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Resurrezione di Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo dei Polacchi is a 19th century convent church, the second Polish national church in Rome after San Stanislao alle Botteghe Oscure. It is at Via di San Sebastianello 11, just north of the bottom of the Spanish Steps in the rione Campo Marzio. Picture of the church at Wikimedia Commons here.
The dedication is to the Resurrection.
This is a church, not a chapel.
Foundation of congregationEdit
The Congregation of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Resurrectionists) was founded in 1842, when seven Polish clerics took vows in the catacombs of San Sebastiano fuori le Mura. They had been inspired by the teachings of Bogdan Jańsky (1807-1840) in Paris. One of the founders was Piotr Semenenko, who was the first Superior.
The context of this was the so-called Great Emigration, which was a diaspora of nationalist activists after a failed rebellion in Poland in 1830. From 1815 until the First World War, the heartland of the former Kingdom of Poland around Warsaw was being ruled by the Russian Empire. There was a strong romantic nationalist movement among Poles during the 19th century which sought to re-establish the old Kingdom of Poland as it was before the late 18th century, but the Russians crushed all attempts at rebellion.
In 1866 the congregation was instrumental in founding the Pontifical Polish College (Pontificio Collegio Polacco) as a seminary for Polish priests. This is now located at Piazza Remuria 2/A on the Aventine, although it spent some time at the former Maronite monastery at San Giovanni dei Maroniti (now a restaurant).
Foundation of churchEdit
As with those in Russian Poland, the Poles in Rome were split between supporters of nationalist aspirations and those who preferred a quiet life, and the result was that the former provided encouragement for the infant congregation to found a convent and church in Rome. There were complaints that the old Polish national church of San Stanislao was frequented by spies for the Russian government. The new church's dedication to the "Resurrection" was partly a political statement, demonstrating the intent to re-establish Poland as an independent nation.
A hostel for travellers called the Villino Margherita was purchased in 1885, and the congreagation immediately began building a church next to it. Semenenko oversaw the beginning of the project, the architect of which was Pio Piacentini. The consecration was in 1889.
The convent has been the headquarters of the Resurrectionists since its foundation.
In 1979 there was a controversial and artistically unfortunate restoration and re-ordering of the interior, which saw much of the original decorative work destroyed and replaced with bare walls.
As well as the Generalate, the complex provides accommodation for Polish seminary students and has a small community of Sisters of the Good Samaritan who actually take care of the church.
Layout and fabricEdit
The layout is rectangular, with an external three-sided apse.
The edifice is a single nave of four bays with no aisles, in red brick with the architectural details in white stone. The roof is flat, despite the façade having a pediment. The style is neo-Romanesque, with Gothic influences.
The left hand side wall is party with the convent building, but the right hand one is visible and has gigantic square stone pilasters separating the bays. Each bay has two windows.
The façade has two-storeys, separated by an entablature. The entrance has no porch, but the doorway is surrounded by a thin twisted string-course and has square Composite pilasters on either side. Above is a large semi-circular tympanum containg a relief of the Resurrection. A pair of round-headed windows flanks the entrance, and there is a dedicatory inscription on the frieze of the entablature immediately above the tympanum.
A pair of pilasters without capitals frame the first storey of the façade, and are continued by an other pair on the second storey, except that these have Doric capitals. They frame an identical pair of round-headed windows flanking a round window, and support an entablature containing a frieze of a miniature blind arcade carved in relief. A triangular pediment crowns the composition, within which is a tondo containing a chi-rho and alpha-omega.
There is a four-storey campanile attached to the right side, rather awkwardly, with the window in the second storey matching the paired windows in the façade. Those in the third and fourth storeys, which face three ways, have vaguely Gothic two-light tracery with the central mullions being thin twisted columns with capitals. The campanile is crowned with a stumpy shingled spire, and the roofline has a frieze of pendant Gothic arches.
The single nave has a vaulted ceiling supported by tall, thin Corinthian grey marble semi-columns separating the bays. The right hand wall has a pair of windows high up in each bay, but the left hand one does not because the convent is here.
The walls are now bare, in a pale yellow. This is the result of a destructive restoration of the interior in 1979. Beforehand, the walls had their original fresco patterning of geometric diapering and scrollwork with figurative panels showing saints. Hopefully the original rich flooring, of tiling in chamfered squares with a cross motif, survives under the modern plain floor covering.
There are several pictures hanging on the side walls:
The Ascension by Henryk Siemiradzki, The Founders of the Resurrectionists Making Their First Vows and The Approval of the Resurrectionist Congregation by Franciszek Unierzynski, Noli Me Tangere and St Thomas Resolves His Doubt by Franciszek Drudowski.
Over the entrance is a relief sculpture of The Risen Christ by Viktor Brodski, and the holy water recepticles at the entrance are by Pius Welonski.
The side altars are dedicated to the Crucifix (to the right) and Our Lady of Good Counsel. On the right side of the nave is a memorial to Maria Przeździecka, 1890 with a medallion by Olsinsky. On the left is a monument commemorating the foundation of the congregation, with busts of the founders, 1892.
Before the 1979 re-ordering, the sanctuary occupied the last bay of the nave and the apse. It was marked off by a balustrade carved with flowers, which was destroyed. Nowadays, the pro popolo altar and the badly designed choir stalls (which look, frankly, as if assembled from flat-packs) occupy two bays of the nave.
The apse has a high triumphal arch with a molded archivolt supported by a pair of tall, thin grey marble columns. The three-sided apse has three large round-headed windows, inserted into Gothic arches and separated by two further columns. The original fresco patterning has been allowed to remain on the stone window frames.
The polychrome stone altar, which has alabaster panels, is described as "from an old Roman basilica" (which?). Above it is a small arched aedicule set into the wall, which now contains a statue of Our Lady of Mentorella. The three windows have stained glass, featuring the Risen Christ, Our Lady and St Joseph. This is by the firm of Mayer in Monaco.