The first church in the place of today’s chancel was a wooden chapel built at the turn of the 13th and 14th century. This chapel at the beginning of the 14th century became the parish church of the town. From 1321 came a record of Gunter, the Warsaw vicar, in 1338 a suit against the Teutonic Knights was imposed on the door of the church, while during the Warsaw trial in 1339, there was a court in the church and in the mayor’s house on the Old Town Square.
Around 1390 – 1398, on the initiative of prince Janusz I the Elder, a brick Gothic building was built, which became the burial place of the Mazovian princes. In 1406, the parish church became a collegiate church and probably during this period the second stage of construction works took place. As a result, the Warsaw collegiate church became the largest, after Płock, medieval temple in Mazovia. Works on the nave were probably completed before 1428, when the wife of Prince Janusz, Anna, founded a chapel connected with the castle. By the end of the 15th century, three more chapels were founded from the foundations of wealthy burghers. Between 1465 and 1475 the inside of the church was vaulted, as evidenced by the payments received by bricklayer Nickel. In the first quarter of the 16th century, the Mazovian princess Anna financed the elevation of the tower and the construction of a new helmet, but unfortunately in 1544 it was destroyed by fire, and reconstruction work was abandoned. Instead, a free-standing belfry was built in 1586 at the southwest corner of the collegiate church.
In 1602, a massive Gothic western tower collapsed as a result of the hurricane, partially destroying the interior of the temple. During the reconstruction, the facade of the church was changed by building a new, early Baroque. After 1763 the sacristy was built. In the years 1837-1842, because of poor technical condition, the temple was rebuilt from government funds in the style of english neo-Gothic. It was created, among others, a new facade with a central tower.
The temple was almost completely destroyed by the Germans in 1944. It was reconstructed in 1948-1956, based on the plans of the original church from the 14th century, according to the project of reconstruction by Jan Zachwatowicz and Maria and Kazimierz Piechotkowie. Postwar facade is a new realization, built in the style of the so-called Gothic style and modeled on the facade of the Dominican church in Chełmno. In the years 2012-2015 the church was carrying out extensive renovation works. Among others facades were renovated and special educational routes were created.
The church was located within the city walls of the Old Town, between the castle and the market square. It was most likely established in two construction phases. First, around 1390, a three-bay, three-sided ended chancel was erected, while in the second stage, after 1406, a three-aisle, five-bay, hall corpus. This is evidenced by differences in the shape of buttresses and vaults as well as the height of the foundations of cornices and windows.
Originally, on the western side of the church there was a tower, built into the first bay of the central nave. Its ground floor served as a porch and the quadrangle upper part turned into an octagon. The lack of compatibility between the axes of bays and windows in the southern aisle was caused by the shortening on the west side of the originally intended nave. Initially, the tower was planned to be built outside the nave contour, and pulling it inside disrupted the originally measured rhythm of the pillars.
At the end of the main works, in 1428, the chapel of the Virgin Mary and St. Anne was erected. It was situated on the south side of the nave, it served as an exclusive oratory, connected by an indoor porch with a nearby castle. On the north side of the chancel there was a sacristy (maybe two-story), originally closed by a straight wall at the height of the first zygomatic rib from the east.
Inside the church, slender octagonal pillars were inserted, connected by moulded arcades. They are placed very high and penetrate into the vault zone, which was hung on brackets. The ribs are arranged in the form of stars with a diverse number of arms. The church closing works were completed in 1465, and until the end of the 15th century, only a few bourgeois chapels were added, and the tower was raised and topped with a conical tower at the beginning of the 16th century.
The present-day west elevation of the church is the result of post-war reconstruction and refers to the Masovian Gothic. It is divided by buttresses, between which there are three windows, and a brick portal in the middle. The façade is topped with a stone frieze and a stepped gable.
Architektura gotycka w Polsce, red. T. Mroczko i M. Arszyński, Warszawa 1995.
Kunkel R.M., Architektura gotycka na Mazowszu, Warszawa 2005.
Walczak M., Kościoły gotyckie w Polsce, Kraków 2015.
Żabicki J., Leksykon zabytków architektury Mazowsza i Podlasia, Warszawa 2010.
Website wikipedia.org, Bazylika archikatedralna św. Jana Chrzciciela w Warszawie.