Church of the Transfiguration

November 11, 1673 - the victory of Jan III Sobieski in the battle of Khotyn over the Ottoman Empire; September 12, 1683 - victory at Vienna, the same king over the same Empire. Both events caused that the Church of the Transfiguration was erected in Warsaw.

What does the church have to do with these events? See for yourself ...

Church and monastery of the Capuchin fathers Of the Transfiguration
Address: Miodowa 13

Church history

In fact, the proper story begins in 1681, when King Jan III Sobieski brought the Capuchin order to Poland and they founded the Warsaw convent. It was between the king's great victorious battles mentioned above. When the king returned to the country, the foundations of the church were ready.

During the Polish Crown

The Church of the Transfiguration was established in 1683-92 as a thanksgiving vote of King Jan III. In other words, it was a gift for hearing the prayers of the king who asked for victory over the Turks trying to break into Europe. The design of the church was made by the best architects operating at that time in Warsaw: Tylman from Gameren and Izydor Affaita. Unfortunately, the Capuchins, as a begging monastery with a strict rule, could not accept the shape and decoration of the church, proposed by two masters. Another royal architect - Augustine Locci - simplified their design, which the monks agreed to. In this way a church was created and survived in almost unchanged shape to this day. Its prototype was the Capuchin church in Rome. You can assess the similarity yourself in this place. Shortly after finishing the church (1693-94), a monastery was added to its left and a small church graveyard was established, which was the norm at that time.

The eighteenth century raised the rank of this church even more. First, in the 1830s, at the request of King August III, the Royal Chapel was added, where the urn with his father's guts was placed. Her design was made by Joachim D. Jauch, architect of the Saxon kings, and he was later buried in this church. In the 1860s, the second, chapel of Anna Brühlowa, wife of Henryk Brühl was added. In the meantime, a series of paintings for the main altar and side altars were made by Szymon Czechowicz. He was an outstanding painter and founder of the first Polish painting school, located at Old Town Market. In the last quarter of a century there has been a major renovation of the church and monastery.

Under the annexation

Shortly before the outbreak of the November Uprising, the church was restored. The Royal Chapel gained the most. It was rebuilt according to the design of Henryk Marconi. Thanks to Tsar Alexander, the sarcophagus of King Jan III, the founder of the church, was inserted into it. Inside, an urn with the king's heart was inserted, which was previously stored in the Capuchin monastery church. In subsequent years, small architecture appeared in the immediate vicinity of the church. It was even a mighty cross, commemorating deceased religious during the plague over 100 years earlier.

In 1864, the tsarist authorities liquidated the Capuchin order. Similarly to all other orders after the January Uprising. A few years later, the monastery building was adopted at the 4th Female Junior High School. However, at the end of the 19th century, the buildings were demolished and pierced on ul. Kapucyńska, where a new gymnasium building was erected. In the former monastic garden, construction plots were marked out, which quickly filled up with tenements. The remains of the monastery connected with the church were converted into the Chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and the church itself was subjected to a thorough restoration.

Drzeworyt Michała Starkmana z około 1855 r - wikipedia
Woodcut by Michał Starkman from around 1850; source:


The empire tombs of Józef Rautenstrauch and his daughter Laura, set up at the cemetery, deserve a separate paragraph. General Rautrenstrauch is an interesting person at all. He was born in Warsaw, in a wealthy merchant family, with German and French roots. During his life he worked in the office of King Stanisław August, he participated in the Kościuszko Uprising, fighting with the Russians and Prussians. Then he fought alongside Fr. Józef Poniatowski in the Napoleonic campaign in Russia. During the congress kingdom he held high-ranking office, while in November he remained passive, avoiding taking sides. Then he became a general in the Russian army and got along very well with Governor Paskiewicz, whom Poles hated. On the other hand, he helped Polish officers who were deprived of their livelihood after the uprising.

It is worth mentioning that the tombs survived all the turbulent history of Warsaw, including World War II and the Warsaw Uprising. However, they lost to Stalinist officials. They were demolished during the construction of the W-Z tunnel and if you can understand an investment so important for the city, it is unforgivable that the tombs were turned into dust, and the remains were disposed of so that it is still unknown what happened to them.

20th century

Kosciol_Przemienienia_Panskiego_Kapucynow_ul_Miodowa_pocztówka ok 1900 . polska-org
Postcard from around 1900; source:

After the end of World War I, the Polish authorities returned the church building to the Capuchins, who temporarily settled in the presbytery. During World War II, the church was lucky because it was not razed to the ground. Some of the vaults collapsed, which allowed it to be renovated quite quickly. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for its beautiful interior. The Germans intentionally set it on fire from the inside (similarly to most buildings in Warsaw) and almost all the equipment burned down.

