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.

Po Farze Square in Lublin

Po Farze Square (Former Parish Church Square) in Lublin is one of the oldest parts of the Old Town in Lublin, hiding the relicts of buildings whose history reaches back as far as to the Middle Ages. The church of St. Michael that overlooked the square in the past was the seat of the first parish in Lublin and one of the key elements of the city’s panorama. Today, the foundations, uncovered and raised between 2001 and 2002, and a bronze mock-up that represents the appearance of the church in accordance with historical sources, remind of its existence.

Space of the square

The site of today’s Po Farze Square became inhabited very early. Archaeological research and supervision unveiled objects and antiquities of the funnel-beaker culture, originating from 3200-2500 years B.C.. Subsequent traces of settlement in that area are related to early Middle Ages. Remnants of four half-dugouts, one of which, when fully uncovered, measured 4 by 4 metres, were discovered in the south-eastern part of the square. Housing existed here in the period between the 9th and the first half of the 11th century. In the 12th century, a burial ground similar to a Christian churchyard necropolis existed on today’s square. Perhaps inhumations at this site had commenced even earlier - in the second half of the 11th century. Given the nature of the churchyard, a church is thought to have stood here in the 12th century, or probably already in the second half of the 11th century. It could be a wooden building or a small brick one. No remnants of that temple have survived, yet those of the subsequent church have lasted until today.


According to the Annals of Traska from the 14th century, Leszek the Black conquered the Yotvingians in 1282 on Narew river and returned all the spoils that they had taken from Lublin. He saw Archangel Michael in his dream before the battle. Jan Długosz adds that, having returned from the war expedition, out of gratitude for the victory, duke Leszek established the parish church of St. Michael in Lublin, recognizing the archangel as “the author of the triumph and full success”. A local tale has it that Leszek the Black had dreamt his “miraculous dream” at the very place where the church was built and that the trunk of the oak tree under which he had slept was preserved under the great altar in token of remembrance.

In the course of remodelings that took place in the first half of the 14th century, the church of St. Michael received traits of Gothic architecture. Another restoration took place after Tatar raid in 1341 and in the 15th century a high tower “visible from five miles away” was erected. Next century saw the temple becoming a collegiate church. Houses of prelates, canons and church servants were built around the churchyard. The complex also housed a hospital and a school. A musicians’ confraternity functioned at the church, guilds and religious organisations gathered there as well.

After the seat of the local bishop was moved from Krasnystaw to Lublin, the church of St. Michael performed the function of a cathedral in the years 1826-1832 (until repairs of the post-Jesuit church were completed). However, since the end of the 18th century it was decaying more and more. Despite consecutive attempts to repair it, the building posed a threat of collapsing. In 1846, decision was made, unopposed either by ecclesiastical authorities or the citizens, that the church would be dismantled. Circa mid-19th century, fragments of the walls and fortifications in the vicinity of the church were also dismantled, as well as the inhabited attic of the former Vicars’ House and upper parts of the fortified tower (down to the level of today’s top cornice).

In 1857, the site of the dismantled parish church was earmarked for a municipal square. In Grodzka St. the square of St. Michael is being tidied, and in order to arrange lawns therein, I brought the seed of grass from Hamburg - wrote Feliks Bieczyński, a well-known advocate of arranging green areas in the city, the founder of Ogród Saski (Saxon Garden) - the main park in Lublin. Until the end of the 19th century, the square had probably been unkempt and desolate, since, according to Józef Dutkiewicz’s account, only ca. 1899, it was fenced, grassed and a stone cross was set up on a socle, in order to commemorate the place where the temple had stood. In the early 20th century, the square had a shape of an irregular pentagon, with the green laid out randomly, effacing the shape of the one-time church. In the years 1909-1910, a new fence made of metal openwork on a concrete plinth was constructed along the side of the square that faces Grodzka Street. The inter-war period saw further changes in the arrangement of the square. Plants were introduced with intention of making the alleged outline of the foundation of the Church of St. Michael more visible. The unrealized design from the occupation period, created by J. Maciejewski, was meant to be the continuation of this direction of changes. It postulated introduction of a wide range of flowerbeds divided by alleys.

The right direction for restoration of Po Farze Square was set between 1937 and 1938 by the then monuments conservator Józef Edward Dutkiewicz. He saw through ‘uncovering the foundation of the church of St. Michael and arranging a square while exposing the original layout of the church at the site.’ These works had been preceded by archaeological research and immediately led to putting the foundation on the list of monuments of Lublin. In the post-war years, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the People’s Republic of Poland, the square was mindlessly graded and random structures and objects were introduced, such as a fountain (located within the outline of the former presbytery), a retaining wall and a few trees. Moreover, as a result of uncontrolled splits of properties, the square was divided into two separate parts, border between which runs across the presbytery of the church of St. Michael.

