CHOPIN’S POLAND CHOPIN’S POLAND

Żychlin

Żychlin Żychlin

Preserved to this day in Żychlin, near Konin, is the Evangelical church and palace which, on 2-4 September 1829, Fryderyk Chopin and his companions on the journey to Vienna, Alfons Brandt and Ignacy Maciejowski, visited in the company of Dr Adam Bogumił Helbich. Held in Żychlin during those days was the wedding of Melania Bronikowska (1811-34) and Wiktor Kurnatowski (1806-47). Preserved in the Evangelical parish records, held in the State Archive in Poznań, is the marriage certificate, from which we learn that the ceremony took place on 2 September 1829 at 12 noon, and that they were married by the Revd Jan Jakub Scholtz. [1]

However, in his memoirs published on the pages of the 'Tygodnik Ilustrowany', Adam Helbich writes that they arrived in Żychlin 'towards evening', and so were not present at the wedding. But they did attend the reception, which went on until the third day; the guests left around 2 p.m. Here is an excerpt from Helbich's memoirs:

'It so happened that I was travelling to the Bs' in Z. as an invited guest at the celebrations of their daughter's wedding. Knowing that in a home celebrated for its good, old-fashioned hospitality, three well-educated young men would be well received, I invited them to accompany me.
They willingly agreed.
And so we set off. Towards evening we arrive at the palace. The host, in merry mood, greets us with open arms, and numerous guests look out from all the windows. A moment later we all felt at home, as if among our very own relatives. Among the guests was Mr Henryk U., who greeted my companions like good acquaintances. He had met them in Reinertz, and before a quarter of an hour had passed all those present had already learned of Fryderyk's noble deed [concert for orphans in Duszniki].
I shall not dwell here over a description of the amusements of that solemn day. I'll just say that the time flew by like a shot, under the effect of the music, dancing and animation of the whole company.
On the third day the time came to depart. The young guests were anxious to return to their families in Warsaw. From 11 in the morning the horses stood harnessed, but has it ever occurred that someone has left the home of their host without breakfast? So the horses had to wait. 12 o'clock struck and the guests assembled in the hall. In the adjoining dining-room, lively conversations were taking place while the company waited for the table to be laid.

Then someone made a proposal:
To round off the amusements, let's play some society games, and since we are to go off in various directions, let's play traveller.
And so the names of cities were given out and everyone took care to be ready; in spite of this, however, there was no lack of forfeits.
When the turn came for Mr Henryk to pay a forfeit, one of the ladies gave him a task to do which would have been to the liking of all those present.
He thought for a while and then ran out. A moment later, he came back, carrying an ivy branch tied in a ribbon, and placing it on Fryderyk's head he said:
- I  crown talent and virtue.
There followed a long and thunderous ovation, continuously renewed. Tears ran down Fryderyk's cheeks, and there seemed not a dry eye among all those assembled.
' [2]

The composer himself gave an account of his stay in Żychlin in a letter to Tytus Woyciechowski dated 12 September 1829: 'And I, on the way back, was at the wedding reception of Miss Melania Bronikowska: a lovely child, wed Kurnatowski'. [3]

It is worth mentioning that there were two pairs of newlyweds at the reception, the other couple being Aniela Kurnatowska [4] and Wojciech Gałczyński, whose marriage had taken place a few days earlier, on 25 August 1829 in the Roman Catholic church in the village of Charłupia, near Sieradz.

The church in Żychlin was built in the years 1821-22 in place of the previous old timber church. It is a building in classicist style, on a rectangular plan. The church's interior is simple and ascetic, with a centrally placed pulpit and Lord's table, bearing the following inscription: 'Blessed are the pure at heart'. On either side are two epitaphs: to Melania Kurnatowska and Teodor Pretwic, whilst the side walls are adorned with two portraits of great benefactors of the parish: Joanna Florentyna Bronikowska, née Potworowska, and her husband, Adam Bronikowski. A plaque devoted to the memory of Melania Kurnatowska, placed below a tin urn, reads as follows: 'Here Wiktor Kurnatowski preserved the heart of his wife, Melania Kurnatowska, née Bronikowska, RIP, b. 16 July 1811, d. 31 Oct. 1834.'

Almost exactly opposite the church stands a palace. This is thought to have been built in the early 1820s. Before this there was a timber manor house in Żychlin. [5] There is no information as to the appearance of the new walled building. It is presumed to have been similar to the present edifice. However, it certainly looked different inside. Żychlin Palace was built on a rectangular plan, with a front porch covered by a hip-roof. It stands in grounds covering 2.5 hectares, in which monuments of nature have survived: ashes, lindens and a plane. Today, the building is the seat of a School of Economics and Services.

In order to commemorate the composer's stay in Żychlin, on 2 September 1999 a bronze plaque was set into the front wall of the palace, by the main entrance. The idea of Henryk Janasek, it was made by Giotto Dimitrow. Its inscription reads as follows: 'Here, in the first days of September 1829, stayed Fryderyk Chopin'.

Żychlin lies a few kilometres from Konin, in Konin county, in the Greater Poland voivoideship.

Worth seeing in the area:

  • fifteenth-century gothic church of St Bartholomew (with late Renaissance chapel) in Konin
  • gothic church from the first half of the fifteenth century in Gosławice
  • classicist presbytery from 1839 attached to the church in Żychlin
  • bell-tower founded in 1788 by Adam Feliks Bronikowski (moved in 1821 to a stone base) in Żychlin
  • mausoleum from 1840 in Żychlin

[1] Archiwum Państwowe w Poznaniu, 'par. ewangelicka Żychlin, sygn. 31. Akt ślubu', see H. F. Nowaczyk, 'Kiedy Chopin "grał cudownie" na żychlińskim weselu?', 39; also Mysłakowski and Sikorski, Chopinowie, 106-107
[2] 'Kronika tygodniowa', Tygodnik Ilustrowany, 29 Jan. 1870, 50
[3] The correspondence of Fryderyk Chopin, ed. B. E. Sydow, 1 vol. (Warsaw, 1955) 106
[4] Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, granddaughter of Aniela Gałczyńska, née Kurnatowksa, referring to her grandmother's recollections, described a recital supposedly given by Chopin for the wedding guests in Żychlin in the following words: 'He was not yet famous, but he played wonderfully. It was so quiet in the hall you could hear a pin drop [...] he wasn't of good cheer and played so sadly that tears came to the eyes.' In Dziedzictwo, ii (Warsaw, 1964), 57 (cit. after Nowaczyk, 'Kiedy Chopin', 39)
[5] K. Gorczyca, Żychlin pod Koninem. Dzieje wsi i zboru, 81


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