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Włocławek - katedra pw. Wniebowzięcia Najświętszej Marii Panny - Zabytek.pl

Address
Włocławek, Plac Mikołaja Kopernika 7

Location
woj. kujawsko-pomorskie, pow. m. Włocławek, gm. Włocławek-gmina miejska

The episcopal church, the first mention of which comes from 1185, similarly as the Włocławek hillfort, was destroyed during the invasion of the Teutonic Order in 1329.

It was decided to locate the new cathedral in a different place, at a greater distance from the banks of the Vistula river, to avoid flooding as had been the case with the previous building. Its erection was initiated by bishop Maciej Pałuka from Gołańcza. The cornerstone was laid on 25 March 1340 and the construction works of the nave began in 1358. The cathedral was a dual-tower, three-nave, six-bay basilica without a transept, with a lower, single-space, elongated choir gallery, devoid of an ambulatory with chapels. In terms of structure, the nave was a version of the pillar and buttress system. The researchers associated the origins of that form with the simplified adaptation of cathedral patterns in Gniezno or Cracow, the influence of the ecclesiastical architecture of the Teutonic state (church of St James in Toruń), while recently, the Upper Rhine architecture has been pointed out as an inspiration.

After the death of bishop Maciej, the works on the Włocławek cathedral were continued by his nephew and successor - bishop Zbylut from Gołańcza, who also provided its fixtures and fittings. Most construction works were completed towards the end of the 14th century. Consecration of the cathedral by bishop Jan Kropidło took place in 1411. This did not mean the completion of construction works though: the works on vaults took place in the years 1432-1449, while the façade was completed only in the 16th century. In the late 15th century, with the funds provided by bishop Krzesław from Kurozwęki, the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary chapel was erected at the southern nave. In 1511 the northern tower was completed, while the southern one was finished in 1526. The 16th century saw the construction of, among others, the chapel of St Martin, a sacristy, a church porch, a treasury and a chapter house. The stylistic transformation from Gothic to Renaissance left the mark both on the architecture and on the equipment of the cathedral. The stone portals of the chapter house were erected at that time, among other structures. In 1586 bishop Hieronim Rozdrażewski founded the Renaissance polychrome that covered the walls of the chancel. In the first years of the 17th century the largest chapel was built - it was a Mannerist chapel of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary with a cupola, reminiscent of the Sigismund Chapel. Bricklayers Tomasz Nikiel and Samuel Świątkowicz were among its constructors. In the early 17th century the second chapel with a cupola was erected - the St Casimir chapel, also known as the suffragans chapel. In 1636 works on the Baroque main altar were completed. It was made of black marble from Chęciny, decorated with paintings by Bartłomiej Strobl. In the years 1636-1639 the towers were extended upwards and covered with bulbous cupolas. In 1657 the church was devastated and plundered by the Swedish troops. Its renovation lasted until 1691. Another renovation began in 1741, at the same time introducing new elements of the interior fixtures and fittings. In 1794 the church was plundered once again - this time by the Prussian army.

Bishop Wincenty Teofil Chościak-Popiel, who took over the bishopric of Kujawy and Kalisz in 1875, set a goal of endowing the temple with a more representational character and making it more noble, in line with the fashionable idea, present in the late 19th century and the early 20th century, of restoring monuments in a manner that brought back their stylistic unity (as understood by the architects of then). To this end, he employed a well-known architect, Tadeusz Stryjeński. The works that began in 1878 covered the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary chapel and St Martin chapel (new fixtures and fittings were introduced in both of them) as well as the chancel, in which, among others, a Baroque cornice crowning the walls was removed and replaced with a new one made of profiled bricks arranged in the four-leaved motif. The subsequent bishop, Aleksander Bereśniewicz, continued the work of restoring the cathedral initiated by his predecessor. In 1885 Stryjeński began works on extending the towers upwards, but soon they were interrupted and the contract with the architect was terminated. Konstanty Wojciechowski, an architect from Warsaw, was entrusted with the continuation of the works. Two years later the task was completed. He modified the design prepared by his predecessor by introducing a quadrilateral upward extension of the towers. They were also covered with quadrilateral, pointed tented roofs.

