Warsaw: Royal Baths Park

Warsaw: Royal Baths Park Warsaw: Royal Baths Park

In 1766 King Stanislaus Augustus purchased the Royal Baths Park as a royal summer residence. In Chopin's day, in 1817, the complex became the property of Tsar Alexander I. Up to the 1820s, the park, adjoining the Belvedere palace and grounds, was closed to the inhabitants of Warsaw. Favoured because of his talent, the young Fryderyk was able to play here with Pawełek [1] and Moriolka [2].

The Royal Baths Park is a palace-garden complex situated in the Ujazdów district of Warsaw, occupying an area of almost eighty hectares. The park's name derives from the baroque bathing pavilion known as the Łazienki. This was the first building on this site, erected in the second half of the seventeenth century. Situated on an island surrounded by canals, the richly decorated pavilion was built by Tylman van Gameren for the Grand Crown Marshal Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski, the owner of Ujazdów.

In the second half of the eighteenth century the estate became the property of King Stanislaus Augustus. The entire complex of buildings dates from this period, including the Old Orangery [Stara Pomarańczarnia], the White House [Biały Domek], the amphitheatre on the island and the Myślewicki Palace [Pałac Myślewicki]. In 1772 work began on converting the bathing pavilion into the king's summer residence. This involved wholesale changes to the building's exterior, which ultimately gained a classicist character. In the interiors, however, part of the former baroque decor was retained. Henceforth the building was known as the Palace on the Water or the Palace on the Island [Pałac na Wodzie/Wyspie]. All the buildings on the grounds of the Royal Baths Park were surrounded by broad avenues for walking, with the whole park complemented by stylishly designed gardens.

In the nineteenth century several new classicist-style buildings were erected in the Royal Baths Park. Further changes were also made to the park's spatial organisation.

During World War Two only a miracle prevented the buildings from being blown up. In spite of war-time destruction, it was possible to completely restore the historical buildings of the Royal Baths Park and create a museum-garden complex open to the general public.

The Chopin Monument in the Royal Baths Park, the work of Wacław Szymanowski, is among the most beautiful and best known in Poland. Unveiled in 1926, it stands on a pool, near the main gate to the park, on Al. Ujazdowskie. In 1940 it was one of the first monuments to be destroyed by the Nazis. Hence the inscription that adorns the base today: 'Statue of Fryderyk Chopin, destroyed and plundered by the Germans on 31 May 1940, rebuilt by the Nation. 17 October 1946'.

After the war, in 1958 the monument was faithfully reconstructed and replaced on its original spot. The surrounding area was designed by Oskar Sosnowski. Also engraved on the base are these words by Adam Mickiewicz:

Płomień rozgryzie malowane dzieje,
Skarby mieczowi spustoszą złodzieje,
Pieśń ujdzie cało...

[Flames will consume our painted history,
Sword-wielding thieves will plunder our treasures,
The song will be saved...

Since 1959, Chopin concerts have been held by the monument on Sundays from the beginning of May to the end of September. 

[1] Pawełek [dim. form of Paweł, Eng. Paul], son of Grand Duke Constantine.
[2] Moriolka, that is, Alexandrine de Moriolles, daughter of the French tutor, the Conte de Moriolles, a friend of Mikołaj Chopin's.

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