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Temple of Divine Providence

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Temple of Divine Providence

Temple of Divine Providence

Construction as of September 2010

Basic information
Location Warsaw, Poland
Affiliation Roman Catholic
Ecclesiastical or organizational status Under construction
Architectural description
Architect(s) Wojciech Szymborski, Lech Szymborski
Architectural type Church
Height (max) 75 m
Materials Concrete

The Temple of Divine Providence (Polish: Świątynia Opatrzności Bożej), under construction in southern Warsaw's Wilanów district, will be one the most important Roman Catholic buildings in Poland. The story of its construction began over 200 years ago.[1] Since then, due to historic circumstances, Poles had been unable to complete a votive church to Divine Providence.

The Temple is meant to be a national and religious symbol for Poland.[1] The Divine Providence complex comprises a Church of Divine Providence, a Museum to Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, and a Pantheon of Great Poles.

The Center of Divine Providence commemorates Poland as a country with a Roman Catholic majority and links providential events in Poland's history over the past 200 years with their putative Divine inspiration: the Constitution of May 3, 1791;[1] the 1918 rebirth of independent Poland; the 1920 "Miracle at the Vistula"; the August 1980 founding of the Solidarity movement; the next resumption of independence, in 1989; and the pastoral ministry of Stefan Wyszynski and the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. The shrine will be a votive church for 1,000 years of Poland's Christianity, and a temple of national remembrance.


First Polish Republic

The idea of constructing a National Temple of Divine Providence goes back to the times of Stanisław August Poniatowski's reign.[1] Two days after the Four-Year Sejm had passed the 3 May Constitution, on 5 May 1791, the members and the king made a commitment of thanksgiving to erect a church ‘ex voto of all states ... dedicated to the highest Providence.’ It was to be an expression of thanksgiving to ‘the Highest Ruler of the fate of nations’ for the adoption of the constitution.

The celebration of laying the cornerstone of the planned shrine in Ujazdów was held exactly on the first anniversary of the constitution.[1] It was King Stanisław August and the last Primate of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Archbishop Michał Jerzy Poniatowski that began the construction of the shrine. The monarch also accepted the project of his royal architect Jakub Kubicki.[1] The Temple was to be built in the classicist style on the plan of a Greek cross. Unfortunately, the Russian army attacked Poland which made the construction impossible. Three years later Poland disappeared from the maps of Europe. Only a small ruined chapel has survived and it can be seen in the Botanical Garden in Agrykola (Ujazdów).

Second Polish Republic

After Poland had regained independence in 1918 the Sejm of the restored Second Polish Republic passed an act to build the shrine on 17 March 1921. The Parliament decided that the state would cover the cost of the construction, which was to be 15 million old zlotys. The budget was also to finance a perpetual scholarship to order Masses celebrated in the intention of the Homeland and for the souls of all Poles who died for the country. However, the financial difficulties and first of all the inflation did not allow the young state to bear such costs. It was the Committee on Commemorating Marshal Pilsudski, created after his death, chaired by President Ignacy Moscicki, that decided to realize that work. The Shrine of Divine Providence was to be built in the fields of Mokotów. The Committee announced a tender and chose a Bohdan Pniewski project:[1] a building of the constructivist style with a tower that would resemble the skyscrapers in New York. Unfortunately, the date to begin the construction was constantly postponed. Finally, it was settled in 1939, Poland’s very tragic year (invasion of Poland by Germany and Soviet Union - start of World War II).

Third Polish Republic

The war and the communist regime, which was imposed in Poland, did not allow the plans of the construction to be realised within the next 60 years. However, during the times of the Polish People’s Republic people remembered the commitment. The faithful reminded Primate August Hlond and then Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski of the idea.

Favorable conditions occurred at the turning point, in 1989 when Poland regained independence. And it seemed that it was the right time to thank Divine Providence and the nation was going to construct the Temple that had been promised by the ancestors. The Primate of Poland Cardinal Jozef Glemp revived the idea of the shrine towards the late 1990s.[1] Furthermore, the Sejm on 23 October 1998 adopted, by a decisive majority, an act to construct the National Temple of Divine Providence. The resolution said that ‘the Sejm of the Third Republic of Poland thinks that the vows the Polish nation made 200 years ago should be fulfilled’ and the shrine would be ‘a votive church of the nation for the Constitution of 3 May, the regained independence in 1989, for twenty years of John Paul II’s pontificate and two thousand years of Christianity.’

John Paul II also supported the construction of the Temple wholeheartedly. In his pilgrimage to Poland in 1999, during the celebration in Pilsudski Square, he blessed the cornerstone, which was embedded exactly at the place of the future altar. ‘May this shrine become a place of special thanksgiving for freedom of the Homeland. I pray that no painful experience would disturb this thanksgiving for which we have waited 200 years’, the Holy Father said. The Pope supported the construction by his prayers and financial help. John Paul II is one of its most generous sponsors. The shrine, which is being constructed in Wilanów (the end of the historic Royal Route), will also be a national thanksgiving for the pontificate of the Holy Father.[1]

In January 2002, the Primate chose the final project of the shrine by the architects’ team directed by Wojciech and Lech Szymborski. Planned total costs of around 40 million euros. This sum has been met to a large extent through private donations and co-financed by a state budget. The building is based on a 84 m x 84 m base area in the form of a Greek cross – a cross with four equal length arms, with four gates, a dome and a cross. After completion, the building will have an overall height of around 75 metres. 26 columns are arranged in a circle to form the nave of the church which has a 68 m diameter. In November 2002, Cardinal Glemp began the construction by making a symbolic gesture; he dug with a spade next to the cornerstone.

Museum of John Paul II and Cardinal Wyszyński

The complex of Divine Providence will house a multi-media museum dedicated to Pope John Paul II and to Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. The museum, which is so important to Polish historic memory, will be placed in the non-sacred part of Temple of Divine Providence in Warsaw. The centre for documenting the Polish Pope’s pontificate and the pastoral ministry of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński will be in the modern museum. The cultural centre will catalogue the collections and preserve them as well as conducting research. The museum will show the activities of John Paul II and Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and will show the close relationship between those two great Poles, a relationship John Paul II himself referred to many times. He said that there would be no Polish Pope without the faith of the Primate of the Millennium. Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz would like this multi-media museum to follow the model of the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising that draws many young people. The Centre of Divine Providence will combine the sacred and cultural-patriotic-historic realities. It will show the substantial contribution of the Church to the history of the Polish Nation.

Pantheon of great Poles

The Pantheon of Great Poles is an underground part of the Temple of Divine Providence in Warsaw. The Pantheon is a funeral site for important Poles. A symbolic tomb for Pope John Paul II (a replication of the tomb from St. Peter's Basilica) is placed in the Pantheon.

Inside the crypt for the honoured are buried:

  • Jan Twardowski (June 1, 1915 – January 18, 2006) a famous Polish poet, representative of contemporary religious lyrics.
  • Zdzisław Peszkowski (August 23, 1918 – October 8, 2007) a chaplain for the Katyń Families Association, and the Murdered in the East, and a prisoner in Kozelsk.
  • Krzysztof Skubiszewski (8 October 1926 – 8 February 2010) Minister of Foreign Affairs (1989–1993) and an established scholar in the field of international law.
  • Ryszard Kaczorowski (26 November 1919 – 10 April 2010) last President of Poland in exile (1989–1990).

See also


Coordinates: 52°09′31″N 21°04′20″E / 52.1586°N 21.0722°E / 52.1586; 21.0722

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