Kielce – The former bishops’ palace and cathedral, Kielce
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Kielce – The former bishops’ palace and cathedral

Kielce

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Value of the monument

The former bishops’ palace and the cathedral (formerly: collegiate church) are the main elements of the Kielce Castle Hill. The Hill, once a separate church enclave with extensive administrative and utility facilities, constitutes tangible testimony of the history and growth of the city, reminding about the centuries-old rule of Krakow bishops. The complex is of significant spatial value - the composition axis connects both the palace and the cathedral whose façades face each other and the component parts of the palace complex.

The former bishops’ palace, the only residence from the first half of the 17th century preserved in such a good condition, is of particular value for the Polish cultural heritage. The building represent an original residence form from the era of the Vasa dynasty, with distinct Baroque features which can be seen both in its architectural forms and design of the interiors, as well as in the original décor which has been largely preserved. It is a significant document illustrating an incredibly important period in the history of art, which entailed the shaping of early modern nobility residences. At the time, such residences were transforming into open, spectacular buildings independent of fortified walls, with a compact shape and their compositional axis connecting the courtyard, the residence and the garden, whose interiors housed apartments connected with spectacular halls situated along the axis.

The décor of the interior of the palace, consisting of unique frame ceilings (which have only been preserved in Gdańsk outside of Kielce) with paintings by Tommaso Dolabella, polychrome beamed ceiling, painted friezes running beneath the ceilings, as well as stucco decorations and elements of stonework, is particularly valuable in artistic terms. The decorations are closely connected with Polish history and culture from the Baroque period and constitute a sort of commemoration of the palace’s founder, Bishop Jakub Zadzik. The ceiling paintings, which present important scenes from the history of the Poland of the first half of the 17th century, are invaluable iconographic material for researchers interested in armour, the history of clothing, military tactics, etc. The decorations in the residence are also connected with Sarmatian culture, which had a great influence on the Polish art of then; for instance, the paintings of Krakow bishops on the painted frieze in the former dining hall of the palace were based on Sarmatian portraits.

Similarly to the palace, the cathedral was in the care of bishops of Krakow for years, and then in the care of Kielce bishops after establishment of the diocese in Kielce. This work is an important example of sacred architecture of the early modern period and constitutes a treasury of numerous valuable artworks, some noteworthy ones being the Late-Baroque main altarpiece (sculpting by Antoni Frączkiewicz, painting of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Szymon Czechowicz) and the Renaissance tombstone of Elżbieta Zebrzydowska née Krzycka. The cathedral features a visible accumulation of styles, and despite various conversions and partial reconstruction in the second half of the 19th century, it constitutes a harmonious whole.

History

The Świętokrzyskie lands became property of Krakow bishops probably in the mid-11th century. In the second half of the 12th century, on the hill situated to the south-west of the place where the oldest settlement in Kielce was being formed, a bishops’ fort with a collegiate church was created. In the first half of the 16th century, a manor house was erected in place of the fort, and in the next century it was replaced by a palace. The bishops’ property was expanded in the second half of the 17th century and in the first half of the 18th century. In 1789, as a consequence of the resolutions of the Four-Year Sejm, the Kielce property of Krakow bishops became property of the State Treasury. In the early 19th century, the collegiate church became a cathedral church of the newly-established Kielce diocese (the diocese existed in the years 1805-1818 and once again from 1882 onwards).

Construction of the existing palace of bishops of Krakow commenced in 1637 and was funded by bishop J. Zadzik. By 1644, the corps de logis on the basis of the project of an unknown architect (believed to be Giovanni Trevano, Tomasz Poncino, or the Warsaw circle of Constantino Tencalla) and walls with fortified towers along the residence had been erected. A garden of decorative and utilitarian nature was created at a similar time. Krakow bishops, residing in the palace until the late 18th century, implemented changes mainly to the interior. The only significant interference in the exterior of the building was made in the first half of the 18th century, when the side wings were erected at the initiative of bishop Konstanty Felicjan Szaniawski, most likely in accordance with the project of Kacper Bażanka: the south wing c. 1720-1732, and the north wing c. 1734-1746. The layout of the palace created at the time has largely remained until the present times.

From 1789 onwards, the residence became the seat of numerous institutions and was used mainly for administrative purposes. In the 19th century the south wing was extended towards the west and the entire palace was refurbished, which included renovation of the décor. Further works of this sort were performed in the interwar period. The garden outbuilding in the Gothic Revival style originates from the same period. In 1938, the Sanctuary of Marshal Józef Piłsudski (who stayed at the residence in 1914) and the Museum of the Polish Legions were established at the palace. During World War II, the building was a seat of the German authorities. Since 1971, the monastery building has serve as a museum (currently the National Museum in Kielce).