In 1891 Wojciechowski was entrusted with conducting further works in the cathedral, which lasted until 1901. At first, he ordered the demolition of two gables - the front one, damaged during the upward extension of the towers (between the towers), and the one above the chancel. On the north side, apart from the gable, a new tracery was introduced, and the two-storey porch was erected. The architectural form of two Mannerist chapels was quite extensively transformed via modifying their façades (cladding of clinker bricks replaced the ashlar stone) and the crowning frieze (crowned with a balustrade). A new storey was erected in the south, above the chapels and the chapter house, which triggered a change in the roof inclination angle. A small tower with a ridge turret was removed from the main nave’s roof as well. A new string of chapels and a new porch were added to the northern nave following the demolition of the old porch. Both sacristies were redeveloped by cladding the upwardly extended walls with new bricks and adding the crowning in the form of an arcaded attic. Flying buttresses of the chancel’s buttresses were also remodelled.

The interior was significantly altered through replacement or addition of numerous elements of architectural accentuation and decoration. Arcades between the naves were evened, wall ribs of the main nave vault were rearranged, head-shaped supports were introduced, traceries and keystones were altered, probably some vault ribs were also replaced (others were covered with a lime mortar thus changing their profile). New pointed-arch entrance openings to the sacristy were drilled. Window profiles were changed through introducing new ones with inserted stained glass windows. Canopy niches and support capitals were introduced in the chancel, the rood arch was altered and the Renaissance polychrome was removed. On the walls, in shallow niches, gypsum statues of the Saints, created by Hipolit Moraczewski, an architect from Warsaw, were placed. In the middle window of the chancel a stained glass showing the Coronation of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, designed by Józef Simmler, was installed. Quarters of a medieval stained glass window were relocated to side windows. In 1893 the choir gallery was also remodelled through inserting a new, Gothic Revival pipe organ casing designed by Wojciechowski. The walls were plastered anew. The old floor in the entire nave was replaced with a new one, made of marble from Chęciny.

The fixtures and fittings were also “adapted to achieve unity with the medieval style”. The majority of the early modern, mostly Baroque fixtures and fittings were removed or relocated - within the cathedral or to other temples. These included, among others, stone portals leading to the sacristy, a wooden pulpit from 1696, tombstones removed from the floor (some of them were relocated to the walls and pillars), the Cross of Tum standing between the main nave and the chancel (relocated to the northern nave and inserted into the Gothic Revival altarpiece retable), side altars, paintings from the chancel and the Holy Sacrament chapel. In place of the Baroque main altar, the new, Gothic Revival one was introduced, with an altar stone made of the Hungarian marble and a wooden retable (the previous main altar was transferred to the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Zduńska Wola; after obtaining Gothic Revival frames, paintings were relocated to St Joseph chapel). Sculpted and polychromed oak canons’ choir stalls from 1683 were shortened to 16 seats.

The culmination of the Gothic reconstruction of the cathedral was the covering of the entire interior with new polychrome in 1902. It was created by brothers Stanisław and Zdzisław Jasiński, with an aid from Apoloniusz Kędzierski.

During World War I the historic cathedral bells were seized. During the Polish-Bolshevik war of 1920 the cathedral was damaged in the artillery fire: two missiles pierced the walls and exploded inside, damaging the vaults, the main altar, choir stalls and stained glass windows.

Bishop Karol Mieczysław Radoński, who overtook the Bishopric of Włocławek in 1929, decided to, among others, remove the Gothic Revival main altar from the interior, replacing it with a Gothic painting showing the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, brought in from the Bernardine church in Warta (created in the workshop of Francis of Sieradz). The Gothic Revival pulpit was also removed from the main nave. The bishop commissioned Józef Mehoffer with the creation of new stained glass windows aimed for the chancel. It was owing to bishop Radoński that outstanding ecclesiastical paintings found their way to Włocławek: “Return of the Prodigal Son” by Guercin, “Crucifixion” by Juan Correa de Vivar, and “Pope Martin V at the Grave of St Francis”, attributed to Francisco de Zaurbaran, as well as plenty other historic elements of fixtures and fittings.

