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The Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral Basilica - Zabytek.pl

The Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral Basilica

church 1130-1144 Płock

Płock, Tumska 1

woj. mazowieckie, pow. Płock, gm. Płock

The feature displays historical, artistic and scientific values.The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary cathedral was erected from scratch in the years 1531-1534, on the floor plan of the previous, Romanesque building. It was the first and at the same time the largest Renaissance building to the north of the Alps. The grand renovation of the church took place in the years 1901-1915, according to the design by Stefan Szyller. The cathedral basilica exhibits a value arising from continuation, both in terms of chronology and functionality.

Past rulers of Poland are buried in the cathedral - princes: Władysław I Herman (1043-1102) and his son Bolesław III the Wrymouth (1086-1138). It was during their reign that Płock served as the capital of Poland. The remnants of the Dukes of Mazovia are also buried here. It is recognised that the largest necropolis of the members of the Polish Piast dynasty is found in the basilica.


The first cathedral church on the Tumskie Hill in Płock was erected in the second half of the 11th century and was funded by Bolesław the Bold, due to the establishment of the bishopric. Little is known about that church, apart from the fact that Władysław I Herman was buried here in 1102 and the temple was probably destroyed during the invasion of the Pomeranians around 1126 and demolished afterwards. The construction of the new cathedral was undertaken by Bishop Alexander of Malonne. An impressive Romanesque building erected at that time was consecrated in 1144. It received a shape of a three-nave Romanesque basilica with a transept and semi-circularly terminating chancel. In that period it was the largest Romanesque cathedral on the territory of Poland. In the years 1152-1154 the door to the cathedral, the so-called “Płock Door”, was cast in bronze in Magdeburg. Their fate is largely unknown. It is only certain that already in the first half of the 15th century the door was found in St Sophia tserkva in Veliky Novgorod (Russia). A fire in 1530 put an end to the existence of the Romanesque temple.

The Renaissance cathedral was erected in the years 1531-1534, at the initiative of Bishop Andrzej Krzycki, who brought three Italian artists to Poland: Bernardino Zanobi de Gianotis, Giovanni Cini and Filippo of Fiesole. The architects made use of granite blocks obtained from the demolition of the Romanesque cathedral and erected a new building in place of the former one - a three-nave basilica with a transept, a chancel terminating in a semi-circle (club arrangement) and an octagonal cupola embedded at the intersection of the naves. In the years 1556-1563 Giovani Battista of Venice supervised the subsequent phase of the construction of the Renaissance cathedral. The architect extended the chancel and added a two-tower front façade on the west side. For centuries the interior of the temple gradually became filled with numerous marble tombstones and altars following the principles of the Mannerist and Baroque styles. However, the condition of the church was worsening. The front façade was altered in the Classicist style in the late 18th century, by adding a giant colonnaded portico that framed the front façade towers’ walls.

However, only the architectural commission appointed in 1900 univocally recommended a major redevelopment of the cathedral. It was conducted according to the design prepared by Stefan Szyller, during the parsonage of Bishop Jerzy Szembek in the years 1901-1915. The main concept of the architect was to restore the Renaissance character of the temple. Therefore, external plasters were scraped off, the Classicist façade was torn down, the vaults, the cupola and extensive parts of towers and peripheral walls were demolished. A new choir gallery and sacristy were erected. Care was also taken of the appropriate fittings, such as altars, a bishop’s throne, choir stalls, benches and a pulpit. Renaissance and Baroque tombstones and epitaphs were preserved from the old décor as well as a pair of 17th-century stone side altars - of Our Lady of Mazovia and the Crucifixion. Together with the architectural renovation, works on the polychrome began. Władysław Drapiewski was entrusted with the performance thereof.

After the outbreak of World War II, in September 1939, a part of the basilica, including one of its chapels, was damaged as a result of the German air raid. In 1946, following the necessary repairs, the cathedral was ready to open its doors to the public. The last architectural alteration took place in 2003, when the chancel was subject to remodelling.