The monks' area partly coincided with the W-Z route plans, as mentioned above. The church itself survived, but since 1949 it stands on the embankment, in the vicinity of the tunnel outlet of the said route. From that moment, conservation works are carried out from time to time so that the church pleases the eye of people walking on Miodowa Street.

Transfiguration Church - an architectural monument

We have already said that the church is modeled on the Roman Capuchin prototype. His style is Italian Baroque, specifically Tuscan Baroque. Looking from the front, the basilica layout of the church with one main nave, two stories high and lower annexes and chapels on the sides is immediately visible.


The facade is decorated with four Tuscan pilasters, above which a triangular pediment with a tympanum. In its center, the Sobieski family coat of arms "Janina", another nod to the church founder - King Jan III. The pediment is crowned with a cross, and on its sides pinnacles in the form of burning candelabra (candlesticks). Slightly lower in the annexes are the statues of saints.

The entrance to the stairs is characteristic for the church, between which a pavilion leading to the lower church was erected. On its top there is a sculpture of the Virgin Mary by Konstanty Hegel (author Mermaid monument in the Old Town Square). This is the only statue that has survived to this day. The other two statues standing on the terrace in front of the church were destroyed during the war.


Inside the church

Although the church was saved, its equipment was lost forever. The reconstruction of movable monuments was carried out in a stylized, but not exact, form. On the other hand, there are several survivors and they have the greatest value. Of course, we will focus on them and we recommend finding them first by visiting the church.

Royal Chapel

The most valuable objects that the Church of the Transfiguration has are located in the Royal Chapel. Getting to it is very easy, because there are signposts in the church. To this day, there are two beautiful objects that we have already mentioned above:

The sarcophagus of King Jan III with the urn in which the heart of the king is. Founded in 1828 by Mikołaj I, it was designed in the late Classicist style by Andrzej Gołoński and made of brown marble. A carved pillow on the cover, on which gilded royal insignia: a crown, a shield with the family coat of arms, a scepter and a cross. Inside, in the sarcophagus is an urn with the heart of the king, which the Capuchins had kept since their death in the monastery. Above the sarcophagus is hung a bust of the king designed by Ludwik Kaufman and made of white marble.


Urn with the remains of King August II the Strong.
It was for this urn and debris, specifically the king's guts, that the chapel was founded in 1736. Made by royal sculptor Joachim Jauch from brown marble, additionally decorated with silver, gold and a bronze crown. Above it, there is an obelisk of black marble with a gilded Latin inscription.


It is also worth mentioning that the surviving altar was designed by the famous architect Henryk Marconi in 1828-30. The painting "Blessed Angel of Accra" lost to this day, which adorned the altar before the war, was not so lucky. The interior of the chapel is covered with stucco decoration.

Brühl's Chapel

The second chapel built for Anna Brühlowa has, however, valuable movable monuments, of which the most noteworthy are:

Painting "Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary"
We are far from admiring the sacred art, but it speaks to us that it is the oldest surviving object, and also the only one from the original church equipment. It was a gift of King Jan III during the foundation of the church. The image itself was painted in the 17th century.

Other objects in this chapel include the late Baroque urn with the ashes of Maria Anna Brühl, made of black and gray marble. The contemporary altar contains the second of the centuries-old paintings in this church that survived the war - the 17th-century canvas "Saint Cajetan. "

Main altar

Although it is a modern altar, it has been recreated in reference to the pre-war form. Unfortunately, it is still very simplified woodcarving work compared to the original. In spite of everything, you can find wood-carved angels, clouds, and the Eye of Providence. Above the altar there is another coat of arms of the "Janina" Sobieski in this church. In the original it was a gilded coat of arms and included in a painting composition with angels. Before the war, the main altar was decorated with paintings by Szymon Czechowicz.


Grave monuments and epitaphs

Despite the fact that almost half was destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising, there are still quite a good number of them. The most numerous are dated to the nineteenth century, although there are many also older. Some of them take on very interesting architectural forms, and the most beautiful are found on the pillars of the nave.

Ciekawym jest fakt, że uhonorowane tu osoby dosyć często się ze sobą “kłócą”. Obok epitafiów dla osób walczących o niepodległość kraju wiszą epitafia tych, którzy pełnili funkcje administracyjne w carskim aparacie ucisku.

