Collegiate church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, today the cathedral, Sandomierz
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Collegiate church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, today the cathedral



The collegiate church of Sandomierz (not cathedral) dominates the town landscape as the most important temple in the town and the Sandomierz region. The collegiate church is one of the most valuable works of Gothic architecture in Poland, displaying the interior fittings of major importance for the Polish artistic culture, in particular in the area of Sandomierz, including perhaps the perfect example of Byzantine-Ruthenian painting of the reign of King Wladysław Jagiełło and a number of works by Maciej Polejowski, an excellent creator of original Rococo sculpture, or large canvases embedded in the paneling, showing the martyrs of the Roman Church and some of the local ones.


The oldest - as confirmed in the bull of Pope Eugene II in 1148 - Romanesque temple, probably founded by Bolesław the Wrymouth, goes back to the early 12th century. Owing to the efforts of Duke Casimir II the Just, in 1191 the church became a collegiate church and was offered considerable assets. In 1241 the temple was looted by the Mongols; later, it was desecrated during their next invasion in 1260 when the invaders slaughtered the local residents seeking shelter within its walls. The foundation of the Gothic church by King Casimir the Great culminated in its consecration by Bishop Jan Radlica of Kraków in 1382. The church was heavily damaged during the Polish-Swedish War as a result of the explosion in the Sandomierz castle, caused by the retreating Swedish army, and the great fire of the town. During the reconstruction of the church in the years 1670-1674, the façade was rebuilt. In the spirit of the Counter-Reformation movement, the interior turned Baroque, largely on the initiative of Canon Stefan Żuchowski. The years 1737-1741 saw the construction of the belfry, finally completed in 1761. Between 1779 and 1773, Maciej Polejowski, an outstanding representative of the Lviv artistic circles, created a suite of Rococo altars. Under the 1818 bull of Pope Pius VII, the collegiate church was transformed into a cathedral. Already as the cathedral, the building was renovated in 1825 and again in the years 1886-1889. The brick faces of the wall were exposed and a neo-Gothic bell turret was erected. The Warsaw architect and conservator Konstanty Wojciechowski supervised the project.


The church sits on the south edge of the old town hill. The Gothic, brick church of a three-nave, five-bay body and the presbytery closed on three sides dominates the town skyline. North of the presbytery there are two sacristies, for canons and curates, and one more, for mansionaries, to the south. Quite impressive is the Baroque façade with a porch built between 1670 and 1674. The decorative portal of the porch dated back to 1672 and was founded by the great benefactor of the church, the Rev. Wojciech Lipnicki, provost of the collegiate church and auxiliary bishop of Kraków. The Baroque gable of the façade is crowned with a triangular pediment with a statue of the Madonna with Child. Below there is a cartouche with the emblem of the Sandomierz Collegiate Chapter. The three-nave, five-bay body is divided by pointed-arch arcades, resting on square pillars. The large-volume interior is covered with a cross vault with keystones featuring heraldic decoration; their idea was, undoubtedly, to allude to the unification of the kingdom under the rule of King Casimir the Great, founder of the church. Also a rich plant and animal ornamentation was used on the friezes, arcade bases and capitals of supporting ribs. Inside, particularly impressive is the late-Baroque main altar of 1756, founded by the Rev. Stanisław Lipski. The side walls and ceiling of the presbytery are covered with Byzantine-Ruthenian paintings, one of the largest and most valuable among other similar types of this decoration in Poland; it is distinctive through the wealth of iconographic motifs. It was most probably sponsored by King Władysław II Jagiełło about 1420. The nave is dominated by Baroque paneling, running around the walls of the body, installed between 1708 and 1717 and providing the framework for a set of large paintings depicting a vision of the death of the martyrs of the Roman and Sandomierz Church. A great set of altars placed at inter-nave pillars was installed between 1771 and 1773 and is the work of the outstanding sculptor Maciej Polejowski, one of the greatest representatives of the Lviv Rococo sculpture school of the 2nd half of the 18th century. The area was enclosed with a fence about 1828. Next to the cathedral, outside the fence, there is a bell tower built between 1737 and 1741 according to designs ordered in Kraków.

The cathedral is accessible in the opening hours or upon arrangement with the parish priest.

Compiled by Jerzy Zub, 07.12.2014.


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General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 3. ćw. XIV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Katedralna 1, Sandomierz
  • Location: Voivodeship świętokrzyskie, district sandomierski, commune Sandomierz
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland


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