THE HOLY TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH IN WARSAW (1777-1781)
ONE OF THE FIRST NEOCLASSICAL BUILDINGS IN EUROPE
For two centuries Warsaw Lutherans did not have the right to build their own church. The edict issued by the Mazovian prince Janusz in 1525 forbade any other public worship but Roman-Catholic. It was only in 1767-1768 that treaties and constitutional laws were passed at an extraordinary session of the Polish Parliament and equal rights to all denominations were conceded. In this situation, the foundation of the Lutheran church was possible. The king's banker, Piotr Tepper, made efforts to build the church and in 1777 he obtained the appropriate privilege from King Stanisław August Poniatowski. The king however reserved for him self the right of choosing the design of the building.
From three designs presented by Dominik Merlini, Jan Christian Kamsetzer and Szymon Bogumił Zug, the king chose the last one. Zug (1733-1807), unlike his competitors, was not connected with the royal court and at that time was famous as designer of many Warsaw tenement houses, palaces and modern landscape gardens. He also received commissions from Polish aristocrats in the provincial areas. The design of the Lutheran church was however his biggest and most important architectural realization highly estimated by his contemporaries. The final design was preceded by a few versions not far from each other. From the beginning the design of the central building was based on the idea of the Roman Pantheon, die temple dedicated to all gods. The church was to have the shape of a rotunda covered with a dome with four lower annexes. In the last version the dome carried the light lantern with ionic columns surmounted with the cross.
The construction of the church began on April 24th, 1777, and was finished on July 2nd, 1779. During the next two years the interior part of the church was decorated. The work proceeded rapidly thanks to the energetic collecting of funds. The generosity of Warsaw parishioners was enormous. Foreign Lutheran churches also contribu-ted to the project. The brickwork was supervised by master Andrzej Loebeck, and at the supervision of the construction Bogumił Zug was helped by a young architect, Jakub Kubicki. The solemn consecration of the Holy Trinity Church took place on December 30th, 1781.</p>
The Lutheran church was the highest and at the same time one of the biggest buildings of 18th century Warsaw. The diameter of the dome was 33.4 meters long and the height was 58 meters. The church is considered to be a representative work of architecture of the second half of the 18th century in Poland and one of the first buildings in neoclassical style in Europe.
In respect to the interior decoration of the church, interesting structures could be found there. The interior was surrounded by two-storied galleries characteristic of the architecture of Protestant churches. On the first floor the gallery was supported by Tuscan columns, on the second floor by Ionic columns. The gallery by-pass was built over the galleries on the mould supporting the dome. The altar was situated on the axis of the entrance. The pulpit was placed over the altar and the organ over the pulpit. The pews were placed concentrically against the axis of the church forming segments of a circle. Light reached the church through the opening of the lantern surmounting the building and through the round windows of the rotunda. In 1784 the painting representing Christ on the Mount of Olives painted by a Saxon artist Bogumił Schiffner was placed over the altar.
The Lutheran church was quickly taking root in the history of the city. Similarly its parishioners can be found on the most glorious pages of the history of the capital city. They showed their patriotism in Kościuszko Insurrection in 1794 and the uprisings for independence in 1831 and 1863.
In the 19th and 20th centuries charitable, cultural and educational institution were erected within the parish. The Lutheran hospital was the oldest institution (older than the parish itself) ofering help to the city people irrespective of their denominations. (A well-know physician Tytus Chałubiński worked there as the head doctor in 1847-1857).
Up to the outbreak of the second world war the parish had also run the old people’s home, orphanage, shelter for women, sewing work-room, dormitory for boys, kindergarten, nursery, day-room, home for epileptics and the convalescent home “Tabita”. In the neighbourhood of the church there were parish schools - the primary schools for boys and girls and secondary schools, Mikołaj Rej's Gymnasium for boys and Anna Wazówna’s Gymnasium for girls.
The church gathered lovers of classical music. In the 19th century young Fryderyk Chopin gave concerts there. Stanisław Moniuszko, the father of Polish national opera, conducted orchestras during some of those concerts. Many significant personalities of Polish culture and science were members of this Lutheran parish, such as Samuel Bogumił Linde, the author of the Polish dictionary who was for some time the chairman of the church council and Wojciech Gerson, an outstanding painter who initiated the foundation of the Society of Fine Arts, “Zachęta”.
In September 1939, and during German occupation, the parishioners of the Holy Trinity Church participated in the tragic history of their city and in the martyrdom of the Polish nation. Bishop Juliusz Bursche, the head of the Lutheran Church in Poland and previous pastor of the Holy Trinity Parish became a martyr under the Nazis. The church fell into ruin when bombed and burnt on September 16th, 1939. Together with the church, all parish institutions, schools and the parish house were ruined. The hospital was destroyed in the time of the Warsaw ghetto extermination in 1943.
Almost immediately after the Germans' withdrawal Warsaw Lutherans began to rebuild their church. The first services took place under the open sky within burnt but cleared from rubble walls of the church. In 1952-1956 the reconstruction of the church was taken over by state authorities. The plans were to transform the church into a secular building. In 1956 the church was returned to the legal owner - the Lutheran parish in Warsaw. The Parish Committee on Reconstruction of the Holy Trinity Church finished their work quickly. On June 22nd 1958 the ceremony of consecration of the reconstructed church at Małachowski’s Square took place. The act of the consecration was performed by Bishop Karol Kotula.
The mass of the church was restored faithfully according to Zug’s plans and drawings. Only the interior decoration was adapted to modern liturgical requirements. The new altar was raised on the marble platform with steps. The wooden crucifix carved by Józef Trenarowski was placed on the altar. The silvered, stuccoes “screen” with liturgical emblems is in the background. Higher up on the wall, covering the interior of the previous pulpit, the 19th century painting representing Jesus Christ risen from the dead was placed. The organ (a gift from Church Aid in Zurich), earlier situated over the altar, was set up over the entrance on the second floor gallery. The windows on both sides of the altar were decorated by stained-glass compositions designed by Prof. Adam Dobrzański and were presented to the parish by Mrs. Michalina Wedel. In the interior there are a painting by Stefan Norblin representing Martin Luther at Diet of Worms in 1521.
Only the old people’s home “Tabita” was preserved of all the charitable institutions. Other were either not rebuilt after the war or were taken over by the state. The surrounding of the church because of changes is loosing its harmonious character.
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