After the formation of the first Polish bishopric in 968, Mieszko I started the construction of a three-nave, early romanesque basilica at Ostrów Tumski island in Poznań. It was destroyed around 1038 during the invasion of Czech prince Brzetyslav and to 1058 reconstructed as a romanesque basilica. Between 1243 and 1262, the early gothic chancel was erected by bishop Bogufał III, and in the second half of the 14th century a new gothic nave was erected. In the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, a further gothic reconstruction took place, during which a new chancel was erected and the whole was surrounded by a wreath of chapels. In the 17th century a thorough reconstruction of cathedral was made in the baroque style. After a fire in 1772, the church received a late baroque decor that survived until 1945. In 1779 the facade of the temple was rebuilt, adding new tower helmets. The cathedral was seriously destroyed in 1945 during the fighting for Poznań. Reconstruction was made in 1948-56 according to the design of Francis Morawski, giving the building of gothic forms from the 14th and 15th century, and the helm towers look from 1725-29.
The first romanesque cathedral was a three-nave basilica with a length of about 40 meters with a single tower extending in the lower part from the west. In the tower there was a two-storey matroneum, pushed deep into the church, from which it was separated by gallery supported on a single pillar. It was probably the prince’s lodge. The eastern end of the church is not certain, it could have been a simple wall with an apse or a tower on the extension of the central nave with a closure in the form of an apse.
The gothic cathedral is a three-nave basilica church with ambulatory and aisles, with 12 chapels, 2 vestries and a porch. The western part is crowned by two, four-sided, tall towers with buttresses. Three of the chapels in ambulatory are distinguished by size, five-sided layout and “cross” location. Originally these chapels were two-level, passing in the upper part to the five-sided towers that gave splendor to the eastern part. The rooms on the floors of these chapels-towers opened inside the choir with pointed arcades. They were important for the functioning of the cathedral, for they included the college, the chapter house and the room for the preparation of the liturgy. On the floors were the chapels and the bishop’s room. The main entrance to the cathedral is located in the front facade and leads through a gothic portal from the 15th century. The presbytery and the ambulatory are covered with a rib vault and the central nave and aisles with stellar vaults.
Equipment includes, among others, five gothic and renaissance bronze gravestones from the 14th and 15th centuries from the Nuremberg workshop, the tombstone of Benedict Izdbieński, and the magnificent renaissance tombstone of the Górka family dating back to 1574.
Basilica of St. Peter and Paul in Poznań is one of the oldest Polish churches and the oldest Polish cathedral. It is also the place of coronation and burial of the first rulers of Poland, and also the supposed place of baptism of Mieszko I. Its present appearance dates back to the period of reconstruction after the destruction of World War II, in which unfortunately, mistakes and free interpretations were not upheld (vaults, altitudes of choir and nave, lack of interiors of three main chapels). In the northern tower there is an entrance to the underground, where in the archaeological museum you can see fragments of the preromanesque and romanesque cathedral, as well as the relics of the tombs, probably the first rulers of Poland. There is also a baptismal font or a bowl serving of lime, from the tenth century.
Walczak M., Kościoły gotyckie w Polsce, Kraków 2015.
Website poznan.pl, Bazylika Archikatedralna św. Apostołów Piotra i Pawła.