The “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre is a local government cultural institution based in Lublin. It works towards the preservation of cultural heritage and education. Its function is tied to the symbolic and historical meaning of the Centre’s location in the Grodzka Gate, which used to divide Lublin into its respective Christian and Jewish quarters, as well as to Lublin as a meeting place of cultures, traditions and religions.

Part of the Centre are the House of Words and the Lublin Underground Trail.

The “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre is a local government cultural institution based in Lublin. It works towards the preservation of cultural heritage and education. Its function is tied to the symbolic and historical meaning of the Centre’s location in the Grodzka Gate, which used to divide Lublin into its respective Christian and Jewish quarters, as well as to Lublin as a meeting place of cultures, traditions and religions.

Part of the Centre are the House of Words and the Lublin Underground Trail.

Lublin archcathedral

The archcathedral of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, a former Jesuit church in Lublin.

The church was consecrated in 1604. It is one of the first baroque buildings erected outside Italy. In the second half of the 18th century, after the Society of Jesus had been cassated, the church fell into disrepair. Restoration works were carried out in the first half of the 19th century. In 1823, the church was elevated to a cathedral.


The cathedral at 10, Królewska Street verges on a hill sloping down towards the south. It adjoins the southern part of the former city walls. A spacious cathedral square is situated in front of the church.




The order of The Society of Jesus was brought to Lublin in 1582 by Bernard Maciejowski (at that time serving king Stephen Báthory as a Standard-Bearer of the Crown). Bernard Maciejowski and Mikołaj Zebrzydowski, having consulted father Piotr Skarga, signed the foundation act of the Jesuit order in Lublin.


Before the construction of the college and the church commenced, Kraków Voivod Andrzej Tęczyński donated a house south of the city wall to the monks. The building later became a part of the college. Maciejowski gave Chodel, his inheritable town, as an endowment of the order. The order was given lands also by Katarzyna Wapowska, the widow of the Przemyśl castellan and heir to many lands in Ruthenia.


Construction of the Jesuit church and college commenced in 1586. In 1604, Bernard Maciejowski, already the bishop of Kraków, consecrated the church, dedicating it to St. John the Baptist and St. John The Evangelist.

During Zebrzydowski’s Rebellion in 1606, construction of the college was brought to a halt which lasted several years. However, the works inside the temple were going on: inlaid benches were installed, and the church was decorated with portraits of fathers and friars of the convent; it is probable that the vaults were stuccoed. The construction works were finished about 1625. Then, putting up of further buildings of the Jesuit college began. The works were over in 1631.

In 1572, a fire destroyed almost all of the interior, except the chapel of St. Stanisław Kostka. Thanks to well-organized restoration works, planned and managed by father Franciszek Koźmiński, an excellent Jesuit architect, the church regained all its former glory already in 1757. Koźmiński charged Józef Meyer, a painter from Moravia who was working in Lviv at that time, with the task of painting polychromes inside the church. In 1758, Meyer decorated the whole interior of the church, the sacristies and the treasury with frescos depicting scenes from The Holy Bible and figures of the saints worshipped by Jesuits. In 1773, pope Clement XIV cassated the Society of Jesus and in may 1774, after the last service, when the Jesuit procession left Lublin, the church was taken over by priests of the Trinitarian Order.

The Trinitarians, who had been building a church in the Old Town, in Rybna Street, stopped the works and moved into the former Jesuit church. However, they were too few to maintain such a huge complex of buildings. After the Third Partition of Poland, the Austrian government decided to convert the church to a cereals and weapons storehouse. As a consequence, Meyer’s polychromy suffered substantial damage.

It was only in the times of the Congress Poland that bishop Wojciech Skarszewski decided that the seat of the diocese would be moved to Lublin and the former Jesuit church would be restored and used as a cathedral. In 1818, the first conservation of the frescos inside the church was carried out by rubbing them with fresh bread. By that time, the Jesuit college had deteriorated so badly that the decision was made to partially dismantle it, leaving only the northern and the eastern wing. As a result, a spacious square was created in front of the church.

The task of restoring the church was given to illustrious Italian architect Antonio Corazzi. It was decided that the bell tower that once served as the monastery’s main entrance gate, would be heightened. Using it as the base, Corazzi built a neo-Gothic tower, later called the Trinitarian Tower. He also remodelled the façade of the church. Before the entrance to the temple he erected a monumental portico with six Tuscan columns supporting an ample balcony. Inside, a doorway was made to the chapel of the Mother of God. The paintings of Jesuit saints that corresponded logically with the frescos were removed from the side altars which caused a dissonance between the polychromy and the new paintings.

