Litewski Square in Lublin
The square, whose current name rose to popularity only in the 1820s, is a historic landmark, not only for Lublin, but for the entire country.
Space of the square
Litewski Square was situated in the area of a former suburb, referred to as Krakowskie Przedmieście (the Cracow suburb), located in the foreground of the municipal gate that led to the old Cracow route. The area of today’s square occupied the space between city’s main trade route and the old road running along the property of the church of the Holy Spirit towards Wieniawa.
The outline of today’s Litewski square can be recognized on a map of Lublin from 1783 by Jan Nepomucen Łącki. The area of contemporary square was located outside the dense complex of buildings at Krakowskie Przedmieście. From that place swept the grounds of landowners’ and church’s jurydykas (settlements adjacent to the city, independent from municipal lands but remaining under jurisdiction of secular or ecclesiastical landlords). The square itself has a triangular form. The northern frontage consists of the properties of Potocki, Sanguszko and Czartoryski families, the southern one - of buildings belonging to the Capuchins and Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God. Name of the square was not marked on the plan.
The space of the square was arranged only in the course of activity of Lublin Voivodeship Commission (since 1816) which contributed to forming the square by constructing the Warsaw route, laying out a military parades square and establishing the seat of voivodeship and county administration in that area. In 1839, Seweryn Sierpiński used the name ‘plac Litewski’ (Lithuanian Square) for the first time, in his guidebook Obraz miasta Lublina (The Image of the City of Lublin). It was then that the square became ‘the centre of Lublin’. It still plays that role today.
Contemporary shape of the square originates from the 1960s.The main objective of the project prepared back then was to create a sort of public space in the southern part of the square and to divide that area. High-growing green and a square in front of the edifice of the guberniya government were retained.
In 1569, king Sigismund Augustus received feudal homage and oath of Prussian duke Albert Frederick on what today is Litewski Square. During signing the Union of Lublin in the same year, the square served as the campsite of Lithuanian deputies.
In mid-17th century, Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God settled down in the western part of the square. After the order had been cassated and its buildings demolished, a military parades square for Russian soldiers was marked out there. At that time, there was also an orthodox church located on the square. Considered by the citizens of Lublin as a symbol of russification, it was dismantled in 1922 and the remnants were used to built Dom Żołnierza (Soldier’s House) - a military community centre.
In 1826, on the initiative of fr. Stanisław Staszic, an obelisk commemorating the conclusion of Polish-Lithuanian union was placed near the military parades square. It replaced the earlier monument that had been erected in 1569 by king Sigismund Augustus and later destroyed by Russians. Classicist cast iron obelisk is decorated with gilded low relief made by Paweł Maliński, an apprentice of Bertel Thorvaldsen. Poland is depicted as a woman dressed in Roman toga, wearing a royal crown. A shield with a coat of arms - the eagle of the Piast dynasty - was placed at her feet. A woman dressed in Greek chiton with a ducal mitre on her head and Pogoń coat of arms symbolizes Lithuania.
On the other side of the square stands the monument of the Constitution of May 3, erected in 1795, which in 1980s - especially during the martial law period - was a symbol of Polish nation’s independence. Next to it, there is the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. Ashes of the defenders of Lviv were guarded inside once, yet already in 1920s it was turned into a monument that contains soil from several battlefields.
In the post-war period, when the square bore the name of Joseph Stalin, the Monument of Gratitude to The Red Army, cast in bronze in form of a figure of a Soviet soldier holding a banner, was erected in the middle. To the citizens, it was a symbol of political slavery and dependence. It was removed in 1990. Presently, an equestrian monument of marshal Piłsudski is located at the same place.
Buildings around the square
Litewski Square is surrounded by former magnate palaces, now used as public utility buildings. Lubomirski family palace (erroneously referred to as post-Radziwiłł palace), after acquisition by the State Treasury, was turned into the seat of the guberniya authorities and the voivodeship office. For the citizens of Lublin it was, along with the 1860 built Guberniya Government building, a symbol of Russian power.
The guberniya government edifice became famous in 1944, when Polish Committee of National Liberation, headed by Bolesław Bierut, used it as its seat. Splendid edifice of Europa hotel forms the eastern frontage of the square. In September 1939 the then allies - Russians and Nazis - dined in the hotel restaurant to celebrate the victory over Poland.
At the site of today’s square in front of Sezam department store stood the luxury Victoria hotel, destroyed during military operations in July 1944. Therefrom the creators of the first government of independent Poland - Ignacy Daszyński and Edward Rydz-Śmigły - left for Warsaw in order to pass the authority to Józef Piłsudski. Piłsudski himself frequently stayed in Victoria hotel. This is commemorated by the plate uncovered in 1936.
The southern frontage of the square consists of the Capuchin church and monastery complex. During the January Uprising, one of the monks - brother E. Nowakowski - was the civil governor of the city and the monastery itself housed the insurrectional archive. In the course of the post-uprising persecutions all possessions of the monastery were confiscated by the invaders. The monks returned to Lublin only after Poland regained its independence.
Polish Mail Building, erected in 1861 and expanded in 1920s, is located at the southern frontage of the square. It was opened by marshal Józef Piłsudski during a ceremony in 1924. Between the monastery and the Polish Mail building, there is a small square built at the site of apartment houses adjacent to the mail building, which were destroyed during an air raid on 9 September 1939. The monument on the square commemorates Józef Czechowicz, a poet from Lublin, who died on that day in one of those buildings.
The southwestern frontage is composed of Neo-Baroque edifice of Bank of Lublin Industrialists - nowadays Lublinianka hotel - and the western one consists of the building of the former Polish National Bank, constructed between 1912 and 1914, which still houses financial institutions.
Compiled by Joanna Zętar
Translated by Jarosław Kobyłko
Dybała J., Plac Litewski w Lublinie. Dzieje zabudowy i założenia urbanistycznego, „Roczniki Humanistyczne”, T. XX (1972), z. 5, s. 71–101.
Lublin w trzech dekoracjach – przekształcenia krajobrazu w XX wieku. Panel dyskusyjny, [w:] II Dni Fotografii im. E. Hartwiga. Lublin 13-17 mają 2008, s. 122–143.
Łopaciński H., Pomnik Unii w Lublinie 1569, „Tygodnik Ilustrowany”, R. 1906, nr 3, s. 42.
Plac Litewski w Lublinie. Studium architektoniczno-krajobrazowe, Lublin 2000.