Świętojańska is one of the streets marked out at the time of the incorporation of Warsaw, at the end of the 13th century. From the very beginning, it was one of the most important streets in the city. In a broader perspective, it was part of the Czersk-Zakroczym route, which was regulated by streets within the city walls.
Within the city, it led from the southern city gate to the Market Square. By the way, it also led to the prince's stronghold (hence its first name of Grodzka), to the parish church of St. John (hence its current name Świętojańska), and from the 17th century, also to the Jesuit church (hence another name - Jezuicka).
Świętojańska over the centuries
Świętojańska Street had a double character from the very beginning. The eastern part of the street was occupied by the clergy's buildings: the Church of St. John, the parish school, and later the Jesuit church. The houses also belonged to the clergy and were inhabited by them. The western part was occupied by burghers' houses, and their farm buildings in the back of the plots formed the frontage of Piwna Street.
It is in the church of St. John, in 1339, the Teutonic trial before the papal court was brought by King Casimir III the Great. It was the event thanks to which the name Warsaw was recorded for the first time in historical documents.
From the beginning of the 17th century, the purchase of burgher plots began by the Jesuit Order, represented by the famous Piotr Skarga. In 1626, the construction of the Jesuit church on Świętojańska Street was completed, which was erected in the immediate vicinity of the church of St. John.
The street was called elite and similarly to Old Town Market was inhabited by the city patriciate. Goldsmiths are especially fond of it.
The further story is an exact reflection of what happened to the rest of the Old Town in the 19th century: the demolition of the Town Hall and the relocation of the city center to Teatralny Square, i.e. the outflow of wealthy people. Then the influx of the poor and the progressive pauperization of the street.
Rok 1944 przynosi ulicy zagładę. Kościoły zostały zniszczone doszczętnie, podobnie jak większość kamienic. Wraz z wysadzeniem katedry św. Jana, zginęło kilkaset lat historii Polski. Świątynię otaczali szczególną opieką książęta mazowieccy, a następnie królowie Polski. Większość jej wyposażenia zniszczono bezpowrotnie.
The street was quite faithfully reconstructed, although the aforementioned church of St. John is an exception here. The pre-war form of English Gothic was replaced by a new design by Jan Zachwatowicz and the Piechotka couple in the Vistula Gothic style. I honestly admit that the previous form was much better.
Two churches are of course among the most magnificent architectural buildings on Świętojańska Street:
The oldest church in Warsaw, however, rebuilt many times over the years. Destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising and rebuilt after the war. For the following centuries, it was the most important temple in the city, and perhaps in the country. Masses were held here before the Seyms and elections of kings. In addition, royal weddings took place as well as some royal coronations.
Great and distinguished Poles are buried in the catacombs of the cathedral: from Mazovian princes, through Warsaw bishops, to other distinguished persons.
The most valuable objects from the church equipment include:
- a marble tombstone of the last Mazovian princes in the Renaissance style;
- Baryczko crucifix from the beginning of the 16th century;
- Classicist tombstone of Stanisław Małachowski.
Several epitaphs and plaques supplemented with busts and monuments of famous Poles were also saved from the conflagration of the war. Particularly noteworthy are the stained glass windows depicting our distinguished compatriots.
The temple was built on the initiative of the Jesuit Piotr Skarga, although it was completed in 1626, after his death.
The baroque church was an important place on the map of Warsaw. He was under special care by the kings of the Vasa family. Later, however, with the dissolution of orders by the tsarist authorities, it began to decline, and for 50 years it even served as a warehouse for the neighboring cathedral.
The most valuable objects in the church (and in front of it) are:
- a sculpture of a bear with which one of Warsaw's legends is related;
- tombstone monument of voivode Jan Tarła;
- a painting of the Most Holy Mother of God of Graces, a wooden crucifix and a sculpture of Our Lady of Graces (all from the 17th century);
- the door to the cathedral, called Angelic Doors.
The beautiful streets are complemented by historic tenement houses, including those with the following numbers:
- 2 - the so-called Mansjonarnia - the former mansion of the priests of mansion;
- 4 - the so-called Psaltery - a former psalter's house;
- 6 - former theological seminary;
- 7 - Ulrychów tenement house, nice stone portal and sgraffito;
- 11 - Ptaszyński's tenement house, a beautiful sculpture of a townswoman and a bas-relief between the floors;
- 15 - Loupich tenement house, beautifully decorated with sgraffito;
- 21 - the tenement house of the Registry, with the original libertation table preserved;
- 29 - the Busserowska tenement house, with a beautiful portal and other decorations in the style of classicism;
- 31 - "Near Boat" tenement house, with a magnificent ship relief above the entrance portal.
In addition to the great tourist values, among which, of course, the most important thing is a visit to the Cathedral Basilica of St. John, Świętojańska Street has to offer and a few other points where you can take a short break from exploring the Old Town.
You can visit one of the souvenir shops here, which is not missing at Świętojańska Street. The best of them is the Turkus jewelery workshop. I would encourage those fascinated by art in the broad sense to visit Polish poster art gallerywhere you can also make purchases.
Regardless of whether you come here as tourists or residents of Warsaw, you must eat dumplings in Zapiecku. Pod tym szyldem działa kilka lokali w Warszawie, ale wszystkie trzymają poziom. Przyznam szczerze, że jedząc obiad w okolicach Starówki, zazwyczaj wybieram pierogi w Zapiecku, a zimą dorzucam do nich napar z owoców z kieliszkiem ginu.
In one of the tenement houses there is also library and public reading room of the city of Warsaw. And if you want to have it all at hand, choose accommodation in a 3-star hotel Castle Inn in the former Mansjonarzy tenement house.