Traces of Poles from Chicago to Tbilisi
The POLONIKA Institute invites you into the magical world of Tytus Brzozowski, architect and watercolour artist. Our proposal was to create images of twelve world cities, from Chicago to Tbilisi – cities whose history is inextricably linked to the history of Poland and Poles.
This series of paintings for the Institute was a very important voyage for me. I love discovering and getting to know cities, their atmospheres and unique natures. This time I was able to travel the world and get to know places that are significant for me in a completely new way. Uncovering the Polish stories was incredibly satisfying and I learnt a great deal. It was particularly important for me that the idea behind each painting reflected the city’s character, harmoniously intertwined with the sites that matter to Poles. I was looking for the impressions a place can make on us, and I travelled through a range of emotions, from wonder at the scale of a big city, to surprise or nostalgia.
Vienna – mementoes of Jan III Sobieski and coffee
A walk through imperial Vienna sooner or later brings us to places connected to the Relief of Vienna of 1683. To St Stephen’s Cathedral, for instance – one of the biggest gothic churches in Europe, which took over a hundred years to build. It is the symbol of Vienna and the burial site of the Empire’s rulers. There are twenty-two bells in its towers. The most famous is the ‘Pummerin’, which was cast from Turkish cannons conquered by the cooperating Polish-Hapsburg armies under the leadership of John III Sobieski.
Vienna. 12 cities (2020) by Tytus BrzozowskiPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad
The battle, which took place on 12 September 1683, is known across Europe as the Battle of Vienna or the Relief of Vienna. The Polish camp was in the Vienna Woods on the Kahlenberg hill. In a monastery on that site, at four in the morning shortly before the battle, our king took part in Holy Mass. After the victory, the monastery, which had been destroyed by the Turks, was rebuilt. It was renovated again in the early 20th century, when it was already in the care of the Polish association of the Congregation of of the Resurrection.
The day after the battle, in the Church of St Augustin (which adjoins the imperial Hofburg palace) a Mass was held in thanksgiving for the victory over the Turks. John III Sobieski was present. In the Capuchin Church, which houses the imperial crypt – the burial site of the Hapsburgs since the 17th century – there is an urn containing the heart of Stanisław Potocki, the starost of Halicz and captain of the Polish cavalry, who died at battle of Vienna.
In the second half of the 19th century, Polish ties to the city grew stronger. Under Partition, employees of the state administration settled in the Austro-Hungarian capital, as well as the aristocracy that helped form Vienna’s cultural and political life. At the turn of the 19th century, several dozen Polish artists were studying at the Akademie der bildenden Künste (the Academy of Fine Arts). At the same time, there was a Polish grouping within the Austro-Hungarian Parliament, bringing together parliamentarians from Galicia. Franciszek Smolka (a lawyer and social activist from Lviv) was appointed President of the Kremsier Parliament in 1848.
In the Schwindt foyer of the Vienna Opera House, which was built during the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph, there is the bust of the famous singer Jan Kiepura. Vienna and its opera played a huge role in his career. Kiepura debuted in Warsaw but at first was no was not very successful. He therefore decided to try his hand in Paris. On the way to France, he stopped in Vienna. He was quickly spotted there and appeared on stage at the Vienna Opera in Tosca and soon after in Turandot (1927). The Austrian press pronounced pronounced him the king of tenors.
Dresden – second capital of the Polish Commonwealth
In the 18th century, Poland and Dresden were united by the great politics of European courts. Historians recall that the Elector of Saxony, Frederick Augustus, that is, King Augustus II the Strong, secured his election to the Polish throne through bribing the nobility and with the support of Tsar Peter I. With the coronation of Augustus II, Dresden became the royal residential city and one of the two capitals of the Polish-Saxon union. The other was Warsaw.
Dresden. 12 cities (2020) by Tytus BrzozowskiPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad
Three years after the death of Augustus the Strong, his son Augustus III erected a statue of his father on horseback (commonly known as the statue of the Golden Horseman) in Dresden’s New Town market square. The Polish king and Saxon elector is presented in the style of an ancient Roman ruler, that is, armed and astride a galloping horse. The coat of arms of the Commonwealth and the royal cypher are found on the base of the statue.