The cathedral is an three-nave basilica with a transept, oriented towards the east, with a two-tower front façade and an elongated chancel terminating in a semicircle, framed on the sides with rectangular, two-storey rooms housing a sacristy, a treasury and a chapter house. The temple features gable roofs clad with copper sheet, with a cupola crowned with a lantern located at the intersection of the naves. The front façade of the cathedral is a reconstruction of the Renaissance one with arcaded gables and was adorned with, among others, four coats of arms of bishops in the gable - initiators of reconstruction of the cathedral, and a bronze relief in the portal, presenting the offering of the temple to Our Lady of Mazovia (1902).

In the interior of the basilica the naves are covered with cross vaults resting on an system of alternately arranged supports (columns and pillars). The chancel is covered with a barrel vault. The arms of the transept are framed with semi-circular chapels: of the Blessed Sacrament at the north end and of St Sigismund at the south end. The chapels are located in lower storeys of the towers: the Holy Family (the Sierpski family) chapel on the south side and the so-called Royal Chapel on the north side. Since 1982 the external portal has been adorned with a true copy of the Romanesque Płock Door cast in bronze - the original door is found in St Sophia tserkva in Veliky Novgorod in Russia.

The cathedral’s interior was designed in the early 20th century by Stefan Szyller. It includes, among others: a Renaissance Revival altar, choir stalls and the bishop’s throne in the chancel as well as a pulpit and organ. The walls were decorated by a polychrome in the spirit of Renaissance Revival tradition of the Nazarene movement, authored by Władysław Drapiewski. The naves include scenes from the New Testament, a panorama of Płock and portraits of persons who rendered meritorious service for the city. The chancel includes representations of the Holy Mother, 28 figures of the saints and the blessed and a scene of “Finding Christ in the Temple”, where among the those listening to twelve-year-old Christ one can recognise Polish scientists of the Positivist era, among others: Aleksander Świętochowski and Władysław Smoleński.

The underground part of the so-called Royal Chapel adjacent to the northern nave includes tombstones of the kings of Poland. These are Władysław I Herman and his son Bolesław III Wrymouth, as well as Dukes of Mazovia buried here between the 12th and the 15th century. The central point of the chapel includes a Classicist sarcophagus of black marble, lavishly decorated with national symbols, designed by Zygmunt Vogel in 1825.

A copy of the Romanesque two-wing door, the so-called Płock door, manufactured in 1981, is located between the porch and the main nave. The original Płock Door is older than the Gniezno Door and stands out as one of the best works of that type from the 12th-century Europe, due to the presented drawing of the quarters, the subject matter (Credo Apostolorum) and masterful craftsmanship. Moreover, they exhibit an outstanding scientific value related to the transformations of the European art and attest to the prominence of the Płock cathedral in the 12th century through its scale and uniqueness.

The northern nave includes altars of St Stanislaus of Szczepanów, the Heart of Jesus and the Holy Mother of Mazovia. The southern nave includes altars of: Crucified Jesus, St Stanislaus Kostka and St Teresa of the Child Jesus.

A group of unique stone tombs and epitaphs from the original fittings of the cathedral, representing the highest quality of sepulchral art of the late Renaissance and Baroque, has survived. What deserves attention is the tombs of, among others: Bishop Jan Cielecki (17th century), Voivode of Płock Stanisław Krasiński (17th century) and a monument of the Bishop of Płock Piotr Dunin-Wolski (late 16th century).

The feature is open to the public. 

Author of the note Bartłomiej Modrzewski 27-06-2017


  • Glinka T., Kamiński M., Piasecki M., Przygoda K., Walenciak A., Mazowsze północne. Przewodnik, Warsaw 1998.
  • Omilanowska M., Polska. Świątynie, klasztory i domy modlitwy, Warsaw 2008.
  • Przewodnik. Płock i okolice, Strumińska K., Płuciennik S. (ed.), Płock [year unknown]
  • Z dziejów katedry płockiej, Katedra płocka, http://www.katedraplock.pl/idcat.php?f_id=94&f_id_cat=93, accessed: 8 June 2017.

Category: church

Architecture: romański

Building material:  ceglane

Protection: Register of monuments, Monuments records

Inspire id: PL.1.9.ZIPOZ.NID_N_14_BK.185077, PL.1.9.ZIPOZ.NID_E_14_BK.246659