Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

(VARSAVIENSIS).

Warsaw (Polish, Warszawa ), on the western bank of the Vistula, is the capital of the Kingdom of Poland. The city, including the suburb of Praga on the east side of the Vistula, consists of the Old City ( Stare Miasto ), the New City ( Nowe Miasto ) and the westerly suburbs of Wola and Mokotów. It is the see of the Catholic archbishop and also of the Russian Orthodox Archbishop of Kholm and Warsaw. The Catholic archbishop is the primate of the Kingdom of Poland and is entitled to wear the red robes of a cardinal save the calotte and biretta, but he may not now call himself metropolitan, the Russian authorities allowing only "Archiepiscopus Ecclesiae Metropolitanae Varsoviensis". The city has fine handsome streets and is the chief industrial centre of western Russia and Poland. In the central part of the city is the royal palace, now the official residence of the Russian governor-general, and also the magnificent avenues of Krakowskie Przedmiescie, Nowy Swiat, and Aleja Ujazdowska, which compare with those of any European cities, the new Orthodox Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky, and the fine park known as the Saxe Gardens, while to the north in the Old City is the historic Catholic Cathedral of St. John and the frowning Alexander Citadel. The Jewish quarter lies to the north and west of the Saxe Gardens, commencing near the Zelazna Brama (Iron Gate), while to the south is the Lazienki Park with its chateau, formerly the royal summer palace. Two iron bridges span the Vistula to Praga, which is the actual railway terminus of Warsaw for trains from St. Petersburg, Moscow, or southern Russia. Many of the finest collections of books, manuscripts, and art treasures made by the kings of Poland and noble families in the university and palaces of Warsaw have been confiscated by the Russian Government and removed to St. Petersburg. The most ancient documents which mention the city of Warsaw date from the end of the twelfth century; but the city probably existed earlier, perhaps in the eleventh century. It developed greatly during the reign of Trojden, who in the fourteenth century surrounded it with walls. In 1431 it began to be embellished with houses and palaces, and became the residence os the Dukes of Masovia. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it acquired great importance as the meeting-place of the Polish diets. In 1550 King Sigismund August chose it as a residence, and from the time of Sigismund III it was the capital. In 1815 it likewise became the capital of the Polish realm incorporated with Russia and bean a rapid commercial development. Its population has increased from 75,000 at the beginning of the nineteenth century to 781,179 in 1910, of whom more than 265,000 are Hebrews and about 30,000 Russians and 25,000 Germans. The city nevertheless preserves its Catholic and Polish character, and is the most important centre of Polish literature. The Diocese, or Archdiocese, of Warsaw is of comparatively recent origin, though Christianity has flourished there from the foundation of the city, ancient documents attesting the existence of a church of St. George at Warsaw in 1195. Before the erection of its episcopal see, it formed part of the archdiaconate of Czersk which was a portion of the Diocese of Posen as early as the twelfth century. In 1406 Adalbert Sastrzenbiec, Bishop of Posen, authorized the institution of a collegiate church at Warsaw and transferred the archdeacon of Czerk there. In the sixteenth century the canons of Warsaw became a very important body, in which many nobles were included. In the seventeenth century the bishops of Posen began the title of the Diocese of Posen with that of Warsaw. The Archdiaconate of Warsaw lasted until 1798 as an appendage of the Diocese of Posen -- an extremely large one, including as it did the whole district of Czersk with part of those of Warsaw, Blonic, Rabsk, Sochaczew, etc., numbering 144 churches at the end of the eighteenth century, exclusive of those belonging to religious orders.