The building survived World War II untouched. In the 1960s a part of the southern sacristy was transformed into the Holy Sacrament chapel, while the Cross of Tum was relocated to its former place. In the years 1976-1978 Gothic portals to the sacristy were unveiled in the chancel. Additionally, Gothic motifs in the St Martin chapel were exposed and some epitaph plaques were relocated. In 2010 the floor in the end section of the chancel was partially altered through exposing the renovated Gothic gravestone of bishop Zbylut from Gołańcza.

Description

The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is located on a small hill at the outlet of the Zgłowiączka river to the Vistula river, and constitutes a landmark of Włocławek’s Old Town. The church is made of brick, features a basilica layout, three naves and an elongated chancel of the same width as the main nave. The chancel features four bays and a trilateral end section as well as annexes on the sides (sacristies, treasury, vestibule) with analogical end sections. The five-bay nave with chapels on both sides precedes the sixth tower bay with a choir gallery and a church porch.

A dual-tower façade has three axes and is extended on the sides by walls shielding the annexes at the naves. Up to the fourth storey the façade is framed by buttresses. In middle storeys of the towers initial accentuations and textures (blind windows) have survived. The uppermost storeys from the 19th century are pierced by pairs of pointed-arch windows. Tower cupolas are pyramidal and shielded by triangular gables decorated with blind windows and pinnacles. The dragon-shaped gargoyles are made of sheet metal. There is a Gothic Revival gable between the towers, below which there is a Gothic Revival pointed-arch window. In the crowning of the Gothic Revival porch there is a sculpture of the Holy Mother with Child (according to folk tradition, it was founded around 1612 by bishop Wawrzyniec Gembicki).

External walls of the body are nearly completely cladded with brick from the Gothic reconstruction period. In the crowning section of the main nave, analogically as in the chancel, there is a Gothic Revival frieze. From the east, the nave is additionally crowned with a Gothic Revival stepped gable adorned with pinnacles. Buttresses framing the main nave are hidden under the roofs of the aisles. The aisles together with chapels are grouped (except for two Mannerist chapels), similar as sacristy annexes at the chancel.

Both Mannerist chapels were founded on a square floor plan and covered with cupola ceilings with lanterns showing lavish sculpted decorations. The south façade of the Chapel of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary is adorned with sgraffito decoration on two panels - the first one shows a sundial, the other a map with diocese borders - plus boards with quotations from Nicolaus Copernicus.

The interior of the cathedral is topped with stellar vaults with sculpted Gothic Revival keystones. In the chancel, at the volute of the vaults, there are wall ribs with decorative capitals resting on tracery canopies. Underneath, in niches, there are Gothic Revival gypsum sculptures of the Saints. The main nave, taller than the chancel, opens towards the aisles through pointed-arch arcades on quadrilateral, chamfered pillars. Wall ribs in the main nave rest on supports in the form of sculpted heads. There is a Gothic Revival portrayal of the Crucifixion on the chancel arch. The choir gallery, inserted between the towers, was built in the Gothic Revival style. Pointed-arch windows in stone surrounds include Gothic Revival traceries. The portals in the western and northern porches and in the chancel display the principles of the Gothic style, while the ones in the chapter house follow the assumptions of the Renaissance era and the others show Gothic Revival traces.

Internal walls of the main nave, aisles, chancel and some chapels are covered with Gothic Revival and eclectic polychrome from 1902, mainly featuring ornamental and geometrical motifs, while the upper zone of the chancel walls features figures of angels playing musical instruments. On the vaults of the chancel and main nave there is a motif of golden stars against the navy blue background, while on the vaults of the aisles there is a motif of scale. The chapel of St Barbara features Gothic stained glass windows; three windows of the chancel end sections feature stained glass designed by Mehoffer with Marian motifs as well as figures of St Jolanta and St Bogumił.

compiled by The National Institute of Cultural Heritage

Category: ecclesiastical complex

Protection: Historical Monument

Inspire id: PL.1.9.ZIPOZ.NID_N_04_PH.15491