Ze względu na sposób wykonania lub znaczenie danej osoby dla historii kraju warto wspomnieć o:

epitafium Antoniego Rostworowskiego – empirowa tablica z czarnego marmuru z kartuszem herbowym zwieńczonym urną; podporucznik Księstwa Warszawskiego, stracił rękę w bitwie pod Możejskiem (podobno w trakcie dostarczania raportu samemu Napoleonowi), podczas powstania listopadowego opowiedział się po stronie wroga, następnie został senatorem Imperium Rosyjskiego;

epitafium Michała ks. Radziwiłła – tablica wykuta w miedzi, zdobiona głową amorka, lwimi łapami, mitrą w splotach wici roślinnej; książę, generał wojska polskiego, uczestnik insurekcji kościuszkowskiej, a następnie Wódz Naczelny powstania listopadowego, będąc senatorem Królestwa Polskiego (kongresowego) podpisał akt detronizacji Mikołaja I;

epitafium Aleksandra hr. Colonna-Walewskiego – empirowa tablica z czarnego marmuru z kartuszem herbowym oraz popiersiem zmarłego wykonanymi z białego marmuru; hrabia i prezes Heroldii Królestwa Polskiego; senator Królestwa Polskiego, a później rosyjski radca stanu i członek rosyjskiej Rady Państwa. Wraz z żoną pochowany w tymże kościele;

epitafium Pawła Sapiehy – eklektyczna tablica z białego marmuru ze złoconą inskrypcją i dużym kartuszem herbowym; radca Księstwa Warszawskiego, kawaler maltański, podpułkownik armii francuskiej, członek sztabu księcia Józefa Poniatowskiego;

epitafium Jana Borcha – tablica z czarnego marmuru; wojewoda inflancki, a następnie Kanclerz Wielki Koronny, lawirował między Rosją, a Rzeczpospolitą Obojga Narodów, popierał konfederację barską przeciw Rosji, choc wcześniej był członkiem konfederacji radomskiej zawiązanej przeciw reformom króla Stanisława Augusta;

pomnik-epitafium Antoniego Witczecha-Wyczechowskiego – neomanierystyczny, ołtarzowy, wyrzeźbiony w czarnym marmurze przez Jakuba Tatarkiewicza, z popiersem zmarłego wykonanym z białego marmuru; członek Rady Stanu Królestwa Polskiego;

pomnik-epitafium Konstantego hr. Przeździeckiego – eklektyczny, ołtarzowy, z szarego marmuru, wykonany wg projektu Oskara Sosnowskiego z tablicą inskrypcyjną ujętą kartuszami herbowymi; mecenas sztuki i nauki, założyciel Pogotowia Ratunkowego w Warszawie;


pomnik-epitafium Anny z Korzeniowskich hr. Pociejowej – empirowy z czarnego marmuru (z dodatkami białego marmuru), w formie krzyża wypełniony złoconą inskrypcją i z rzeźbami płaczek;

epitafium Szymona Czechowicza – neobarokowe dzieło Leona Myszkowskiego w formie kolistego medalionu na blasze z portretem zmarłego z pięknymi zdobieniami; artysta i malarz, współzałożyciel pierwszej polskiej szkoły malarskiej, jego prace znajdują się w najważniejszych muzeach w kraju, ale również w Wilnie i we Lwowie; pochowany w tymże kościele;

pomnik gen. Piotra Bontemps – cylindryczny postument wykonany z żelaza, z urną ze złoconym krzyżem oraz kartuszem herbowym; generał Królestwa Polskiego pochodzenia francuskiego, w trakcie powstania listopadowego organizował przemysł wojenny; po upadku powstania złożył przysięgę carowi i dalej pracował w przemyśle zbrojeniowym; zginął podczas prób z pociskami rakietowymi w Petersburgu.

epitafium Anny z Krajewskich Nakwaskiej – tablica z czarnego marmuru; powieściopisarka, autorka książek dla dzieci i pedagag;

epitafium Franciszka Salezego Nakwaskiego – tablica z czarnego marmuru; szambelan Stanisława Augusta Poniatowskiego, prezes Senatu w trakcie powstania listopadowego;

pomnik płk. Józefa Paszkowskiego – w formie tarczy z czarnego marmuru i rycerskim hełmem z szarego marmuru; poeta i tłumacz, przekładał dramaty Williamia Shakespear’a.

pomnik gen. Maurycego hr. Hauke – wykonany z białego marmuru z kartuszem herbowym z rycerskim hełmem; hrabia i generał artylerii Królestwa Polskiego, współpracował gorliwie z Wielkim Księciem Konstantym i był przeciwnikiem powstania listopadowego; jeden z siedmiu generałów-zdrajców zabitych przez powstańców, a następnie upamiętnionych pomnikiem “hańby” na Placu Zielonym (dz. Plac Dąbrowskiego); pochowany w tymże kościele;


Ruchoma szopka

Już na sam koniec kilka słów o corocznej atrakcji, która pokazywana jest w krypcie kościoła. Gdy wstaniecie od świątecznego stołu i wybierzecie się na spacer po Starym Mieście, skręćcie na Miodową. Znajdziecie tam najsłynniejszą szopkę w Warszawie. Mowa tu o Ruchomej Szopce Bożonarodzeniowej, która co roku przyciąga mnóstwo rodzin z dziećmi. Szacuje się, że co roku szopkę odwiedza kilkadziesiąt tysięcy osób, a działa ona bez przerwy od roku 1948.

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