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Field Cathedral of the Polish Army (Warsaw, Poland)

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Also known as the 'Church of Our Lady Queen of the Polish Crown' / Locally known as: Katedra Polowa Wojska Polskiego

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      21.03.2011 12:48
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      A fascinating church that I knew little about but glad I found it

      Warsaw is full of churches; most of them are huge and quite beautiful and a handful are situated in the Old Town. These are the churches I know well but the other week when I was out taking snapshots I came across one by accident.

      The Field Church of the Polish Army or in Polish - Katedra Polowa NMP Krolowej Korony Polskiej, stands out mainly because of the colour of its facade which is pastel pink and egg shell, the sort of colour I am used to seeing in Spain or Portugal. Originally, baroque in style and built in 1660-82 by T Buratini. Apparently, the facade which is very grand and truly magnificent to look at especially when the sun is just rising above its domes was added in the years between 1758 and 1769.

      From 1835-36 the church was remodelled into a Russian Orthodox Church and the gold plated Byzantine domes were added. When Poland became independent in 1918, the Orthodox church was once again remodelled and from 1923-33 was returned to Catholicism and designated as a military church, keeping its original appearance and furnishings which were restored.

      After the Second World War, in the years 1946-60, it was rebuilt in baroque style and declared a field cathedral in 1991. What is interesting are the symbols of the armed forces such as the anchor; a symbol of the Navy and the propeller, a symbol of the Air Force which are in immaculate condition, painted black, and sit outside the front of the building. The jet black symbols against the pale pink walls of the church is a stunning feature.

      The facade gives the impression of greatness but actually the church is a lot smaller inside even though the doors which you enter from are indeed high and very interesting to look at, embossed with battle scenes made from a gold coloured metal. There are two main doors; one leads into the main interior which was empty when I entered and had a serene aura. A lady was cleaning the floor between the wooden pews but I did go in and have a peek and noticed seven altars and paintings of illustrious artists. I always feel very nervous when walking through a church especially when there isn't a congregation as I feel like I am intruding. I found it a very emotional experience; the chapel which commemorates the terrible deaths that took place in the Katyn Forest near the villages of Katyn and Gnezdova really upset me. This barbaric massacre is a part of Polish history that I find very difficult to forget.

      The other door which is to the left of a memorial statue of Pope Paul John II leads into a very sombre area where plaques commemorating soldiers who died on all fronts of the Second World war were unveiled. The walls are virtually covered with plaques; all of different shapes and designs, mostly made from bronze. I was in awe of all these beautifully sculptured name plaques and I could feel the sadness all around me. It was also quite dark, very warm especially as the temperatures were something like -14 outside, and silent. Only one other person was inside looking at the commemorative memorabilia.

      I think there are two or maybe even three vestibules which are lavishly decorated in quite bizarre forms. These bear the names of the Polish Legions. You are unable to enter the vestibules as there are elaborately decorated wrought iron doors which are closed and locked. I was fascinated with the colourful decoration in this area as it was so loud and distinctive. One of the vestibules reminded me of the work of Gustav Klimt.

      As I looked down the arched corridor from the vestibules which is opposite the main part of the church I noticed a carved statue, Jesus Christ of the Missing. A very sad piece of work created by Miroslaw Biskupsi. The head and body of Jesus look taut and heavy. Beautifully carved and placed in a part of the church where I couldn't help but notice it and the tangled form of his body drew me to him and I was truly mystified.

      I have seen quite a few churches over the last couple of weeks in Warsaw and all of them are very interesting but this one is one of my favourites, if not my favourite. I love the way the facade dominates the corner of Dluga Street facing the spectacular monument to the Warsaw Uprising. If you turn the corner you will find yourself on Miodowa Street (Honey Street) which is a very old historic street where there are some fine palaces and immaculate buildings so it's worth a small detour out of the main part of the city.

      Admission is free. You can reach the Field Cathedral Church of the Polish Army by jumping on a tram that takes you to the Stare Miasto;- 23. 13, 26. You can catch these from Ratusz Arsenal.

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