Holy Cross Church, Warsaw
The Church of the Holy Cross is a Roman Catholic house of worship in downtown Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

, Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

. Located on Krakowskie Przedmieście
Krakowskie Przedmiescie
Krakowskie Przedmieście is one of the most impressive and prestigious streets of Poland's capital.Several other Polish cities also have streets named Krakowskie Przedmieście. In Lublin, it is the main and most elegant street...

opposite the main Warsaw University campus, it is one of the most notable Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 churches in Poland's capital.

The Holy Cross Church is currently administered by the Missionary Friars of Vincent de Paul
Vincent de Paul
Vincent de Paul was a priest of the Catholic Church who became dedicated to serving the poor. He is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. He was canonized in 1737....



As early as the 15th century, a small wooden chapel of the Holy Cross had been erected here. In 1526 the chapel was demolished, and a newer church was erected. Refurbished and extended by Paweł Zembrzuski in 1615, the church was too small to fill the needs of the growing city. Initially located well outside the city limits, by the 17th century it had become one of the main churches in the southern suburb (przedmieście) of the city that had in 1596 become Poland's capital.

In 1653 Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga
Ludwika Maria Gonzaga
Marie Louise Gonzaga was queen consort to two Polish kings: Władysław IV Vasa, and John II Casimir Vasa...

 gave the church to the French order of Missionary Friars of Vincent de Paul. However, three years later Warsaw was captured by Swedish armies during the Deluge. Pillaged, the church was found to be damaged beyond repair. During the reign of Jan III Sobieski the church's remnants were demolished, and it was decided to erect a new shrine. In the 18th century this became the origin of the gorzkie żale
Gorzkie zale
Gorzkie żale Lamentations') is a Catholic devotion, containing many hymns. One part is held on each Sundays in the Lent period, and the entire ceremony is held on Good Friday. The tradition dates to the 18th century in the Warsaw's Holy Cross Church and from there it spread to entire Poland...

The main building was constructed between 1679 and 1696. Its main designer was Józef Szymon Bellotti, the royal architect at the Royal Court of Poland. It was financed by abbot Kazimierz Szczuka and the Primate of Poland Michał Stefan Radziejowski. The façade was relatively modest and reminded of Renaissance facades of the nearby churches. The two towers surrounding the façade were initially square-cut. Between 1725 and 1737 two late Baroque headpieces by Józef Fontana. The façade itself was refurbished by Fontana's son, Jakub (in 1756) and ornamented with sculptures by Jan Jerzy Plersch.

From 1765 the church was one of the most attended by Polish King Stanisław August Poniatowski. It was also there that the King established the Order of St. Stanisław
Order of Saint Stanislaus
The Order of Saint Stanislaus , also spelled Stanislas, was an Order in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and The Kingdom of Poland between 1765 and 1831 and of Russian Empire from 1831 to 1917.-History of the Order of Saint Stanislaus:Stanisław August Poniatowski, King of Poland, established the...

 and bestowed it upon loyal servants annually on May 8. On May 3, 1792, the Polish Diet
The Sejm is the lower house of the Polish parliament. The Sejm is made up of 460 deputies, or Poseł in Polish . It is elected by universal ballot and is presided over by a speaker called the Marshal of the Sejm ....

 gathered there on the first anniversary of the May 3rd Constitution
Constitution of May 3, 1791
The Constitution of May 3, 1791 was adopted as a "Government Act" on that date by the Sejm of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Historian Norman Davies calls it "the first constitution of its type in Europe"; other scholars also refer to it as the world's second oldest constitution...

. During the Warsaw Uprising
Warsaw Uprising (1794)
The Warsaw Uprising of 1794 was an armed Polish insurrection by the city's populace early in the Kościuszko Uprising. Supported by the Polish Army, it aimed to throw off Russian control of the Polish capital city...

 of 1794, the stairs leading to the main entrance were destroyed and had to be replaced with new ones designed by Chrystian Piotr Aigner
Chrystian Piotr Aigner
Chrystian Piotr Aigner was a Polish architect and theoretician of architecture.-Life:...

During the Partitions
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

, the church gained much importance, especially after the 1861 demonstration held before it, which was brutally put down by Russian Cossack troops — sparking the January 1863 Uprising
January Uprising
The January Uprising was an uprising in the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth against the Russian Empire...


