Warsaw: Churches

Warsaw: Churches Warsaw: Churches

The Church of the Holy Cross on ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście, next to Czapski/Krasiński Palace, where the Chopins lived, was the largest church in Warsaw at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In the Holy Cross parish Fryderyk's two sisters were baptised: Izabela and Emilia. National-patriotic ceremonies were held here, including the exequies for Prince Józef Poniatowski. It was from here that the cortège left for Bielany following the funeral Mass for Stanisław Staszic, with the young Fryderyk Chopin among the large number of Varsovians assembled to see the great scholar off to the place of his burial.[1]

Inside the Holy Cross church are numerous epitaphs and plaques commemorating great Poles, including Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki, Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, Bolesław Prus and General Władysław Sikorski. There is also the urn containing the heart of Fryderyk Chopin, which, in accordance with the composer's wishes, was brought to Poland by his elder sister, Ludwika. Only after ninety-six years, following various twists of fate, was it transferred permanently to the Holy Cross church, as is recorded on a plaque with the inscription ‘17. X. 1945 the heart of F. Chopin returned to Warsaw', set into the church's second pillar, on the left-hand side of the nave. A plaque funded by the Warsaw Music Society was unveiled in 1880. It carries a quotation from the Gospel according to St Matthew (VI.21): ‘For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also'. Above this is a small bust of the composer by Leonard Marconi.

The church was heavily damaged during the war, but the urn with Chopin's heart and the nineteenth-century plaque had been hidden away (see Milanówek).

The other churches which Chopin attended or may have frequented were also situated on ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście. On days when there was no Mass in the church of the Nuns of the Visitation, Chopin's mother would take the young Fryderyk to the Carmelite church. Attendance at Mass was obligatory for pupils of the Lyceum and students of the University. The Bernardine church of St Anne was attended, along with all female pupils, by Konstancja Gładkowska, and also-possibly on her account-by Fryderyk.

Augsburg Evangelical Church of the Holy Trinity
[Kościół ewangelicko-augsburski Świętej Trójcy]

In the church that stands on what is now Plac Małachowskiego, Chopin performed for the Tsar in May 1825, playing on the aeolomelodicon, an invention by Karol Fidelis Brunner. Alexander I showed his appreciation by presenting Chopin with a diamond ring.

The church was built in the eighteenth century to a design by Szymon Bogumil Zug. This monumental, classicist building has the form of a domed rotunda. Its interior is circled by a two-storey gallery, typical of Evangelical churches. For some time the building, with its characteristic dome, was the tallest building in Warsaw.
Bombed in September 1939 and burned down during the Warsaw Rising, it was completely destroyed. The building's post-war reconstruction faithfully restored the original architectural design. Due to its exceptional acoustic, the Augsburg Evangelical Church of the Holy Trinity has been used to the present day as the venue for numerous concerts. In 1998 a new German organ was installed, founded by the National Lutheran Evangelical Church of Hanover.

Church of the Nuns of the Visitation
[Kościół Wizytek]

Fryderyk attended the church of the Nuns of the Visitation on ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście in his secondary-school years on Sunday services for pupils and students, and also after the year 1825, when he often improvised on the organ there. Writing to Jan Białobłocki in November 1825, he expressed his contentment: ‘I've become the school organist. Thus my wife, as well as all my children, must respect me for two reasons. Ha, Good Sir, what a man am I! The first person in the whole school after the Revd parish priest! [...] I play once a week, on Sundays, at the Visitandines' on the organ, and the others sing.'[2]

As a student of the High School of Music, Chopin took part in numerous performances given by the orchestra, choir and soloists of the Conservatory under the direction of the vice-chancellor Józef Elsner. Concerts were organised mainly during religious festivals and academic Sunday masses that were obligatory for pupils of the Lyceum and students at the University. Sessions of the University Senate were also held here.

Already in the seventeenth century a wooden chapel stood by the entrance to the king's summer residence. A church and convent were built to a design by Karol Bay for French nuns brought to Poland by Maria Ludwika Gonzaga. Their appearance was completed by modifications made in the eighteenth century. The church's baroque façade is adorned by splendid sculptures by Jan Jerzy Plersch, who also created many elements of the rococo interior decoration, including the boat-shaped pulpit. Preserved to the present day is the historical organ on which Fryderyk Chopin used to play.

In the 1980s a monument was raised on the square in front of the Visitandines' church to the Primate of the Millennium, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, the work of Andrzej Renes.

Chopin's close and enduring links to the church of the Visitandine Sisters is commemorated by a plaque situated above the church doors, near the entrance to the chancel, founded by the Fryderyk Chopin Society in 1990. This bears the following inscription: ‘In honour of Fryderyk Chopin, who played on the organ in this church as a pupil of the Warsaw Lyceum in the years 1825-1826'.

[1] Inside the Church of the Holy Cross are numerous epitaphs and commemorative plaques of great Poles, including the urn with the heart of Fryderyk Chopin, which-in accordance with the composer's wishes-was brought to Poland by his elder sister, Ludwika.

[2] KCh, i, 60.

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