Many of the builders and architects who worked for the royal court in Dresden were commissioned by the Polish aristocracy. Dresden’s Zwinger – a baroque palace complex commissioned by Augustus II to match the scale and splendour of Versailles – was designed by the architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann. In Warsaw he planned the layout of the Oś Saska [Saxon Axis] and the Saski [Saxon] Palace. His son, Carl Friedrich Pöppelmann, also built Warsaw’s Blue Palace and renovated one of the wings of the Royal Castle.
To facilitate communication and the fast delivery of correspondence between the two capitals, Dresden and Warsaw, Augustus II ordered the establishment of permanent postal routes. The paths were marked out by posts placed at regular intervals – every quarter, half or full mile. The courier bearing state correspondence took three days on horseback to travel between the two cities. Today only a few mileposts remain, one of which stands in Oberwiesenthal in Saxony. It is decorated with the Polish-Saxon coat of arms and the royal cypher AR.
At the outbreak of the January Uprising (1863), novelist Józef Igacy Kraszewski left Poland and settled in Dresden, where he supported refugees and also managed the insurrectionists’ diplomatic representation. It is here that he wrote his most famous novel, An Ancient Tale, an and a cycle of books on Polish-Saxon history. The heroine of one of these is the Countess of Cosel, that is Anna Konstancja Cosel, mistress of Augustus II the Strong. Kraszewski’s house in the Neustadt district is now a museum.
Vilnius – city of kings and patriots
Some historians explain Sigismund III Vasa’s decision to move the royal seat from Kraków to Warsaw by… its distance to Vilnius. Indeed, that is where the king’s residence was, it was the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and also the place where the diets met. But for the king, travelling to Vilnius was difficult. It was easier to rule over that part of the Commonwealth of Two Nations from Warsaw.
Vilnius. 12 cities (2020) by Tytus BrzozowskiPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad
Legend has it that Napoleon was so impressed by the delicate beauty of Vilnius’ gothic Church of St. Anne that he longed to take the church back to Paris. Another legend claims that the builder who constructed the walls of the church was so jealous of the work of his son-in-law, who had built its elaborate façade, that he killed him by pushing him off the scaffolding. The Church of St. Anne is one of the oldest churches in Vilnius, and is still considered one of the most beautiful. Its construction was funded by King Casimir Jagiellon, and its architect was brought especially from Gdańsk.
The Church of St Johns – St. John the Baptist and John the Apostle and Evangelist, which is part of the University of Vilnius, has a shorter history. The finesse of its 18th-century rococo architecture is still enchanting today. The first church on this site was commissioned by King Władysław Jagiełło. The church has always been part of the university, serving as a place for academic debate for professors and students.
The royal church in Vilnius is the Cathedral of St. Stanislaus and St. Ladislaus. The first church in this location was in the grounds of the Lower Castle and was dedicated to the Baltic ruler of lightning and the heavens – Perkūnas. After the Grand Duke of Lit Baltic ruler of lightning and the heavens – Perkūnas. After the Grand Duke of Lithuania Jagiełło took the Polish throne and was baptised, he founded a stone church on this site.
Vytautus, Grand Duke of Lithuania, and his wife Anna were buried here, as were, later on, King Aleksander Jagiellon and Elisabeth Hapsburg, the first wife of King Sigismund Augustus. The underground royal crypt contains the tomb of Barbara Radziwiłł, his second wife, who came from a Lithuanian magnate family and was born in Vilnius.
The churches of Vilnius are linked to Polish patriotic activity of the 19th century. Tsarist authorities established a prison inside the buildings of the Basilian Monastery. After the failure of the November Uprising, members of student's patriotic societies Philomath and Filaret prisoners were held there, as was Adam Mickiewicz after his arrest on 23 October 1823. Konrad’s cell in Forefathers’ Eve was essentially in Vilnius.
Travellers and pilgrims to the city are protected by Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn. This painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary (painted on oak boards by an unknown artist) is highly venerated to this day. As a result, the Gate of Dawn where it is kept is a destination for many pilgrims and is also the symbol of the city. In 1927, Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn was crowned Queen of Poland. In 1931-32, the chapel interior was fitted with oak panels designed by Helena Szramotówna, on which the painter and teacher Ferdynand Ruszczyc arranged a composition of votive offerings.