In 1823, the seat of the diocese was ceremonially transferred from Krasnystaw to the former Jesuit church in Lublin. Over a dozen years later, new damage was noticed inside the cathedral. Therefore, another remodelling works were carried out, starting in 1841. Corazzi’s portico, in danger of collapsing, was razed. The façade was remodelled, with alterations to the layout of the windows. A new four column portico was erected several years later. It was coped with a tympanum into which was embedded a bas-relief by Paweł Maliński, depicting the baptism of Christ. The roof was replaced in the following years. Works at the cathedral were stopped during the January Uprising.

Another thorough restoration of the interior was carried out in the years 1874-1878, on the initiative of bishop Walenty Baranowski. Meyer’s frescoes were renovated by painters Jan Strzałecki, Witold Urbańczyk and Fryderyk W. Rydel. The main altar, originally made of ebony, was also renovated. However, the tsarist authorities did not accept the restoration of the black colour on the main altar, considering it a manifestation of mourning after the defeat of the January Uprising. Alterations were made in the chapel of the Mother of God. All side altars were renewed and new paintings were hung on some of them, depicting Saint Michael the Archangel (by Strzałecki) and the Holy Trinity (by Alchimowicz). The paintings of Jesuit saints were reintroduced, but were arranged randomly, thus not corresponding with the scenes in the polychromes.

In the late 19th century, when the cathedral was administered by future bishop Franciszek Jaczewski, the towers were remodelled using erroneous calculations which resulted in one of them being higher than the other. The church was painted bright yellow which caused indignation among the townsmen. The works were halted by the outbreak of the First World War. In 1915, the antique bell from the Trinitarian Tower was taken to Russia. In 1918, the organ was expanded. The instrument covered some of Meyer’s frescoes on the western wall but did not cause any damage.

It was the World War II that brought the biggest damage to the cathedral. On 9 September 1939, ten German bombs fell on the church. The vault of the acoustic sacristy decorated with a fresco by Meyer and the portico in front of the cathedral both collapsed. In the following days, the roof was burned down and one of the towers was partially destroyed. The Trinitarian Tower and the former Jesuit college also suffered heavy damage.

Extensive conservational works were carried out in order to repair the war damage. They had the patronage of the bishop of Lublin, father Stefan Wyszyński, future primate of Poland. These works included reconstruction of the sections of the acoustic sacristy that had been destroyed by bombs, together with restoration of the paintings, as well as comprehensive conservation of all paintings (managed by, among others, painter Eugeniusz Czuhorski). Afterwards, the portico was reconstructed following Corazzi’s designs, the façade was redone with the peak articulated in a different form and the flèche moved towards the apse. The works were supervised by Czesław Gawdzik, a notable Lublin architect.

In 1998, under the patronage of archbishop Józef Życiński, restoration of the ornaments and the equipment of the cathedral commenced. It was finished in 2005, on the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Lublin diocese. 2009 saw the beginning of conservation of the exterior of the church.


1582 - the Jesuit order introduced into Lublin by Bernard Maciejowski. First Jesuits - S. Warszewicki and S. Wysocki - arrive in Lublin to build a church and a monastery;
1585 - king Stephen Báthory, by a special privilege, gives the Jesuits land on which to build a monastery, outside the city walls;
1586 - construction of the church commences;
1604 - the endower, Bishop of Kraków Bernard Maciejowski, consecrates the church under construction, dedicating it to St. John the Baptist and St. John The Evangelist;
1625 - end of the construction of the church, other monastery buildings erected in the following years;
1752 - the church was destroyed by a fire;
1757 - the church was decorated with late baroque frescoes by Józef Meyer;
1773 - pope Clement XIV dissolves the Jesuit order and the church falls into growing decay;
1781 - by permission of the Commission of National Education (Komisja Edukacji Narodowej), the buildings of the Jesuit monastery are taken over by the Trinitarians, who later leave Lublin, leaving the ruined buildings to the city authorities;
1805 - foundation of the Lublin diocese;
1818 - first thorough restoration works - besides construction works, the paintings were cleaned;
1823 - the church elevated to a cathedral;
1874 - another wide-reaching works inside the church; partial restoration and repainting of the damaged paintings, supervised by painter Jan Strzałecki;
September 1939 - the cathedral destroyed by the Germans;
1952 - works carried out to restore the cathedral from severe war damage, under the patronage of the then Bishop of Lublin, Stefan Wyszyński;
1998 - another conservation of the ornaments and the equipment under the patronage of archbishop Józef Życiński;
2009 - conservation works outside the church.


