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.
Rapperswil – the castle of Polish mementoes
Rapperswil is a quiet little town on the edge of Lake Zurich in Switzerland, famed for its exceptionally beautiful rose gardens. In 1870, the emigrant and patriotic activist Count Władysław Plater leased the ruined 13th-century castle for a period of 99 years. His fortune had earlier been confiscated for his participation in the November Uprising. He’d left for France where he was an active participant in the community of the Great Emigration in Paris, before finally settling in Switzerland.
Rapperswil. 12 cities (2020) by Tytus BrzozowskiPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad
The castle was leased in order to open a National Museum of Poland, which through Plater’s efforts and those of many emigrants gathered the most precious mementoes of Poland over the following decades. Gifts were sent from the Polish diaspora across the world.
On the castle hill there are two further landmarks related to Władysław Plater: his tomb, where he was buried with his wife, the actress Karolina Bauer, and the museum’s benefactor Henryk Bukowski; and the Bar Column, known as the Polish Column of Freedom.
As the collection grew, the museum in Rapperswil gained ever greater importance – in the 19th century it was the only museum of the history of Poland. It is also the site of the mausoleum of Tadeusz Kościuszko who died in exile in Switzerland. In 1895 the urn containing his heart was laid to rest in the castle tower. Today the urn with Kościuszko's heart is laid in the Royal Castle in Warsaw.
Rome – pilgrims and art
During the early modern period, when Rome was the artistic and religious capital of the world, it attracted many artists and pilgrims. There are signs of the Polish presence from this time in the city, but we see evidence of art and particularly architecture inspired by the Eternal City in Poland as well. Roman temples were a model for many architects working in Poland in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Roman Academy of St Luke trained the best Polish painters of the baroque and classicism periods.
Roma. 12 cities (2020) by Tytus BrzozowskiPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad
On the ancient cobbled street of the Via Appia Antica and close to the gates of the city at Porta San Sebastiano stands the Church of Santa Maria delle Piante, where Christian legend meets Polish literature. This church is better known as Domine Quo Vadis and it houses a stone bearing the footprints of Christ.
It is here that Jesus is said to have appeared to St Peter as the saint fled persecution in Rome. When the Apostle asked, “Domine, quo vadis?” (literally, “Lord, where are you going?”, Christ replied that he was returning to Rome to be crucified again. According to the Apocrypha, the saint then turned back towards the city, where he died a martyr. In book 'Quo vadis', Henryk Sienkiewicz describes the same period of the persecution of Christians in Rome and describes St Peter’s vision just outside the city gates.
On the Quirinale – one of Rome’s seven hills – stands the church of Saint Andrew (Sant’Andrea al Quirinale), in which one of the chapels is dedicated to the Polish saint Stanisław Kostka (who lived and died in the Jesuit novitiate by the church). It houses his relics and a tomb by the French sculptor Pierre le Gros portraying Kostka on his deathbed.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, times of emigration and travel, many Polish artists and writers stopped by the oldest Roman café, the Antico Caffè Greco, which has existed since 1760. Not far from the Spanish Steps on Via dei Condotti, it’s famous as a bohemian meeting-spot. The list of Polish artists who frequented it begins with the Romantic poets: Juliusz Słowacki and Zygmunt Krasinski, Adam Mickiewicz and Cyprian Kamil Norwid. And then it goes on: Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Stefan Żeromski, Władysław Reymont, Jan Matejko, Henryk Siemiradzki, Aleksander Gierymski, Pius Wieloński, Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, Edward Okuń, Jan Parandowski – and finally Czesław Miłosz.
The iconic Roman stone pines – Mediterranean pine trees with their characteristic parasol shape, which often grow in Italian cities. Protagonists of the Roman trilogy of symphonic poems by Ottorino Respighi as well as many of memories and photographs of tourists.
Padua – garden of science
Between the 16th and 17th centuries, citizens of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were the third-largest group at Padua University. Over the years, around two thousand students belonged to the society of the Natio Regni Poloniae et Magni Ducatus Lithuaniae (literally the “company of students from the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania”). Padua University’s oldest building and its historic seat is the Palazzo del Bo. It contains students’ painted and carved coats of arms, including those belonging to the Polish nation.
Padua. 12 cities (2020) by Tytus BrzozowskiPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad
In 1606, thanks to Polish efforts, work began on the construction of a chapel in the most important church in Padua – the Basilica of St. Anthony. It was dedicated to St Stanisław in 1607. In the early 19th century, a new place was chosen for a Polish chapel chapel – the former chapel of St Bartholomew, which housed the oldest Polish monument, a memorial to Erazm Kretkowski who died in Padua in 1558, with an epigram by Jan Kochanowski.
Among Padua University’s most brilliant students were Jan Kochanowski (he was advisor to the association of Polish students), later St. John Nepomucene, the voievode of Kraków Stanisław Lubomirski and Jan Zamoyski. The latter – a humanist, patron of arts and politician – was rector of the law academy at Padua University from 1563, and on his return to Poland became secretary to King Sigismund Augustus II.
The Botanical Garden was created in 1545 for students learning how to recognise and use medicinal plants. This garden is the embodiment of Renaissance ideas – the layout and is arranged on a perfect, regular plot of circle. New species of plants were grown there, brought from across the world, including the first sunflowers, potatoes and lilacs in Europe.
Students came to Padua not only to study law, but above all for medical studies. Nicolaus Copernicus studied there for two years from 1501. In the Palazzo del Bo, the main site of the university, there is the oldest anatomical theatre in the world, from 1594.