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Church of St Jack's and the Dominican Convent (Warsaw, Poland)

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Locally: Kościół św. Jacka

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      05.04.2011 17:27
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      One of my top ten churches in Warsaw

      You can see I have been in Poland too long - I seem to spend most of my time these days looking at churches, taking photos of monuments and visiting cemeteries. My days of lounging on an Algarve beach or sitting in a small cafe drinking coffee and brandy seem to have long gone. Still, you can say that I am at least getting a good historical education and enjoying it far more than I ever did at school. This little number I am going to review is a really very handsome church situated not far from the Old Town of Warsaw. Everyone calls it St. Jack's but it's proper name is St Hyacinth. I don't see the connection myself but that's by the way. Here we go....

      The combined church of St Hyacinth and the Dominican convent are regarded as one of the largest sacral complexes in Warsaw. They were built between 1612 and 1638 and I'm struggling to find the architect as different historical notes say different things.

      The original church had fourteen altars and five chapels and looking at old photographs looks twice the size of the church that stands on Freta Street now and nowhere near as elegant. In fact the old church of St Jacks looked positively morbid with it's grey granite facade. In 1944 the church was adapted as a hospital, treating wounded insurgents of the Warsaw Uprising, who were killed by bombing when most of the church was demolished. The church was rebuilt in the years during 1947 to 1959. Above the main entrance you will see that the tympanum shows three figures; the Mother of God, St Dominic and St Hyacinth. These are quite striking and stand out against the blue of the sky (when we have one) and the stark white colour of the church's facade.

      Inside there is a mixture of Gothic and early baroque in stucco works in the side naves. These are eye catching and very interesting. The most important monument is the tomb chapel of Adam and Malgorzata Kotowski. The tomb was built around 1691-94 in baroque style. Like many church tombs in Warsaw it was designed and built by Tylman van Gameren, a Dutch architect who came to Poland to live and work. The interior of the chapel is stunning to look at illustrating the Mother of God holding the baby Jesus. There are also marble epitaphs with images of the Kotowskis painted on a sheet of metal.

      Adam Kotowski was a rich nobleman but he hadn't always been rich. He was a peasant who had no money at all. He ran away from Warsaw and made his fortune elsewhere then came back to Warsaw and bought his way into Polish nobility.

      In the left hand nave there is an interesting tablet commemorating Italian and British parachutists who died fighting for Polish independence.

      St Jack's Church as I know it by is a lovely church inside and outside. It is also a very busy church and one that has a full congregation. Its location is also very picturesque at the beginning of Freta Street with the Barbikan and the Church of the Holy Ghost and Pauline Monastery across the road. If you look down Freta Street from the other end the scene is one of nostalgia with the cobbled street, two churches, and usually a horse-drawn carriage. A very pretty scene especially in the snow.

      The easiest way to find St Jack's is to catch a tram to the Old Town (13, 23, 26), get off, walk up the steep steps on to Plac Zamkowy and then turn right up Piwna Street and follow through to the Barbikan. You will see the two churches facing each other. St Jack's is on the right - the one with the black steeple.

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