The collegiate church was erected around 1171, funded by a Krakow bishop, Gedko. The current form of the church was shaped in stages from the 16th century to the first half of the 18th century, partially with secondary use of Romanesque bossages. In the 16th century, a sacristy and a chapter house were added to the original church, and the building was extended towards the west. The 1630s saw the addition of a chancel, among other things. After 1719, the chancel and the sacristy were enlarged, and chapels and a new chapter house were added. Between the 17th and the 19th century, the church was connected by way of arcaded passageways with the wing of the bishops’ palace and the nearby seminary. In the years 1869-1872, 1890-1893 and 1912-1914, the building underwent redecoration and restoration, which also entailed partial conversion and reconstruction. In the years 1805-1818 and once again from 1882 onwards, the church attained the status of a cathedral.

In the vicinity of the cathedral, there is a Gethsemane (funerary) chapel from 1760, which had an apse added in the early 20th century, and a bell tower from the years 1642-1657, which was extended upwards and crowned with a cupola in 1729.

Description

The complex of the former bishops’ palace and the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary are situated in the centre of Kielce, on the Castle Hill.

The palace consists of the corps de logis with two wings which feature ground-floor arcades added on the front side and surround the front courtyard from the south and the north. The corps de logis of the palace represents the early Baroque style, with elements of Mannerism. The two-storey building was constructed on a floor plan similar to a square, with avant-corps at the side façades on the garden side. Three-storey hexagonal towers were added in the corners, with the front ones moved away from the body and connected therewith with curtain walls. The building is decorated with a sgraffito frieze and rustication of the corners of the main body and the towers. The main accents of both façades are three-arcade entrance loggias, with the front one surrounded by a stone frame. The piano nobile features two spectacular halls on the building’s axis. The rear hall - the Upper Dining Room, also called the portrait room - is decorated with a painted beamed ceiling and a painted frieze with portraits of bishops of Krakow. Three other halls feature frame ceilings with canvas paintings portraying historical events connected with the founder, among other things.

Behind the palace, from the west, there is a reconstructed Italian garden, which is enclosed from the north and the west with a wall with the Fortified Powder Tower (Polish: Baszta Prochowa) and a reconstructed puntone (type of a pentagonal fortified tower), and from the south with the building of a former granary.

The cathedral was designed in the Baroque style, with elements of the Baroque Revival style. The building has the form of an oriented three-nave basilica on a rectangular floor plan. The chancel, terminating in a projecting apse, is flanked by annexes which were built as extensions of the side naves and which house the chapel and two sacristies. The gable roof features a neo-Baroque steeple. The analogous façades - eastern and western - boast neo-Baroque gables with sculptures made by Juliusz Faustyn Cengler, which are dated at 1870. The side façades are buttressed and partially decorated with pilasters. The façades also feature marble portals from the 17th century and a “didactic” plaque from the 2nd half of the 18th century, containing the alphabet, digits, units of measurement and information on religion, among other things. The church naves, separated with arcades supported by pillars, feature double barrel vaulting (main nave) and groin vaulting supported by arches (side naves). The interior of the church is decorated with remnants of stucco decorations from the 17th century and a polychrome decoration from 1898. The building boasts valuable fixtures and fittings, mainly from the Late Baroque period. Notable features include numerous altarpieces, among them the main altarpiece funded in 1728 by Bishop F. K. Szaniawski, with a 1730 painting depicting the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as older works: a Late-Gothic triptych from approx. 1500 portraying the scene of Coronation of the Virgin Mary and the Renaissance tombstone of Elżbieta Zebrzydowska née Krzycka made of marble and sandstone, funded by her son - Andrzej, a Krakow bishop. The entire structure is further enhanced by numerous epitaphs dated at the 16th-19th century, including 18th-century epitaphs of Bishops F. K. Szaniawski and Andrzej Stanisław Kostka Załuski, in the form of marble cartouches incorporating coats of arms, with portraits painted on sheet metal.

To the east of the cathedral, there is a Gethsemane chapel (Polish: kaplica Ogrójcowa) and a bell tower.

General information

  • Type: residential comlpex
  • Chronology: koniec XVI - poł. XVIII w.
  • Form of protection: history monument
  • Address: plac Zamkowy , Kielce
  • Location: Voivodeship świętokrzyskie, district Kielce, commune Kielce
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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