Jan Maria Bernardoni, Józef Briccio, Michał Hintz, Franciszek Koźmiński, Antonio Corazzi, Czesław Gawdzik.


The church is one of the oldest baroque buildings outside Italy. The façade, initially in a renaissance-baroque style, is now a conglomerate of elements from different periods. The interior decoration is uniform, in the late baroque style.

Description of the building

The Lublin archcathedral is a basilical church (with the nave higher than the aisles, which in this particular case have the form of rows of side chapels), with a single nave and rows of side chapels on both sides, separated from the nave by wide arcades. There is also a chancel of the height equal to that of the nave, terminating in a wide horseshoe-shaped apse. The chancel is flanked by two chapels placed symmetrically (accentuated in the shape of the church by roof lanterns projecting over mono-pitched roofs that cover other chapels) and sacristies.

The layout of the church was interpreted as a reduction of the design of the Jesuit del Gesù church in Rome but Jerzy Paszenda proved that initially there had been no plans to build the smaller chapels at the chancel, and it was only in the course of the construction of the church that extra walls were erected in the rectangular rooms initially earmarked for sacristies, thus forming the central chapels. The reason for those modifications was the will to receive endowments from magnates interested in finding their eternal rest in the new church: Zofia nee Mielecki, the widow of prince Olelkowicz-Słucki and Mikołaj Zebrzydowski. The chapels were intended to be their mausoleums.

The aisle and the chancel are covered with a uniform roof with a single common ridge. The roof over the aisle and the chancel is supported by queen post trusses, and the one covering the annexes has purlin and rafter support. The outer layer of the roofing is made of copper sheet metal. Since the very beginning, the façade of the church was flanked by two towers. Originally, they were wider and bigger than the current ones, erected after the church had burnt down in mid-18th century.

The church walls are built of limestone and bricks, and covered with cement-lime plaster. Elements of the portico and the balcony are made of sandstone.
The cathedral has a floor area of 38 750 square feet (3 600 square metres) and a volume of approximately 1 324 300 cubic feet (37 500 cubic metres).

The façade consists of two storeys crowned with a triangular pediment flanked by two quadrilateral towers covered with Baroque tented roofs. The towers and the pediment are connected by volute buttresses. The lower storey is partially obscured by a six-column classicist portico with a protruding entablature. The upper storey is adorned with pilasters coped with volutes. Between them, there are niches with semicircular upper parts, with rectangular windows on the axes. The middle niche, the biggest of the three, is crowned with a cartouche with an inscription reading Soli Deo.

The entrance is partially obscured by the massive portico, reconstructed after the war damage, that harks back to the Corazzi’s design of the 1820s, forming a terrace surrounded by a stone banister on the upper storey. On the main compositional axis of the façade, above the upper storey, inside a profiled niche, there is a sgraffito ornament depicting the Crucifixion Group. It is a work of Marek Piątkowski, created in the 1980s.


Currently, the church consists of a single nave, with rows of chapels on both sides. Originally, the interior layout was slightly different. The church had one nave and two aisles, with matronea for the students of the college located above the aisles. After the fire of 1752, Rev. Franciszek Koźmiński ordered the construction of thick walls between the bays of the aisles, dividing them into chapels, in order to reinforce the vault of the nave which had been weakened by the fire. Apart from that, the pilasters inside the nave were thickened. The present layout represents the Baroque style, its characteristic features being, among others, the barrel vaults and the walls arranged according to a uniform “giant order”, both in the nave and in the chancel.

The seventeenth-century main altar, funded by Jan Mikołaj Daniłłowicz and Zofia Daniłłowicz nee Tęczyńska, made of Lebanese dark pear wood, currently has its original ebony colour and golden ornaments. In the chancel, paintings from ca. 1667 by Franciscan monk Franciszek Lekszycki depict The Last Supper and The Feast of Herod.

