper church represents the Art Deco style. Around the arcades supporting the cupola ceiling and the chancel, there are ambulatories, and in the corners of the body, there are chapels on circular and semi-circular floor plans. The crypt (currently the academic church) constructed on a central floor plan is adjoined from the east by a mausoleum of Silesian bishops. From the south-east, the church is adjoined by a religious education house connected with a rectory, and from the south-west by a sacristy.

To the south of the archcathedral, there is the curia building, which is an example of modernised historicism architecture. The buildings are separated by an internal road called the Jordan Street. The curia building has three levels, with a semi-basement in the base section. It was constructed on the floor plan of an elongated rectangle, with two wings added to the front façade. The corners of the building are accentuated with neo-Baroque cupolas. On the axis of the façade, there is an avant-corps crowned with a triangular pediment with engaged columns in the giant order. The avant-corps of the rear façade terminates in a semi-circle, and the projecting cornice is supported by pillars. The interiors are maintained in the style of interwar modernism and Art Deco. One notable feature of the archbishop’s office is the ceiling with a crystal decoration, enclosed with massive ribs. The chapel featured a reinforced concrete cupola ceiling and a stained glass window created on the basis of drawings by Stanisław Wyspiański.

From the south, the curia building is adjoined by a neo-Baroque garden with a pool on the axis.

General information

  • Type: masterpiece of architecture and engineering
  • Chronology: 1924 - 1955
  • Form of protection: history monument
  • Address: Katowice
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district Katowice, commune Katowice
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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