Płock – cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary

History

   The first brick cathedral on the Tumsk Hill in Płock was erected by Bolesław Śmiały or Władysław Herman. In 1127, it was destroyed during the Pomeranian invasion, and in its place in 1130, the bishop of Płock, Alexander of Malonne, started to build a new, magnificent temple. From that period came the magnificent bronze door ordered by the bishop of Magdeburg a few years later. On 26 casts of bronze, scenes from the life of Jesus and the apostles were depicted. Few churches in Europe could afford such a costly ornament. Probably in the next century, during one of the invasions, the doors were robbed by the Lithuanians and donated to the prince of Novgorod the Great in Rus, where they are still in the sobor of Saint Sophia. Only the accurate copy made of bronze was suspended in Płock cathedral.
   
In the stormy for Płock XIII century, the cathedral suffered severely several times as a result of the tribal invasions from the north. At the end of this century, a porch was added to the façade with two gothic towers on the sides, which in 1492 had to be lowered, because they threatened to collapse. King Kazimierz the Great, despite the vow given in 1370, failed to carry out a thorough renovation, of the falling into ruin building. During the fifteenth century, it was subjected to numerous repairs, but these were more immediate actions, caused by the threat of collapse.

   In 1530 a lightning strike caused a great fire, as a result of which, part of the walls and vaults collapsed. A year later, the chapter decided to rebuild it. At that time, the destroyed northern part of the church was erected, but it soon collapsed again and the walls broke even more. For this reason bishop Andrzej Krzycki began to rebuild the temple from scratch using romanesque stones. Italian architects under the supervision of Bernard de Gianotis, who also worked at Wawel Castle, erected a three-nave basilica in the renaissance style on the romanesque outline, with a dome at the intersection of the nave and transept. The building was completed in 1563 by Jan Baptiste called the Venetian, giving it its final shape. It was the largest temple erected in the 16th century in Poland. Unfortunately the rich romanesque architectural details and gothic furnishings of the temple were destroyed.
  
In the second half of the seventeenth century, the towers were decorated with baroque helmets. After another hundred years, the cathedral again required major renovation. In 1778, the cracked walls of towers and facades were supported by a classical, columned portico, and in this shape the cathedral survived until the beginning of the 20th century. In the years 1901-1903 a thorough renovation and reconstruction of the temple was carried out, which at the same time was to restore its former renaissance appearance. During World War II, the temple was turned into a warehouse, but luckily it avoided major damages.

Architecture

   The romanesque cathedral of bishop Alexander of Malonne was built of carefully prepared granite stones. It was a three-nave, probably two-choir basilica with a transept and presbytery finished with an apses. The western choir was flanked by two towers. It represented a rare type of architecture in Poland, for which analogy should be sought in the art of the Meuse region. 
   In the years 1532-1535, a renaissance basilica was erected on the foundations of a romanesque building using stone from an older building. The biggest change of the cathedral was the construction of two western towers in the second half of the 16th century, stylistically referring to late gothic buildings. During this work, the chancel was also extended.

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bibliography:
Kunkel R.M., Architektura gotycka na Mazowszu, Warszawa 2005.
Płock wczesnośredniowieczny, red. A. Gołembnik, Warszawa 2011.

Żabicki J., Leksykon zabytków architektury Mazowsza i Podlasia, Warszawa 2010.
Website plock.eu, Bazylika Katedralna Wniebowzięcia NMP.