Tourist routes in Poznań: Churches and cathedrals

There are many churches in Poznań built in different architectural styles, ranging from Gothic to Baroque. The buildings can be found throughout the city. Some of them, such as the Cathedral, are located in scenic areas and visiting them might be a perfect way to spend your time in Poznań.

Cathedral of Ostrów Tumski

It is one of the oldest Polish churches and the city's oldest historical building. It dates back to the beginning of Polish statehood and the creation of Poznan diocese in 968 when a construction of a 3-nave pre-Romanesque basilica was undertaken by Prince Mieszko I but was later pulled down after the death of King Bolesław Chrobry. The new Romanesque stone, two-tower basilica was accomplished about 1058. In the middle of the 13th century the eastern part of the church was demolished and the early Gothic brick presbytery was erected. About 100 years later a Gothic nave was added and at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries a new Gothic presbytery was built. In the meantime most of the chapels surrounding the cathedral appeared. During the following ages, it was destroyed by fires, cataclysm, wars and when it was being rebuilt, new elements, typical for the époque, were added - in the 17th century it was redesigned in Baroque style and in the 18th in Classicism style. The cathedral was destroyed during World War II.

When it was rebuilt after 1945, it regained its Gothic form of the 14th and 15th centuries. A cross-ribbed vault in the presbytery and stellar vault in the nave and the aisles were reconstructed. The remains of the oldest structures can be found in the crypt beneath the nave. Next to the tombs of Mieszko I and Bolesław Chrobry almost half of the limestone Baptism Basin is preserved, of a diameter of 5m. This is probably what remains of a baptistery dating from Mieszko I times, before the first cathedral was erected. There are also fragments of walls of two first cathedrals, pre-Romanesque and Romanesque. The Romanesque wall face is also preserved in the lower part of the southern tower. Throughout 1000 years of its existence, the cathedral has been a place of numerous historical events such as royal funerals (it is the oldest necropolis of Piast dynasty), royal weddings (King Wacław II with Ryksa, Przemysław II's daughter; Casimir III the Great with Adelheid, daughter of Henry II, Landgrave of Hesse).

Today the cathedral is a 3-nave oriented basilica on a cruciform plan, with a presbytery on the east side. It is surrounded by 12 chapels (two of which make arms of the transept), 2 vestries and a southern porch. The unusual elements in Polish architecture, in the mass of the cathedral are flying buttresses, spread between the walls of the nave and the towers. It is 81m long and 43,5m wide. The nave is 24.5m tall, the towers are 62m tall and the little towers over the ambulatory are 44 m tall. The façade has a lancet arch fault portal from profiled and glazed bricks, and above it there is a Gothic rose window. The Baroque domes of the towers were reconstructed in 1952.

There are a lot of precious works of art inside the cathedral, e.g. late Gothic main altar from 1512, brought there from Silesia. Over the altar there is a late Baroque crucifix and two Baroque figures of the Virgin Mary and St. John. Late Gothic choir stalls were brought from Zgorzelec, late Baroque pulpit and a baptismal font from 1720, both come from the former Lutheran Church in Milicz. On the pillar over the Archbishop's Throne there is a precious Flemish 17th-century tapestry.

There are many precious works of art in the chapels as well. At the entrance to the Chapel of Jesus Heart there is an early Gothic tombstone of Teodoryk Pradel (died in 1383) found there in 1954 under the floor. In 1990 5 Gothic and Renaissance bronze tombstones returned to the Cathedral, having been taken out during the war to Germany and later found in the warehouse of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. In the alter of St. Martin's Chapel there is a painting by Krzysztof Boguszewski from 1628, depicting St. Martin's arrival in Amiens who has Prince Vladislav features.

Archbishops' Palace

It is situated in Ostrów Tumski next to the cathedral and it has probably been there since the cathedral was erected. Its oldest mention comes from 1404. Over the ages it got destroyed many times by cataclysm and wars. Today it is a 3-wing architectonically varied building. The archbishop's residence is the late Classicisal west wing whose form is a result of mid-19th century alteration. There is an entrance to the building through a balcony portico, with ionic columns from the beginning of the 19th century. At the portico there are two marble statues of St Peter and St Paul which stood on two sides of the main alter in the cathedral until 1945. On the north wing where remains of Renaissance walls can be seen, there is a Classical gate, with a 2-column late 18th-century portico. The short east wing was built at the beginning of 20th century.

On the west side of the square there is a building of Metropolitan Curia from 1834, altered twice at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Further towards the west there is a parish building of the cathedral with two memorial plaques set on the walls in 1976 - one plaque from 1598 and the other from 1715, both covered with inscriptions concerning the history of the parish.

St. Martin's Church in Poznan

It is located at St. Martin's Street. The first, probably wooden church, stood in this place as early as the 13th century, and the settlement of St. Martin adopted its name as well as the street in the 18th century. In the middle of the 16th century a brick church in late Gothic style was erected in this place, without any towers, with a stellar vault. It was pulled down in the 17th century. Later constructions and alterations were demolished by continuous wars sweeping through this area of fights and battles. At the end of the 19th century and during the first three decades of the 20th century the church was still going through some redesigning and modernization and eventually in 1939 it was 35m long and 30m wide. Inside there were 7 altars. The main one, representing St. Martin, was a 16th-century work of art. The stained glass window above the organ represented St. Martin on horseback, giving away his coat to a poor man. The church was closed in 1941 and turned into a storehouse.

