St. Casimir's Church and the Monastery of Sacramentine Nuns

Main data:

Year of construction: 1692
Year of reconstruction: 1952
Designer: Tylman from Gameren
Location: Rynek Nowego Miasta (New Town Market Square) 2

The untypical silhouette of St. Casimir's Church dominates the New Town Market Square. The temple is said to be one of the most valuable in Warsaw. And, what is more, it is one of the most original ones - we do not have in Warsaw too much examples of churches built on the plan of Greek cross, like this one.

The church, as well as the monastery, were built thanks to queen Maria Kazimiera Sobieska. She decided to found them as a thanksgiving for the victory of her husband king Jan III Sobieski in the battle of Vienna. Supposedly, in this way she fulfilled a promise made beforehand.

In years 1683-84 in the place of today's monastery a mansion of court officer Adam Kotowski (the same one who founded a chapel in the nearby St. Jacek's church) was constructed. In 1688 the mansion was purchased by queen Maria Kazimiera, who planned to convert it into a monastery. Her plan was to settle here the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament (called in short Sacramentine nuns). This order was established a few years before in France. The queen brought the nuns to Warsaw in 1687. Already in 1688 the construction of the temple and the conversion of Kotowski's mansion into a monastery was started. A large garden, located at the background, on the slope of Vistula was a part of the monastery's complex. The temple was designed by famous architect Tylman of Gameren, his aim was to make the building look like a tabernacle. Till today the building is being numbered among the most outstanding works of this architect. The main part of the church has an octagonal shape, four arms of the cross spread out of it, one of them is connected to the monastery building. Polychromes inside the church were made by the court architect Augustyn Locci. The main structure of the temple was finished probably in 1690s, but then a number of complications appeared which delayed the finishing of the whole church. First, king Jan III Sobieski died, then queen Maria Kazimiera left Warsaw, later also the Mother Superior of the order died - because of all that the consecration of the church was not done until 1715. The temple was furnished step by step through nearly the whole 18th century. In years 1718-21 a pulpit and side altars of St. Casimir and Blessed Virgin Mary were put in.

In 1740 the voivode of Nowogrod - Mikolaj Faustyn Radziwill founded a new monastery building. Probably this foundation was made in connection with the enrolment of his daughter Anna Katarzyna at the Sacramentines' Order. The building closed the frontage of New Town Market Square from the eastern side.

In 1746 duchess Maria Karolina de Bouillion, grand-daughter of king Jan III Sobieski was buried in the church. Her valuable tombstone, made in 1745 in Dresden by Lorenzo Mattielli (reconstructed after the war) can be seen till today. In years 1745-48 the temple was furnished with organ, in 1752 - new bells and in 1769 - tabernacle.

In the 19th century the church had been falling into decline, step by step. It was caused mainly because of repressions made by tsarist Russian authorities. First, already during Kosciuszko Uprising, most of the church property was requisitioned (including even a copper covering of the dome). In 1850s a renovation of the interior was started, but then, because of fire, which went off because of a lighting, the interior was partly destroyed again. In 1960s repressions after January Uprising reached the monastery - it included a cut of monastery's area - the terrain of the gardens was decreased. In 1870s and 1880s another renovation took place, among other things - of main altar and the elevation. But generally it did not stop the gradual devastation of the whole complex.

But despite of hard financial situation, 19th century was also the time when Monastery of Sacramentine Nuns played an important pedagogical and anti-russification role. In that time Maria Konopnicka and Eliza Orzeszkowa - who both became famous writers later - finished the monastery school for girls.

During First World War the financial situation of the monastery was so bad, that it was necessary to sell up, step by step, the church's furnishing. But in years 1925-36 a large renovation took place. Thanks to it the church and the monastery went back to their magnificence.

In September 1939 the German bombings of Warsaw luckily omitted the church and the monastery. But 1944 was probably the most tragic period in the order's history. The temple became then a place where some Warsaw inhabitants used to hide, for a short time also a field hospital functioned here. First, the monastery building was destroyed. But the most tragic day was 31st of August 1944. Because of a bombing, the temple's roof as well as the vault of the basement collapsed. About 1000 people were killed then, including about 30 nuns.

After the war the Sacramentine nuns started to plan the reconstruction of the church and the monastery on their own initiative. First plans were worked out by one of the nuns - sister Michaela Walicka. But finally, the reconstruction, which took place in years 1948-52, was based on plans made by architect Maria Zachwatowicz. The temple and the monastery building founded by Michal Faustyn Radziwill were reconstructed. But the oldest part of the complex - the Kotowski's mansion was not (its ruins were disassembled in 1962).

Almost all of the church's furnishing was destroyed in the Second World War, so its today interior is modern. The only historical element (reconstructed after the war) is the tombstone of Maria Karolina de Boullion. During the reconstruction a monument of people who were killed here in the bombing in 1944 was placed inside the church. The consecration took place in 1973.

Today St. Casimir's church is said to be one of the most valuable and original churches in Warsaw. It is also one of a few which was actually never rebuilt, it was reconstructed after the war in its initial appearance, so we can see it today nearly in the same way as it used to be just after its construction.

The interior, which is quite small for a typical Warsaw church may seem to be a little bit empty, but we can feel here also a kind of harmony and great proportions. In the backyard a monastery garden is situated, it functions nearly in the same form since 17th century, unfortunately it is closed for public. Left from the entrance to the church, at Piesza street there is a figure of St. Clement Hofbauer, who is one of patron saints of Warsaw. The history of this saint is connected with the nearby St. Benno's church. In front of the monastery building there is a figure of St. Benedict.

Practical information:

Masses in St. Casimir's church take place on Sundays at 9 and 17, on Thursdays at 7.30 and 17 and on the other days of week only at 7.30.

Historical views of the temple:

St. Casimir's Church and the Monastery of Sacramentine Nuns today:

The temple's interior:

Night views of the temple and the monastery:

(C) 2001-2013 Maciej Blazejewski