The “acoustic sacristy”, whose name refers to its unique acoustic qualities, designed by father Franciszek Koźmiński, was constructed in the years 1752-1754. The curvature of the vault was shaped in such a way that sounds reflected by one of the corners go to another one. The chapel was destroyed during World War II and meticulously reconstructed afterwards, preserving its acoustic features, following the design by architect Czesław Doria-Dernałowicz and calculations by Professor Mikusiński from Maria Curie-Skłodowska University. Nowadays, the chapel serves as the exhibition space for the preserved treasures of the cathedral. Before World War II, it was the second treasury, after Częstochowa, that held late Gothic dalmatics, Baroque chasubles, candlesticks, monstrances etc. The oldest of the antiquities held in the cathedral is the fourteenth-century bronze baptismal font, transferred from the razed parish church of St. Michael. One side of the font bears a black inscription in the Middle High German language: Hilf God Maria Berod, and the other side a Latin inscription Ave Maria gratia plena.

The famous painting of the Weeping Mother of God by Professor Bolesław Rutkowski, a copy of the painting at the Jasna Góra Monastery, is fitted into a side altar near the passage leading to the left aisle. The painting became known after the “Lublin miracle” in 1949, when it began weeping.

The bas-relief at the entrance to the cathedral depicting pope John Paul II was made by J. Słomianowska to commemorate his visit to Lublin in 1987.
The main body of the church is surrounded by eight chapels. Two of them, situated by the chancel, are covered with cupolas. All chapels were build and decorated in compliance with a coherent artistic and ideological programme, following the principles described by St. Carlo Borromeo in his 1577 work Instructiones Fabricae et Supellectilis Ecclesiasticae. The décor of the chapels originates from after the great fire of the church but it has been deformed throughout the centuries.

North of the chancel is one of the cupola chapels: the chapel of the Tribunal Cross which was transferred from the razed parish church of St. Michael. Other chapels on the northern side of the church are, looking west: the chapel of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the chapel of St. Francis Xavier abd the chapel of St. Mary Magdalene.
The other cupola chapel, the chapel of The Blessed Virgin Mary, is situated south of the chancel. After the parish church of St. Michael was razed, the chapel’s late Baroque décor was complemented by an altar transferred from that church, made in the 1730s to accommodate the Tribunal Cross. The altar is a work of Jan Eliasz Hoffmann, a court sculptor of the Sieniawski and later the Czartoryski family in Puławy. Next, looking west, one sees the chapel of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the chapel of Angels, and the chapel of St. John Nepomucene.

The chapel of the Tribunal Cross, originally the chapel of St. Stanislaus Kostka, was intended to be the sepulchral chapel of Symeon Olelkowicz-Słucki and his wife Zofia nee Mielecka. It was named the Tribunal chapel (kaplica Trybunalska) after the Tribunal Cross had been transferred there in 1832. Currently, it is called the chapel of the Holy Sacrament. The architectural, sculptural and stuccowork décor of the chapel follows a conscious Mannerist programme with addition of Italian elements. The décor is complemented by frescos and paintings of scenes from the life of St. Stanislaus Kostka.

The choir loft is situated at the western wall of the church. The gallery for the choir is supported by a wide arcade consisting of drop arches. The platform is surrounded by a brick bannister of concave-convex lines. The currently used organ is a vast 50-register instrument with 4,000 pipes, built in the 1930s. It is the third consecutive pipe organ used to accompany the services in the cathedral.

Tombstone of Marcin Leśniowolski
The tombstone of Marcin Leśniowolski, made in late 1620s, is an important antiquity that has been preserved inside the Lublin cathedral. Originally, it was placed in the chancel. After the fire in 1752, it was moved to the southern part of the vestibule. It is a magnificent, monumental structure made of marble, in the shape of an aedicula framed by fluted Corinthian columns, with pilasters in the form of herms at the top. The uppermost part contains a bas-relief alabaster medallion depicting St. Martin of Tours sharing his cloak with a beggar.

The likeness of the late Marcin Leśniowski was fitted into a panel coped with an arcade, placed in the main part of the tombstone. According to the written sources, the kneeling figure of Leśniowski was made of silver, which led to it being stolen by the Austrians in the early nineteenth century. Nowadays, only the impression of the figure is visible on the tombstone.

Paintings by Józef Meyer
The polychrome inside the church is a work of an 18-century Moravian painter Józef Meyer. It consists mostly of scenes from the Holy Bible, composed into a coherent whole. Each of the four bays of the nave’s barrel vault is covered with a polychrome composition with a decorative border. Those depict, looking from the choir loft: Jesus teaching at the temple, the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor, the Baptism of Christ and John the Baptist before Herod. The paintings in the chancel depict the two patron saints of the church: John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, and scenes related with them. Above the crucifix that crowns the main altar, there is a painting of angels holding a cartouche with the initials IHS. All scenes are accompanied by descriptions in Latin.