During the war it was almost completely demolished. Reconstructed between 1950-1954, it regained its late Gothic shape of a nave and 2 aisles, and a Gothic stellar vault. Inside, one can admire its lancet arch windows and portal, and some arcaded friezes. In 1957 polychrome frescos were painted directly on the bricks, a design by Wacław Taranczewski. In the main altar a late Gothic triptych of Swierzawa, made in 1498 by an anonymous Silesian artist, can be seen. In the central part of the triptych there are the figures of the Holy Virgin with the Child, St. John the Baptist and St. Catherine. In the altar finial, beneath the openwork baldachin, there are two small figures of St. Roch and St. Sebastian and a figure of an unknown bishop as well. In the lower part, called predella, there are 19th-century figures of St. Peter and St. Paul. On the sides of the altar there are scenes of the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist (St. John's Beheading, Salome standing in front of Herod and Herodias with St. John's head in a bowl) and St. Catharine (St. Catherine's beheading and St. Catherine's entombing). The outer parts of the sides of the triptych are covered with paintings representing scenes from the life of St. Catherine. The tabernacle in thealter was made in 1954. The stained glass windows were designed in 1960 by Jan Piasecki. Above the entrance to the church there is a low relief from 1953 representing St. Martin on horseback.

In 1911 the Holy Virgin of Lourdes grotto was built and it was enlarged to its present state in 1932. One year later a plaque memorializing the 15th anniversary of the beginning of Great Poland's uprising was placed there. In a wooden bell tower there are 3 bells: a Renaissance St. Martin from 1563, St. Andrew from 1718 and the most splendid - Holy Virgin from 1747. On a square at the presbytery there is a pedestal with an inscription reminding us that in 1859 a monument to Adam Mickiewicz was erected there. In 1965 the church had a new 34-register organ installed and in 1966 it got a new marble floor.

Collegiate Chruch of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

A Baroque parish church was built between 1651 and 1701, receiving its final shape in 1750s. It has a façade with a late Baroque portal from 1750. Inside, there is a nave, aisles, a transept and galleries, tunnel-vaulted with lunettes, all of them richly decorated. The nave is open to the aisles with semi-circular arcades, between which massive stucco columns were placed. The illusionistic dome at the meeting of the nave and the transept, representing Greeting St. Stanislav in heaven, is worth having a look at.

In the presbytery there is the 18th-century main altar. At the edge of the presbytery there is a pulpit from 1964 and in the transept there is an 18th-century Rococo baptismal font. On both sides of the presbytery there are two chapels from 1743 - on the left there is St. Cross' Chapel with a late Gothic crucifix from the first half of 16th century and a painting of Christ in Agony from the beginning of the 17th century; on the right there is Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel with the painting of the patron from 1952, crowned in 1961 with papal crowns. Right next to it there is the Perpetual Adoration Chapel, created in 1937 and on the opposite side, at the entrance to the vestry, a late Gothic 16th-century stoup. In the transept there are two big altars from 1735. The cross-vaulted aisles are divided into chapels with altars. A late Gothic figure of Christ in Agony from 1430 is worth seeing in the chapel of Japanese Martyrs in the eastern aisle and the painting of Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus, in a silver dress and a golden crown in St. Francis Borgia Chapel in the western aisle. Under the church there are vast vaults - tunnel-vaulted crypts where monks and benefactors were buried once, also some parishioners between 1798 and 1810. During the renovation in 1990s fragments of the medieval inner wall of Poznan's fortification were discovered.

St. Anthony of Padua Church

This is situated on the slope of Przemysł Hill, west of the Old Market Square. The Franciscans arrived in Poznan in the first half of the 17th century. In 1668 they got permission to settle within the city's defensive walls and 10 years later began to build their church. The construction work was finalized in 1757 and the neighbour convent was built at the turn of the 17th and 18 centuries. In 1832 the convent was closed down and the Prussian authorities handed the church over to German Catholics. By the end of the 19th century the street level had lowered so a staircase leading to the church was erected.

Between 1899 and 1911 the southern and the eastern wings of the convent were demolished. The Franciscans returned to their previous seat in 1921. The original 3-naved Baroque church has two spacious chapels at the end of the aisles. Its presbytery and its nave are tunnel-vaulted with lunettes, the aisle are cross-vaulted. The chapels are domed with lanterns. The interior of the church is richly decorated with stucco and frescos. The main altar and the choir stalls come from the beginning of the 18th century. In the alter a small painting of the Holy Virgin Honourable in Miracles (Poznan's lady since 17th century) can be admired. On the tholobate are the figures of the 12 apostles. On the opposite side of the nave, in St. Francis Chapel, are placed the figures of the Franciscan saints. In the church there are also some 18th-century epitaphs with portraits of the deceased. The only part remaining of the convent is its northern wing, situated alongside Franciscan (Franciszkańska) Street.

