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Księga gości

Minor Cathedral of HVM Assumption

For almost 300 years the only church in town was a small church from late renaissance with some baroque décor from XVII century. It took over a dozen years of effort to build a new church for the catholic community. In 1898 tsar authorities finally allowed the small church to be expanded. In 1900-1905 a Neo-Gothic “annex” was build which was 10 times bigger than original church. It was Józef Pius Dziekoński’s design. The first service took place already in 1905 but the official consecration wasn’t until 1931. This huge temple is Białystok’s pride, as one of not so many it survived the Second World War.

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Białystok’s neo-gothic cathedral contains all gothic characteristics: it is built on Latin cross plan, soaring, visible verticals making it look slim, skeletal structure, brick walls, windows and portals finished with sharp arches, stained glass windows. Church insides have the layout of three-nave basilica with a transept. When looking up we can see cross-ribbed vaults and the temple’s magnificence.
Main altar was made from painted wood of oak and lime in the form of a triptych in 1916. Main section portrays the scene of assumption of Holy Virgin Mary. One of the shapes in main section portrays an angel with silver feather to the right, it has the face of priest Wilhelm Szwarc – church builder. Entirety is crowned with the Holy Trinity characters. Side sections of altar the scenes from Holy Mary’s life are shown – in relief form. To the right from main altar, St. Antoni Padewski altar is located with painting of Franciscan with the Child. Next altar belongs to the Black Madonna of Częstochowa. It’s the result of thanksgiving pilgrimage to Częstochowa in 1906, back then the pilgrims brought the painting’s copy with them as a gift to the new church. Altar was ordered as the frame from cathedral architect Józef Pius Dziekoński and construction started 1907. Barely year later in 1908 the altar was already blessed and was the first neo-gothic altar until the main altar was made. Altar was made out of wood and tailored with mosaic mass. In general it possess all typical gothic elements.
To the left you can find chapel of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn with many votive offerings of the faithful. Chapel is a diocesan shrine. The painting and chapel were blessed on November 27, 1977 by cardinal Karol Wojtyła. Since then a significant cult of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn in Białystok has grown. In 1985 Cathedral was raised by Pope John Paul II to the rank of Basilica Minor. Church fulfilled the role of pro-cathedral for this part of Vilnius archdiocese which after the war remained in Poland. Since 1992 the church is Białystok archdiocese pro-cathedral. Until 1991 Białystok was part of Vilnius-Białystok archdiocese which was officially separated during pope John Paul’s visit. There is a firm tradition to organise cathedral music concerts every year, during July/August. It’s quite amusing for classical music fans.

 

Fara – Old Church

It is the oldest catholic church in city and together with its insides on of the most important antique buildings. The church was founded by Piotr Wiesiołowski, the owner of Białystok settlement in gothic-renaissance style, in place of old wooden church from 1617. Constructed as parish church with pretty portal and two-storey tower with some defensive elements. Above the main entrance there is a tympanum with relief finishing the portal from sandstone with Flemish renaissance elements. Relief portrays Assumption of Holy Mary. Interior is from late baroque from Branicki’s time. It was designed by Jakub Fontana, with paintings by Sylwester Mirys. What is curious Sylwester Mirys lived his whole adult life at Branicki’s residence but never learned polish language. It caused some funny misunderstandings, when he painted what he understood, not what was asked.

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Antiques inside belong to the highest class relics in Białystok. This inconspicuous church is truly a little museum telling the story of the city from XVII and XVIII century. For Branicki family it became not only the family’s mausoleum but also the place where all most important events started. Those events were for example: Hetman’s names day or his third wife’s (Izabella of house Poniatowski) birthday celebration.
Church’s most valuable relics inside include:

Marble Tombstone of Stefan Mikołaj Branicki

Jan Klemens Branicki rebuilt the church in 1751-1752 in baroque style. He moved his father’s Mikołaj Branicki and his grandmother’s Katarzyna Aleksandra Branicka of house Czarniecka tombstones with hearths from palaces chapel to newly renovated church. He also intended to make it a national mausoleum. Insides he decorated with Antoni Herliczka’s paintings. Impressive tombstone of hetman’s father and grandmother were made from black marble in 1711 by Kacper Bażanka from Cracow. The tombstone was a tribute to father and grandmother by son and grandson. In final he put cartouche with crests Branicki – Gryphon, Sapiehów – Fox and Czarniecki – Boat. The tombstone is to the right of the altar.

Tombstone with Jan Klemens Branicki’s heart

In 7 years after Jan Klemens Branicki’s death his wife Izabella put on the opposite side her husband’s tombstone. It was made in Rome in 1776 based on design by Stanisław August Poniatowski’s sculpture – Andrzej Le Brun. After nearly 2 years of travel, tombstone’s elements made it to Koningsberg, and from there to Białystok. The tombstone was set up a year after the funeral ceremony which was held in Cracow in 1777 in Saint Peter and Paul church. During the ceremony Branicki crest was broken as a sign of the end of Branicki family.
Tombstone has a shape of sharp pyramid situated on the pedestal for the urn-shaped coffin. Colours and form of the tombstone is very rich, it was made from many marbles of different colours and gilded bronzes. Urn restes on golden gryphons linked by bronze laurel festoon. Everything is closed by slender pyramid from beautiful green marble, composition is illuminated by gilded oval medallion with Branicki’s profile. Medallion is supposedly hanging from golden bow. A plumed helmet, oval shield, tail panache and made from gilded bronze sabre, spear and mace are engraved on urn.
Because the tombstone was damaged repetitively and it must be protected, currently it can only be visited after parson’s approval.

Embroidered epitaph of Izabela Branicka

Among most interesting relicts inside the church is a piece from 1811. It is an embroidered epitaph of Izabela of house Poniatowski Branicka made by her beloved ward and maid Weronika Paszkowska. Next to high art and historic values epitaph also has quite high iconogrphic value due to its view of Białystok. Epitaph portrays a column to the left, a vase with flowers in the center with Białystok in the background and obelisk with Izabela’s medallion to the right. There is also a plate saying: “To the shadows of greatness and virtue – 1808”
Crypt below the altar holds among other: Izabela Branicka, Andrzej Mokronowski – her one and true love.