Although the belfry of St. Anna's church is not some remarkably high object, it still remains one of the busiest vantage points in Warsaw. Certainly, it is not without significance that it lies in the immediate vicinity of Castle Square, i.e. the tourist center of Warsaw.
We will not be able to climb anywhere higher to look down on the Old Town. Plus it is a historic building, connected with one of the most beautiful churches in Warsaw, and the entrance to the observation deck is almost half free. It would be a sin to never climb to the top and not take a picture of yourself against the backdrop of the Old Town.
Belfry of the Church of St Anna
Address: Krakowskie Przedmieście 66/68 (Śródmieście, MSI Old Town)
History of the belfry
As always, I will start by presenting the history of the object we are interested in. Due to its location, you can guess that this is a fairly old building for Warsaw. Krakowskie Przedmieście, where it stood, developed from the end of the 14th century, when Old Warsaw turned out to be too tight for the population migrating to the city. The belfry of St. Anna's church stands at the very beginning of Krakowskie Przedmieście, which already reminds you that it was one of the first buildings.
However, let's start from the beginning, and it should be mentioned that at the beginning there was no Krakowskie Przedmieście, but only a market square outside the city walls, where merchants arriving for trade were waiting for the opening of the city gates. Over the years and the development of the importance of Warsaw, the square began to transform into a suburb. Part of the plots were taken for the construction of burgher houses, and in the middle of the 15th century the first larger buildings were erected: the monastery and the Bernardine church. From then on, the square became a suburb of Bernardine.
After joining the Masovian Duchy to the Crown of the Polish Kingdom, Zygmunt Stary, and then Zygmunt August began to invest more in the properties taken over in Warsaw after the Mazovian princes. This was a consequence of the tightening of the Polish-Lithuanian union, and since Warsaw was on the road from Krakow to Vilnius, the kings stayed here more and more often. Then also the Bernardine suburb began to be called Krakowskie Przedmieście.
In the time of the Crown
After this somewhat developed introduction, let's get to the belfry itself. So, along with more frequent visits of kings, the Grand Court (the progenitor of the Warsaw Royal Castle) was expanded, and in order to increase the defensive capabilities of the city, the expansion of the fortification system was also undertaken. Here begins the proper history of our belfry, or rather the observation tower, because this was the function of the building erected in 1578 on the initiative and foundation of Princess Anna Jagiellonka. The tower was built according to the design of Bernardo Morando - an Italian architect at the royal court. It was a brick building, slightly lower than today, with an observation deck, enabling observation of the area surrounding Warsaw.
It performed this function until the Swedish invasion. It was probably burned then, as well as most of the city. The tower was rebuilt to give it a new function. From then on, it was supposed to soar above Krakowskie Przedmieście, already as the belfry of St. Anne's Church, also known as the Bernardine Church.
Under the annexation
The tower in its brick form survived until 1819. At that time, the Bernardine church and monastery, as well as the campanile and the entire surroundings were thoroughly rebuilt according to the design of the magnificent architect Christian Piotr Aigner. Although his style defined the concept of classicism, the rebuilt belfry received the form of the Italian Renaissance.
The belfry was increased and given the form we know it today. I do not want to put the reader to sleep with descriptions of architectural forms, but when you are at Castle Square, look at the belfry. Note the arcades separated by Tuscan columns, the stucco rosettes with the area in between, the crowning cornice and the string of smaller rosettes. At the very top, where the balustrade, you will see a tin gloriette supported by Ionic columns. Its top is topped with a dome with a cross on the ball. Apparently not much, but it must be admitted that the belfry of the church of St. Anna is very charming.
Of the changes that have been made in subsequent years, it is worth mentioning the small treasury of the Archbishopric of Saint. Anna added from the eastern side of the building. Of course, you cannot forget about the ubiquitous trade that flooded Warsaw in the 19th century. Industry and trade everywhere. They also reached the belfry, in which the walls on the ground floor were pierced and shops were arranged there.
Last 100 years
In the period after the yoke of the partitions, the belfry entered without bells ... In 1916 German troops confiscated two antique bells from 1713 and melted them for the needs of the war industry.
Of course, World War II brought further losses. The tenement house adjacent to the belfry from the north turned into ruin, and the belfry itself was burned. What's more, fate did not spare the gloriette, but fortunately the decoration of the building survived.
The reconstruction was started efficiently and quickly and in 1949 the belfry was ready again, although without bells. What changed? From the north, the ruins of the tenement house were demolished, and the Archbishop's treasury of St. Anne. In keeping with the spirit of reconstruction in the style of the seventeenth and eighteenth-century Warsaw, the entrance to the stores was bricked up, restoring the completely Renaissance decor.
In 1978, the belfry received three new bells, which can be admired to this day by climbing the observation deck.
The latest history is continuous renovation. Unfortunately, every few years there are some problems with falling off plasters and crumbling decorations ... And it should be remembered that the belfry is in the register of monuments and further damage would be a great loss.
For those interested in the figure of the belfry in the old years I recommend belfry album on the fotopolska website.
Observation deck - belfry of the church of St. Anna
This is the full name of the viewpoint from which we can observe the Old Town, Krakowskie Przedmieście, the Vistula Valley, Prague, and most of Warsaw's skyscrapers.
The cost of this pleasure is only 6 PLN, or even 5 PLN if you get relief. In my opinion, there is not even anything to think twice about. A pint of beer in any of the nearby pubs costs twice as much ...
And as for the observation deck, I think the pictures are able to give more than words, so I invite you to watch