In 1982, appreciating the importance of the site and recognizing the necessity of a restoration that would conform the rules of the art of conservation, the Lublin branch of Monuments Conservation Laboratory (Pol. Pracownia Konserwacji Zabytków) chose, by organising an internal contest, the concept of exposing the foundation of the church of St. Michael conceived by architect Jacek Ciepliński. That idea was further developed in Project of Development of Po Farze Square created by Ciepliński in 1995, in cooperation with the conservation service and city authorities as a part of 4th Ministerial Programme of the Ministry of Culture and Art titled Salvage of Historic Cities. Among the other entries from local Monuments Conservation Laboratories were also proposals of reconstructing the church in its full cubature or erecting a spatial structure in form of a metal openwork (over a fragment of the foundation) that would form a much needed vertical filling of the gap in the panorama of Lublin.

The chosen design by architect Jacek Ciepliński included lowering the square to the level of 192,50 cm, i.e. to the level of Grodzka St. on one side and to ca. 160 cm at the junction with Archidiakońska St., which allowed foundation walls of the church to be uncovered. In order to minimize the resultant difference in levels, an observation deck was designed. It was spatially and functionally related to the building of the former Vicars’ House. The deck was paved with granite sett and slabs of sandstone, and its decoration is completed by a cast bronze mock-up of the church of St. Michael, created by Maria Marek-Prus and put on the square in December 2008. The design also included lowering the terrain by the eastern elevation of the former Vicars’ House to expose the fortified tower walls, which now are a part of that elevation, in their full height.

Buildings around the square

Vicars’ House, also referred to as Mansionaries’ house (at 9, Archidiakońska St.) is an adaptation of a medieval fortified tower and a fragment of a fortified wall, which divides the building into two bays and continues outside of it. The tower, added to the wall in the second half of the 14th century, now occupies the north-eastern corner of the building. It is likely that already in the first half of the 16th century the tower was converted into a dwelling house for the vicars of the church of St. Michael. It performed that function until the collegiate church was liquidated in 1819 (the vicars were then moved to the Jesuit college) and it was maintained, after becoming a private property in mid-19th century, until the 1980s. Current appearance of the building is a result of works carried out at the turn of the 21st century, which consisted in, among others, marking the remnants of the tower embedded in the elevation with brick-coloured plaster and raising the ground in the area adjacent to the scarp, in order to expose the entire shape of the gateway of the tower.


Parish house (at 11, Grodzka St.) - initially a wooden building, destroyed by fire in 1575, reconstructed probably in the early 17th century - occupies the entire northern frontage of Po Farze Square and the corner of Grodzka St.. Between 1816 and 1832 that building was the seat of the cathedral chapter. The former parish house was subsequently used as a private house by bishop Wojakowski, at the time when he served as the prelate and archdeacon of Lublin cathedral.


All possessions of the church of St. Michael were confiscated in the years 1869-1870, under Tsar’s ukase of 1865. At the same time the parish house became property of the State Treasury. Later it was transferred to local Jewish community, which opened an asylum for children and elderly people there. In March 1942, in the course of liquidation of the ghetto by Germans, over a hundred children from the orphanage were taken by trucks to the meadows in Tatary and murdered there. After the war, the building initially (1944-1946) served as a home for elderly and then (1947-1970) as a social and later a state children’s home. On 1 October 1970 the building was given to the Youth Community Centre which has been using it since, as the Youth Community Centre ‘Pod Akacją’ (’Under Acacia Tree’).

View from the square

Worth mentioning is also the view of the eastern part of Lublin that unfolds from the edge of the square. One can see a valley where three rivers meet: Bystrzyca, Czechówka and Czerniejówka. Czwartek hill, with the church of St. Nicholas, rises to the left. It was here that archaeologists discovered traces of the oldest settlement from the turn of the 7th century. Lublin Castle with fortified tower and Holy Trinity chapel are also visible therefrom. Kalinowszczyzna district, with the church of St. Agnieszka and its own market square, known as Słomiany Rynek (Straw Market Square) sweeps behind the castle. Lower, below the castle, one sees the church of St. Wojciech and complex of buildings of the former St. Lazarus hospital.


Compiled by Emilia Śliwczyńska
Translated by Jarosław Kobyłko


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