In 1793 Stanislaus Poniatowski, the last King of Poland, conceived the idea of setting up an episcopal see at Warsaw, but the political vicissitudes of the kingdom prevented the execution of this project. Frederick William II of Prussia, having obtained possession of Warsaw in 1797, nominated Joseph Boncza Miaskowski, the rector of the cathedral of Posen, as its bishop. By a Bull dated at Florence, October, 1798, Pius VI sanctioned the canonical erection of the Diocese of Warsaw, separating it from the jurisdiction of Posen. The new diocese comprised within its limits the territory of the old archdiaconate -- the Deaneries of Garwolin, Liw, and Lasczów. Its first bishop, Mgr. Miakowski, died in 1804, when its government was entrusted to Ignatus Raczynski, Archbishop of Gnesen, who, in 1808, appointed Gregory Zacharjaszewicz, titular Bishop of Corfu, his vicar-general. The city was divided into four parishes. At his death (1814) the diocese was administered by Francis Zambrzycki, titular Bishop of Dardania. As a result of the concordat between Pius VII and Alexander I, and the Bull "Militantis ecclesiae" of 11 March, 1817, the Diocese of Warsaw was made an archdiocese. On 2 October, 1818, Francis Skarbek Malczewski was preconized first archbishop, and by the Bull "Ex imposita nobis", 30 June, 1818, was appointed Apostolic Legate for the Kingdom of Poland. The diocese then comprised 19 deaneries, 278 parish churches, 432,929 souls, and a large number of convents. On the death of Malczewski, 18 April, 1819, Stephen de Holowczyce, a White Russian, was appointed archbishop, 17 December, 1819. On his death, 27 August, 1823, he was succeeded by Albert Leszczic Skarszewski (1824-27) and John Paul Pawenza Woronicz (1829-29). These first four archbishops bore the title of Primate of Poland. Stanislaus Kostka Lubicz Choromanski (1837-38) was the first to take the title of Metropolitan of Warsaw. Under the disturbed conditions of Poland between 1831 and 1837, the archdiocese was administered by two prelates, Edward Czarnecki and Adam Paszkowicz. On the death of Choromanski it had two other administrators, Thomas Chielewski, suffragan Bishop of Warsaw until 1844, and Anthony Melchior Fijalkowski, who was appointed archbishop 11 January, 1857, and died in exile 5 october, 1861. On 26 January he was succeeded by Sigismund Szcensny Felinski, who, in consequence of the Polish insurrection of 14 June, 1863, was summoned to St. Petersburg and exiled to Yaroslaw. There he remained for twenty years, exercising a fruitful apostolate and writing his memoirs which are of great interest for the religious history of Poland. He resigned on 13 March, 1883, and died on 17 September, 1895. On 15 March of the same year Vincent Theophilus Chosciak Popicl was appointed his successor.

The Archdiocese of Warsaw should have two suffragan bishops, one for Lowicz, the other for Warsaw; but these two suffragans are rarely elected. The Diocese of Warsaw at present comprises the metropolitan chapter of Warsaw, with eleven canons, and the collegiate chapter of Lowicz, with seven canons. The diocese is divided into fourteen deaneries: Warsaw, with 12 parishes and 25 churches or suburban parochial succursals; Brzeziny, 64,736 souls and 19 churches ; Gostynin, 59,212 souls and 16 churches ; Grodzisk, 91,958 souls and 18 churches ; Grojec, 95472 souls and 30 churches ; Kutno, 74,281 souls and 22 churches ; Leczycz, 111438 souls and 32 churches ; Lodz, 308,930 souls and 10 churches ; Lowicz, 81,354 souls and 19 churches ; Minsk, 88,472 souls and 20 churches ; Radzymin, 69,279 souls and 13 churches ; Rawa, 65,485 souls and 20 churches ; Skierniewice, 43,687 souls and 13 churches ; Sochaczew, 54,968 souls and 18 churches. There are 51 non-parochial churches. The secular clergy numbers 529 priests ; the regular clergy is reduced to practically nothing, consisting only of a few religious who have survived since the closing of the convents in 1863, and some Capuchins of the convent of Nowe Miasto, thirteen in number, altogether 22 priests and 2 lay brothers. In 1906 five Redemptorists took up their residence at Warsaw, but were expelled in 1909. Two convents of religious women exist at Warsaw; that of the Visitation, with 14 Sisters; that of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, with 13 Sisters. At Szymanow there is a convent of Sisters of the Immaculate Conception , numbering 30 religious. On the other hand the Sisters of Charity, at Warsaw, Kutno, Lowicz, Leczyc, Rawa, Skierniewice, Grojec, etc., number 382; they have charge of the hospitals, orphanages, almshouses, lunatic asylums, and sanatoria. The metropolitan seminary has 10 professors and 122 students. In 1816 the University of Warsaw had a faculty of Catholic theology ; in 1825 it was transformed into a seminary of higher studies; in 1835 the Tsar Nicholas I made it a Catholic ecclesiastical academy; but it was suppressed in 1867. The Diocese of Warsaw sends six or seven of its best students to the Catholic ecclesiastical seminary of St. Petersburg.

