Bernardine monastery complex, Warszawa
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Bernardine monastery complex



The church with monastery built according to a design by Tylman van Gameren at the behest of Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski constitutes a complete complex of historical sacred buildings with décor, representing an innovative trend in European art in the second half of the 17th century. The church building, which survived through World War II, is unique on the national scale in many aspects. It is distinguished by exquisite architecture, rare floor plan, lavishness of the original, high-class interior decoration, which comprise an eminent work of the Baroque era.


Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski, Great Marshal of the Crown, ordered the construction of the church and monastery to Tylman of Gameren. The architect from the Netherlands is considered the most eminent one operating in Poland at that time. Until present, a unique set of 59 drawings made by him for the church and elements of the church fittings has survived, which makes it possible to review the development of the artistic concept. The church was erected in the village of Czerniaków provided to the Marshall in 1683 along with the Ujazdów property located at the route to the residence of king John III Sobieski in Wilanów. It is believed that the comprehensively educated founder had significant influence on the shape of the building and its symbolism. The church with decoration and one wing of the designed monastery complex came into being in the years 1686-93. The works were carried out under the supervision of Isidoro Affaitati the Younger. By the founding act of 19 October 1693, Lubomirski donated the complex to the Bernardine order. The monks were to care for the church which were the family burial place of the founder and at the same time the mausoleum of St Boniface of Tarsus, a martyr from the 4th century, whose relic was given to Lubomirski by pope Innocent XI. In 1698, the church was consecrated, and dedicated to St Anthony whose miraculous depiction was brought by Lubomirski from Venice. In 1702, the founder was buried in the church. Since the 18th century, an indulgence dedicated to St Boniface had been celebrated in the church, which started pilgrimage traffic. In the mid-18th century, many utility buildings were erected at the monastery. In the years 1783-84, the monastery was extended by connecting it to the free-standing western wing, which was also extended upwards. The buildings comprising the complex underwent restoration many times. Between 1806 and 1814, at the northern verge of the church cemetery, a neo-Gothic bell tower-gate was built. As a result of repressions after the January Uprising in 1864, the monastery was dissolved by the tsarist authorities, and the church was taken over by diocese priests. In the monastery buildings, a shelter for orphans and an elementary school were created, and in the end of the 19th century, part of the monastery was leased by the Grey Sisters. Before 1891, all frescos were concealed under a layer of slaked lime. They were uncovered in 1914, under the direction of Juliusz Makarewicz and Edward Trojanowski. In 1916, a parish of St Boniface was established at the church. In 1930-1945, the church was managed by Resurrectionist Fathers. During World War II, mainly the roofs of the church were destroyed. Bernardine monks returned to the monastery in Czerniaków on 15 July 1945. The frescos, damaged by shocks and dampness, were restored in the years 1951-54 under the direction of Bohdan Marconi. In the years 1985-96, a full-scale conservation works were carried out in relation to the church’s décor, directed by Danuta Majdowa. In 1988-2000, a new church of St John of Dukla was constructed, connected with the former buildings by the contemporary monastery complex.


