Poland can boast of an impressive number of neo-Gothic ecclesiastical and secular buildings. According to T. S. Jaroszewski, the Gothic Revival in Polish architecture can be divided into three stages. The first stage (1764-1812) is closely connected with Anglomania, which affected the fashionable representatives of the Polish aristocracy from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries, and prompted them to read (mostly in French) English Gothic romances and redesign their garden pavilions and residences a la maniere anglaise. The second stage (1812-1870) of the Gothic Revival in Poland, which was then partitioned by the three powers, Russia, Austria and Prussia, developed mainly in church architecture and was regarded as synonymous with the pure Christian style. It coincided with the revival of interest in medieval architecture and the nation’s past. The third stage (1870-1914), known as Vistula Gothic (gotyk nadwislanski), was regarded as the manifestation of a genuine national architectural style of Poland and a symbolic expression of national identity. The Vistula Gothic style in architecture was strongly promoted by the Catholic clergy and academics, who believed the Gothic to be the most appropriate expression of the venerable national Polish style in opposition to the Byzantine Revival in church architecture officially endorsed by imperial Russia.

Left: Palace in Dowspuda (1820-23) from an 1865 drawing. Source: Wikipedia. Right: Portico of the Palace in Dowspuda. Source: Kurier Pranny online. 30 April 2011.

The Gothic Revival was introduced in Poland by a number of foreign-born and native Polish architects including Christian Piotr Aigner (1756-1841), Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841), Henryk Marconi (1792–1863), Franciszek Maria Lanci (1799–1875), Adam Idzkowski (1798-1879) and Feliks Ksiezarski (1820-1884). The most famous specimens of early neo-Gothic architecture in Poland include the Gothic House in Pulawy (1809); a palace in Dowspuda in north-eastern Poland (1820-1823), now in ruins; and the castle in Kornik near Poznan (1843-61), which is quite reminiscent of Horace Walpole’s country house, Strawberry Hill in Twickenham.

Left: Kornik near Poznan (1843-61). Right: Gothic house in Pulawy (1809) Source: Wikipedia. [Click on these images to enlarge them.]

The most notable representatives of Vistula Gothic were Jan Pius Dziekonski (1844-1927), Stefan Szyller (1857-1933) and Jan Sas-Zubrzycki (1860-1935). They designed hundreds of neo-Gothic churches in various parts of Poland. The majority of them are modest parish churches built of red brick in villages and small towns. However, in Warsaw, Krakow and other major cities in Poland one can see magnificent neo-Gothic churches as well as lavish neo-Gothic secular edifices.

Bibliography and Further Reading

Jaroszewski, Tadeusz S. O siedzibach neogotyckich w Polsce. Warszawa: Panstwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe 1981.

Knox, Brian. The Architecture of Poland. London: Barrie and Jenkins, 1971.

Lewis, Michael J. The Gothic Revival in Europe. London: Thames & Hudson, 2002.

Milobedzki, Adam. Zarys dziejow architektury polskiej. Warszawa: Wiedza Powszechna, 1977.

Muthesius, Stefan. Art, Architecture and Design in Poland, 966-1990: An Introduction. Königstein im Taunus: Langewiesche Nachfolger H. Köster Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1994.

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Last modified 18 August 2011