Corpus Cristi Church

It is the second biggest Gothic church of Poznan, following the cathedral. It was founded by King Władysław Jagiełło in 1406, the construction work finished at the end of the 15th century though. In the middle of the 17th century the church got burned down and it received a Baroque form during the reconstruction. In the following years a tower, Virgin Mary of Scapular Chapel and a vestry were built. It has been a parish church since 1899.

Today it is a hall church. The nave and the aisles are separated by lancet arch arcades, supported on profiled pillars. The windows are Gothic, some of them in the presbytery have preserved 15th-century stone traceries and Gothic portals made from multi-coloured glazed bricks. The presbytery is cross and ribbed vaulted, decorated with Baroque stucco ornaments. The nave is Baroque tunnel-vaulted with lunettes, however in the aisle original stellar vaults have been preserved.

The main altar is from the first half of the 18th century. In the middle of the nave there is a fragment of the previous St. Onuphrius altar, reconstructed in 1925. According to tradition, it is situated in the place where 3 hosts were found at the end of the 14th century.

The church has been flooded many times. There are also plaques showing the high water levels in 1698, 1736 and 1888.

The Observants' Chruch

The Observants arrived in Poznan in the middle of 15th century, first built a wooden church and later a brick Gothic one in its place. It was destroyed in 1655 by the Swedish troops stationed in Poznan. Afterwards a new Baroque church was erected. There followed alterations in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1835 the convent was liquidated by the Prussian authorities and handed over to a local middle school which turned it into a hall of residence. The church was also looked after by the middle school.

After the destruction during World War II the Observants returned to their seat and started a long lasting reconstruction. The dome were reconstructed in 1982, the northern wing of the convent in 1988.

It has been a parish church since 1974. Its façade is Baroque, along with two 69m-tall towers. The interior was rebuilt in Baroque style following traditional patterns. The original element of the decoration is an 18th-century relief representing the Passion Scene, placed above the rainbow arch, and 12 figures of the apostles, placed on the pillars. In front of the convent there is a cracked bell, dedicated to St. Francis and St. John of Capistrano, cast in Poznan in 1730.

St. Joseph's Church

This monastic church, situated on the western St. Adalbert of Prague Hill, stands exactly in the place where various temples have been erected since the 14th century, first St. George's and later then Czech Brothers'. When the Carmelites settled there, they first built a wooden chapel. The existing church was built in the second half of the 17th century and the neighbouring convent was built in stages until the second half of the 18th century. In 1801 the convent was liquidated by Prussian authorities and 30 years later the church was altered and turned into an Evangelical Garrison Church. After 1918 it became a Catholic Garrison Church and then after 1945 the Carmelites returned.

It is a 3-nave Baroque church on a cruciform plan. The façade is divided by protrusion and moulding, with statue alcoves. The original equipment of the interior are remains of 17th-century Wojciech Konarzewski's tombstone. The rest comes from the 20th century when the church was thoroughly altered. At the presbytery there are plaques memorializing Poznan Garrison units which belonged to Poznan Army in 1939.

Virgin Mary in Summo Church

It is a late Gothic church built in the first half of the 15th century and stands probably in the place of a town chapel from the time of Poland's christening (966). However, it was ruined at the beginning of the 19th century such that it was in danger of being demolished. Luckily, it was prevented by thorough renovation undertaken in 1850s. Today the western gable, topped by a little bell, is decorated by lancet arch blinds and pinnacles. On the side walls there are decorative protrusions, separated by tall lancet arch windows (walled in on the north side). At the base course of the building stones with characteristic cuts can be seen which possibly came into being due to sword sharpening, as it was believed to make them supernatural.

The northern entrance to the church has been walled in; one can enter only through the southern door which is decorated with a lancet arch portal made from moulded and glazed bricks.

It is a 3-nave hall church with a Gothic stellar vault in the nave. The walls are decorated by 20th-century frescos.

St. Adalbert of Prague Church

The first church on St. Adalbert of Prague Hill was built in 1222. The existing 1-nave Gothic church comes from the 15th century. It had the aisles built in 16th century, at the turn of 16th and 17th centuries Renaissance gables and St. Anthony's Chapel on the south side were built. The church was destroyed in 1945 during the Battle of Poznan.

It was rebuilt as a 3-nave stellar vaulted church, with walls decorated by 20th-century Art Deco frescos. The Neo-Gothic main altar also comes from the beginning of 20th century. The 16th-century Gothic relief in the central plot of the altar, representing the Assumption, is attributed to one of Veit Stoss' desciples. In the aisles there are 3 late Renaissance altars, in the southern aisle altar there is a 16th-century Italian painting Christ's bewailing. In this aisle one can also find four 17th-century coffin portraits and Karol Marcinkowski's marble sarcophagus.

The Christmas attraction of the church is Bethlehem Manger in motion with 102 figures, including Polish kings and national heroes, some scientists, writers and musicians. In the vault there is the Crypt of the Distinguished, created in 1920s, called "Skałka of Poznan" (with reference to a similar crypt in Cracow called "Skałka"). Beside the church there is a 17th-century 3-bell wooden tower with a shingled roof.

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