On Christmas Day 1881, an outbreak of panic following a false alarm of fire in the crowded church caused the stampede
A stampede is an act of mass impulse among herd animals or a crowd of people in which the herd collectively begins running with no clear direction or purpose....

 deaths of twenty-nine persons. Jews were blamed for starting the panic, and the Warsaw pogrom of 1881 ensued.

In the late 19th century the church interior was slightly refurbished, and in 1882 an urn containing the heart of Frederic Chopin
Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric François Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music and has been called "the poet of the piano"....

 was immured in a pillar. Some decades later, a similar urn was added with the heart of Władysław Reymont. In 1889 the external staircase leading to the main entrance was reconstructed, and a sculpture of Christ Bearing His Cross by Pius Weloński was added. The sculpture bears the inscription, Sursum Corda
Sursum corda
The Sursum Corda is the opening dialogue to the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer or Anaphora in the liturgies of the Christian Church, dating back to at least the third century and the Anaphora of the Apostolic Tradition. The dialogue is recorded in the earliest liturgies of the Christian...

("Lift Up Your Hearts"), signifying the Poles' endurance under the Russian partition. In addition to urns containing the hearts of some of Poland's most renowned artists, there are several epitaph
An epitaph is a short text honoring a deceased person, strictly speaking that is inscribed on their tombstone or plaque, but also used figuratively. Some are specified by the dead person beforehand, others chosen by those responsible for the burial...

s to other notable Poles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Juliusz Słowacki, Józef Ignacy Kraszewski
Józef Ignacy Kraszewski
Józef Ignacy Kraszewski was a Polish writer, historian and journalist who produced more than 200 novels and 150 novellas, short stories, and art reviews He is best known for his epic series on the history of Poland, comprising twenty-nine novels in seventy-nine parts.As a novelist writing about...

, Bolesław Prus, and Władysław Sikorski.

During the 1944 Warsaw Uprising
Warsaw Uprising
The Warsaw Uprising was a major World War II operation by the Polish resistance Home Army , to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany. The rebellion was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union's Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces...

, the church was severely damaged. On 6 September 1944, when the Germans detonated two large Goliath tracked mine
Goliath tracked mine
The Goliath tracked mine - complete German name: Leichter Ladungsträger Goliath - was a remote controlled German-engineered demolition vehicle, also known as the beetle tank to Allies....

s in the church (they usually carried 75–100 kg — 165–220 lbs. — of high explosives) the facade was destroyed, together with many Baroque furnishings, the vaulting, the high altar, and side altars. Afterward the church was blown up by the Germans in January 1945.

Between 1945 and 1953, the church was rebuilt in a simplified architectural form by B. Zborowski. The interior was reconstructed without the Baroque polychrome
Polychrome is one of the terms used to describe the use of multiple colors in one entity. It has also been defined as "The practice of decorating architectural elements, sculpture, etc., in a variety of colors." Polychromatic light is composed of a number of different wavelengths...

s and fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

s. The main altar was reconstructed between 1960 and 1972.


  • The Holy Cross Church and its gardens (now non-existent and occupied by the building of the Ministry of Finances) gave their name to Świętokrzyska Street, one of the most notable streets in central Warsaw.
  • Following the signing of the Gdańsk Accords between Solidarity and the communist government of the People's Republic of Poland
    People's Republic of Poland
    The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...

     in 1980, it was decided that a mass
    Mass can be defined as a quantitive measure of the resistance an object has to change in its velocity.In physics, mass commonly refers to any of the following three properties of matter, which have been shown experimentally to be equivalent:...

     be transmitted countrywide via state-controlled radio. Since then, the mass has been recorded weekly at the church for transmittal.

See also

  • Visitationist Church
    Visitationist Church
    Church of St. Joseph of the Visitationists commonly known as the Visitationist Church is a Roman Catholic church in Warsaw, Poland, situated at Krakowskie Przedmieście 34...

  • St. Casimir's Church
    Church of the Holy Sacrament, Warsaw
    St. Kazimierz Church is a Roman Catholic church in Warsaw's New Town at Rynek Nowego Miasta 2 .-History:...

  • St. Florian's Cathedral
    St. Florian's Cathedral
    St. Florian's Cathedral, more formally known as the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel and St. Florian the Martyr , is a Catholic church and historical landmark at ul. Floriańska 3 in eastern Warsaw. The 75-meter towers of St...

External links

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