In the city of Warsaw the faithful number 414,620 souls ; in the diocese, 1,412,652, making 1,827,272 souls for the whole archdiocese. The city contains more than forty churches and chapels, most of which formerly belonged to the religious orders. The cathedral, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, dates from the thirteenth century; it contains many chapels, works of art, and tombs of illustrious Polish magnates; the famous Jesuit, Father Peter Skarga, preached there. It is a church of much historical importance for the events which have taken place in it, and is a parish church, served by a college of vicars, with a parish of 20,000 souls. The Augustinian Church of St. Martin, founded in the fourteenth century, has been since 1625 the seat of a very flourishing Confraternity of the Girdle; the religious were expelled from it in 1864. Next in order of importance are, among others; the Church of the Visitation of the Most Holy Mary, founded early in the fifteenth century, restored in 1829-41, with a parish of 19,000 souls ; the Church of S. Ann of the Bernardines, founded in the same century, where the mortal remains of Blessed Ladislaus of Gelniow are venerated ; Holy Cross, built in the first half of the sixteenth century, and given in 1663 to the Missionaries of St. Vincent de Paul . The religious were expelled from it in 1864. It stands in the aristocratic quarter of the city, and has a parish of 17,000 souls. The Dominican Church of St. James was built in the seventeenth century by the famous church historian Abram Bzowski (Bzovius). The Church of the Holy Spirit, the origin of which is said to date from the fourteenth century, was given to the Paulines in 1661, and in 1819 to the German Catholic Confraternity. St. Anthony, founded in the earlier half of the seventeenth century, was entrusted to the Reformed Franciscans ; it has been the parish church of 18,000 souls since 1864. The Assumption, built in the first half of the seventeenth century by the Carmelites, together with their convent, became in 1865-67 the seat of the Catholic academy, and is now occupied by the archdiocesan seminary. St. Francis, consecrated in 1646, is now the church of the military chaplains. St. Mary, founded by the Jesuits and completed in 1626, was afterwards given to the Paulines and Piarists. The Transfiguration, formerly a Capuchin church, founded by John Sobieski to commemorate the deliverance of Vienna from the Turks, became in 1866 a parish church of 6000 souls. The Carmelite Church of the Nativity, built in the sixteenth century, is now the church of a parish with 42,000 souls. The Most Holy Trinity, Trinitarian, was begun in 1699; it now serves a parish of 38,000 souls. The church of St. Alexander, built by Tsar Alexander I in 1836, is magnificently adorned with sculpture and paintings, but is not in favour with patriotic Poles. All Saints, a modern church, consecrated in 1883, has a parish of 60,000 souls. Our Lady of Loreto, in the popular suburb of Praga, has 82,000 souls in its parish.

After Warsaw, the chief centre of population in the diocese is Lodz, which has two parish churches, the Assumption (92,000 souls ) and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (142,734 souls ). Notwithstanding the unfavourable circumstances under which the Diocese of Warsaw exists, Catholicism there is in a flourishing condition, and piety is vigorous among its inhabitants. The secular clergy is insufficient in number to supply the spiritual needs of the flock, and unfortunately the assistance of regular clergy is wanting. Catholicism has to combat the corruption of morals fomented in a thousand ways by anti-Christian agencies; the anti-clerical propaganda of the Socialists and the Freethinkers, who have founded a periodical the "Mysl Niepodlegla" (Independent Thought), to defame religion and its ministers ; the legal persecution of the Russian Government; lastly, the Mariavites, who are scattered throughout the Diocese of Warsaw. Lodz has now become the centre of Mariavitism; there, according to Mariavitist statistics, the adherents of the sect numbered 40,000. Charitable works are highly developed at Warsaw, but it is regretted that the Catholic press is not as flourishing as it ought to be.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Song of Songs 3:1-4
1 On my bed at night I sought the man who is my ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
2 Thus I have gazed on you in the sanctuary, seeing ... Read More

Gospel, John 20:1-2, 11-18
1 It was very early on the first day of the week and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Mary Magdelene
July 22: She is called "the Penitent". St. Mary was given the ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter