Monastery complex of Bernardines, Warszawa
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Monastery complex of Bernardines

Warszawa

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A post-Bernardine monastery complex in Warsaw, preserved to a great extent from the damages of World War II, is an immensely important element of the former development of the city. The monastery church was the first masoned temple of the Bernardines in Poland. Build-ups of stylistic forms of subsequent eras, from Gothic to Classicism, visible in its body, make us aware of the rich history of the feature that is nearly 500 years old. The location of the complex close to the ducal, and later royal manor resulted in the shaping of the complex by excellent founders and outstanding artists.

History

The Warsaw Dominican Observers convent, popularly named Bernardines, was established in 1454 as the second on the Polish territory, upon founding of Anna the Duchess of Mazovia, a widow of Bolesław III. It was built outside the city walls, not far from the Cracow Gate. The first small, brick, Gothic church of St Bernardine, with a tower in the south, constitutes a presbytery part of the temple of today. In the years 1507-1514, in place of a monastery made of wattle-and-daub, brick, two-storey wings (eastern and southern) were erected.

In the years 151-1533, after the fire, the church was expanded by a Gothic, aisleless, two-nave corpus and a front façade with two round towers. The monastery was renovated and a cloister corridor was added in the south. In 1518 the church obtained the second dedication of St Anna. The western wing, built in 1603, enclosed the quadrangle of the monastery with cloisters around the internal yard, to which a library was later added in the south. A tomb chapel of the Kryski family was erected around 1620.

The complex, burned down during the Deluge, underwent a thorough reconstruction in the years 1658-1667, which was funded by Jan Wielopolski and probably to the design of G. B. Gisleni in collaboration with T. L. Boratini. The corpus of the church was elevated, the layout was changed into a single-nave with an asymmetric arrangement of engaged columns; disposition and size of windows was changed, Gothic buttresses were demolished; lower parts of towers were merged with a towerless façade and the entire building obtained a Baroque design. An observation tower was incorporated to the complex at the time. It was erected in the years 1578-1584 by funding of the queen Anna Jagiellonka and transformed into a belfry. In the years 1668-1750 another stage of Baroque transformation of the complex took place, probably with the participation of Tylman van Gameren. Stuccowork was removed from the vault and nave pillars were reinforced; a porch and a double-tower front façade was added and finished under the guidance of J. Fontana. It was then the Baroque interior of the temple was created. In the years 1740-1753 Rev. W. Żebrowski created wall paintings in the church and the Blessed Ładysław of Gielniów chapel, which was established after the reconstruction of the Kryski family chapel. In 1783 an expanded monastery had a cross floor plan with a rectangle of the garth. In 1788 a new Classicist front façade was completed to the design of Ch. P. Aigner and to the concept of S. K. Potocki, including sculptures of J. Monaldi and F. Pinck. Aigner was an author of subsequent transformations in the years 1819-1821, harmonising the appearance of Bernardine buildings facing the street: a colonnade added to the western wing of the monastery, which housed a guardhouse from 1796 onwards, a new form of belfry and an arcaded wall linking it with the church as well as a Loreto chapel added to the nave corpus in the years 1832-1836. In the years1881-1884 a burial chapel was built. In 1881 some post-Bernardine buildings were taken over by the Museum of Industry and Agriculture. Today, this part of the complex houses the Central Agricultural Library.

After the abolition of the order in 1864, the church became a branch of the cathedral supervised by rector fathers and some of the monastery buildings became property of the city. In 1928 the church was handed over to the academic ministry. In 1937 the renovation of the monument was commenced; however, it was interrupted by the outbreak of war. In 1938 and 1944 the temple was damaged mainly in the vaults part and in 1946 the western gable of the church collapsed. During the construction of the E-W route, a sliding escarpment became a threat for the temple. W. Żenczykowski and R. Cebertowicz worked on the reinforcement of the escarpment. The complex underwent full-scale restoration in the years 1946-1973 under the supervision of B. Trylińska.

Description

The monastery complex of the Bernardine Order is located on a high escarpment over the Vistula river, at a place where Krakowskie Przedmieście and Zamkowy Square converge. Along the building alignment of the eastern frontage of the street the following buildings can be seen from the Square: a belfry connected by an arcaded wall with the front façade of the St Anna church and a colonnade added to the wing of the former monastery. In the east the historical buildings are picturesquely exposed on a natural elevation of the escarpment, while in the north the view was opened by the crosscut of the E-W route.

The Academic St Anna church Is oriented and has a diverse body. A presbytery with a lower apse enclosed on three sides, with a tent roof regained a Gothic appearance during the pre-war preservation works due to the unveiling of a brick motif of the wall, reconstructing stepped buttresses and pointed-arch window niches. Over the apse, a tall eastern façade is crowned with a Baroque gable with a triangular pediment with volutes accentuating the figure of the Holy Mother of Częstochowa. The painting was created by T. Cieślewski in 1902 in place of the initial one, painted on a board. A higher and wider nave corpus also includes unveiled fragments of a Gothic wall with buttresses in lower parts. It is covered with a gable roof, clad with sheet metal and reconstructed on a steel structure. Due to the presence of the monastery, the corpus was expanded in the early 16th century in an asymmetric way, widening it from the northern side. The interior of a wide, three-bay nave has a Baroque layout of walls and pillars, whereas pillars protrude more visibly in the north. On both sides they form chapel annexes. A monumental, Classicist, screen front façade dominates over the entire complex. It obscures the asymmetry of the nave along with a preceding porch. The front façade has two storeys, five bays, a much wider central bay with an archway and a tall portal, crowned with a pediment supported by four Corinthian semi-columns in the Giant Order, behind which a parapet and a stepped gable are found. Its arrangement was adapted to the partitions of the previous façade. Triangularly crowned niches with figures of four evangelists that are visible in side axes as well as panels with allegorical reliefs located above are situated in place of former windows. Walls of previous towers have been preserved along extreme axes of the front façade braced by Corinthian pilasters. Stone portals coming from the Baroque stage of construction are found in the porch and the front façade. Three chapels abut on the northern façade of the church: Blessed Ładysław, Loreto and St Mary of Sokal - formerly a burial chapel. The first one was erected in the early 17th century in the corner between the presbytery and the Late Renaissance nave as the burial chapel of the Kryski family. Erected on a rectangular floor plan, crowned with a cupola with a lantern, with façades accentuated on corners with pairs of Tuscan pilasters, it was the first church chapel in Warsaw with a cupola ceiling. Alteration works in its interior until the first half of the 18th century and placement of an altar with a reliquary of the Blessed Ładysław of Gielniów changed its initial role and name.

A rectangular, Late Classicist Loreto chapel abuts on the former in the west. It has rusticated façades partitioned by pairs of Ionic pilasters and crowned with a parapet. It was erected for the purpose of housing a figure of St Mary of Loreto, relocated from the Loreto House in the Praga district and remaining inside the chapel ever since. The chapel was destroyed in 1938 and rebuilt in the years 1957-1961 to the design of B. Trylińska and A. Baranowska. The interior decor with a coffer ceiling was designed by B. Brukalska.

On the southern side of the temple, there is a tower and a sacristy at the presbytery, linked by an eastern post-monastery wing belonging to the church and a garth corridor running along the nave wall. They include uncovered fragments of Gothic, buttressed walls. In the eastern wing the interior of the ground floor with Gothic vaults has survived, among others, diamond vaults that are unique on the Mazovian scale. A sacristy and a room with a vault resting on one pillar in the Baroque style, partially damaged in around 1980, have an extraordinary value as well. The remaining part of the monastery with an added colonnade has been incorporated to the neighbouring buildings.

A quadrangular bell tower has four-storey façades decorated with rustication. The 16th-century building, transformed into a bell tower after 1660, gained a Renaissance Revival costume after the expansion to the design of Ch. P. Aigner. Central façades are adorned with panels with three arcades, which include contemporarily cut-out windows, while the upper façade is decorated by oculi terminating in rose windows. The tower is crowned with a viewing terrace with an octagonal, steel sheet gloriette.

Since 1885 the square between the belfry and the Loreto chapel has included a sandstone column from 1643, crowned with a chapel with a stone copy of the 16th-century figure of Holy Mary with the Child found in the church’s apse.

The church can be visited outside the hours of religious service. The apse is available for viewers on 26 July (St Anna’s Day) and on 25 September (commemoration of the Blessed Ładysław of Gielniów). Opening hours of the viewing terrace on the belfry depend on the season and atmospheric conditions.

Compiled by Małgorzata Laskowska-Adamowicz, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Warsaw, 20-08-2014.

Bibliography

  • Brzostowska-Smólska i N. Smólski K.(tekst), Kościół św. Anny pobernardyński, akademicki, Warszawa 2010
  • Kaczmarczyk. D., Kościół św. Anny, Warszawa 1984
  • Zieliński J. Atlas dawnej architektury Warszawy, T.7, Warszawa 2001
  • Karta Ewidencji Zabytków Architektury i Budownictwa, Kościół św. Anny, klasztor O.O Bernardynów, dzwonnica, aut. M. Szulińska, 2001.
  • Żabicki J., Leksykon zabytków architektury Mazowsza i Podlasia, Warszawa 2010.

General information

  • Type: monastery
  • Chronology: 1454 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Krakowskie Przedmieście 68, Warszawa
  • Location: Voivodeship mazowieckie, district Warszawa, commune Warszawa
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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