The church and monastery complex is located on an irregular plot of land on the eastern side of Czerniakowska Street, between Bernardyńska and Gołkowska Streets. The premises are circumscribed by a brick fence, rounded on the side of the former church cemetery, with a neo-Gothic bell tower-gate on the axis of the church’s front façade. From the south, the church adjoins axially the oldest building of the monastery, with a wing built at a later time, added perpendicularly. The historical complex is connected from the east with the contemporary church and monastery complex. The church features a rare floor plan comprised of two central areas: the nave body on a Greek cross plan, and an octagonal choir adjoining it from the south. The nave, at the point where the arms of the cross, covered with gable roofs, meet, is topped with an octagonal cupola on a tholobate, ending with a lantern. The separate section of the chancel with the choir was covered by a tented roof. The external façades are provided with elegant, modest décor, comprised of panels, false pilasters accentuating the corners, plain entablature, with surrounds of portals extending sideways and segment-headed windows, triangular pediments topping individual façades. The pediment over the entrance is accentuated by allegorical sculptures with a cartouche. From the outside, the nave body resembles the church of Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament from Rynek Nowego Miasta. The church can be accessed from the north through a porch with doors on three sides, topped in the front by a segmental pediment divided by the foundation plaque. Lavish decoration of the interior stays in contrast with the appearance of the façades. The artists applied a number of ingenious solutions which make the small church look bigger. Multiplied pilasters embracing chamfered corners of nave piers supporting the cupola, pronounced entablature, illuminated from above through large windows, serve the purpose of creating a theatrical illusion of deep space and an impression of vividness and dynamics. The significantly darker interior of the chancel covered with an octagonal, flattened false cupola, articulated with single pilasters and plain entablature, seems to be subordinated to the nave section. A unique, free-standing altar made following to a Tylman’s design by a renowned sculptor, Andreas Schlüter, was set there. It is considered to be the first non-architectural Baroque altar structure in Poland. It is comprised of two antithetically arranged tables on which there is a sculptured retable made up of a group of angels supporting paintings in the radiant glory from both sides. From the front, there is a depiction of St Anthony brought by the founder, and from the side of the choir - of Jesus Christ, with a painting of Mary with Child below. The composition of sculptures was transformed and supplement in mid-18th century. The altarpiece is at the same time a confession of the relics of St Boniface’s skeleton placed in a glass coffin in the crypt below. This glazed reliquary, adorned with a portrait of the founder pope and a pair of puttos, is also attributed to Schlüter. The crypt can be accessed through entrances on the sides of the altar, and the reliquary is visible from the front through the grating of the antependium. The architectural setting of the altar is constituted by the choir gallery surround in the southern wall of the chancel. Side altars, also designed by Tylman, feature an innovative form of a decorated frame. In the western one, there is a picture showing St Francis, and in the eastern one - a triptych from the 1st half of the 16th century, “Lamentation of Christ” from the workshop of Pieter Coecke van Aelst. The sumptuous interior décor includes magnificent stucco and painted decorations. The rich stucco fruit, blossom, and leaf wreaths, and figures of angels were made by Carlo Giuseppe Giorgioli and Signor Rusca. Frescos in the cupola were ahead of their times (the biggest painting in the then Warsaw). They show Heavenly Glory of St Anthony with scenes of miracles and unique illustrations of the family legend of the founder with his alleged Roman predecessor Antonius Drusus, and angels playing music in the tholobate, and were made by Francesco Antonio Giorgioli. An innovative solution in certain sections of the painted decoration are blurred boundaries between the architectural frame, stucco, and fresco. The life cycle of St Anthony presented on the walls of the nave and allegories of continents on pendetives under the cupola are attributed to Giovanni Battista Colomba in cooperation with Giacomo Francisco Cipper, also known as Il Todeschini. Over the pews of the choir, depictions of the procuring of the miraculous painting and the construction of the church draw particular attention. Portraits of the church’s architect and founder can be found there. Under the church, there is the burial crypt of the founder, decorated with a stucco relief presenting “Resurrection of Piotrovine by St Stanislaus”. The sarcophagus of Lubomirski who had been initially placed in the centre of the room, is currently stored in a side chamber. The two-wing and two-storey monastery is connected with the chancel by a connector. The former stucco and painting décor is preserved inside, in the rooms on the ground floor of the southern wing, sacristy, and refectory transformed into a Millennium chapel.

The building is accessible; interior in selected days.

compiled by Małgorzata Laskowska-Adamowicz, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Warszawa, 30-11-2015.


  • Karta Ewidencyjna, Klasztor O.O. Bernardynów na Czerniakowie, oprac. Adam Siwek, Warszawa 2003 r., Archiwum Narodowego Instytutu Dziedzictwa
  • Karta Ewidencyjna, Kościół klasztorny Bernardynów pw. św. Antoniego Padewskiego, ob. par., oprac. Joanna Narkiewicz-Siwek, Warszawa 2001 r., Archiwum Narodowego Instytutu Dziedzictwa
  • Guttmejer K, Karpowicz M., Wątroba P., Kościół Bernardynów na Czerniakowie: dzieło, artyści i projekty Tylmana z Gameren, Warszawa 2013
  • Mossakowski S., Tylman z Gameren (1632-1706) twórczość architektoniczna w Polsce, Warszawa-Monachium-Berlin 2012
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  • Tylman z Gameren - architekt Warszawy Holender z pochodzenia, Polak z wyboru, Warszawa 2003
  • Świątek T. W., Mokotów poprzez wieki , Warszawa 2009
  • Topińska M. Kościół czerniakowski, Warszawa 1977
  • Zieliński J., Atlas dawnej architektury ulic i placów Warszawy, t. 2, Warszawa 1996
  • - dostęp 24-11-2015
  • - dostęp 24-11-2015

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1686 - 1693
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Czerniakowska 2/4, Warszawa
  • Location: Voivodeship mazowieckie, district Warszawa, commune Warszawa
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland


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