Above the passages leading from the nave to the chapel bays and in the chancel one can see medallions with scenes from the Apocalypse. Paintings on the walls of the chapel bays that form the aisles depict scenes related with lives and missionary activities of the saints of the Jesuit order (like St. Francis Xavier and St. Ignatius of Loyola) and with the Holy Trinity (inside the chapel of the Immaculate Conception). The vestibule vault painting depicts, among others, the Cleansing of the Temple. That scene is visible to those who enter the cathedral as a teaching on respect towards a house of God. Next to it, there is the scene of Christ teaching on love of brothers, painted in such a way as to remind those leaving the temple of the important teachings. The inscription that the artist placed above it reads JOSEPHUS MEYER PINXIT 1757. The vaults of the chapter house are covered with paintings of scenes related with Heliodorus. In the acoustic sacristy one can see a fresco representing victory of the Roman Catholic Church over the Reformation movement.

All paintings form a well-thought-out iconographic programme. Apart from the figurative paintings, the décor includes impressive motifs of architectural trompe-l'œil, like portals, niches in the walls, windows, balconies and cloisters, and a monumental cupola with a roof lantern. The ornamental and decorative motifs (floral and geometrical), vases and other elements also provide a complement for the composition of the paintings. The colours of the frescos are muted and warm, without sharp contrasts. The colours of the trompe-l’œils are similar to those of the materials that the paintings imitate (for example, the marble-like colour of columns). The backgrounds of the figurative paintings were modelled with the use of the aerial perspective - a typical trait of Meyer’s works - which involves blurring the outlines of the distant objects. Only the apocalyptic cycle differs slightly in terms of colours, presenting the supernatural vision in luminous golden-yellow tones. As a proficient painter, Józef Meyer made use of bold foreshortenings, thus succeeding in amplifying the monumental appearance of the architecture of the cathedral with architectural trompe-l'œils. It is worth stressing that the Lublin cathedral has a cycle of landscape paintings, unique in its extent, forming the principal theme in the décor of the chapter house and the acoustic sacristy. In terms of style, the frescos in Lublin are situated on the borderline between Baroque and Rococo, tending towards the late Baroque style.

In the southern part of the church porch, one can see engraved outlines of figurative, architectural and ornamental forms - a sign of the designs being transferred from cardboard onto the wall. It is a typical procedure in the al fresco technique. Similar marks can be found in other parts of the cathedral.


Architect Giovanni Maria Bernardoni came from Italy to prepare the design documentation. He was joined by Giuseppe Briccio. Both architects were members of The Society of Jesus and had enormous experience in the field of sacred construction.
As many as four versions of design plans of the church were elaborated. The last, fourth version, rejected by Provincial Superior Campano, was created by an Italian lay architect Christiani, who had never even seen Lublin.


Reverend Stanisław Warszewicki, with help from well known Jesuit diplomat Antonio Possevino managed to convince king Stephen Báthory to locate the church outside the city walls. The king established a committee consisting of Mikołaj Zebrzydowski, Andrzej Tęczyński and Jan Tęczyński, with the task of discussing the issue with the city council. The debate led to a 40-ell-wide square being delineated outside the wall, by the Kraków Gate (Brama Krakowska), next to the still existent semicircular tower, in the vicinity of the Dominican monastery. Before the construction works commenced, the square was widened to 53 ells (ca. 105 ft). The council and the members of the committee signed the required document, and the king approved it in 1585, in Niepołomice. The condition that the church walls fulfilled defensive functions, set by the city authorities, was supplemented with the king’s remark that no windows were to be made in the lower parts of the walls.


The Jesuit church was dedicated to two St. Johns: the Baptist and the Evangelist. It was not a random choice, as the two are among the most important saints of Christendom. The former was a prodrome - he baptised Jesus and prophetically called him the Lamb of God. The latter, a beloved disciple of Jesus, an evangelist and a prophet, was present during the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor, during his prayer in the Garden Of Gethsemane and on his way to the crucifixion.


In the southern part of the church porch, one can see engraved outlines of figurative, architectural and ornamental forms - a sign of the designs being transferred from cardboard onto the wall. It is a typical procedure in the al fresco technique. Similar marks can be found in other parts of the cathedral.


The capitals of the pilasters in the chancel, unlike those inside the main body of the church, are made of wood and gilded.


Text by Milena Blińska, Anna Szlązak
Additional information by Hubert Mącik
Edited by Monika Śliwińska
Translated by Jarosław Kobyłko


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