Residence of the Apostolic Nunciature in Poland

Until the period of Partitions, nuncios resided, inter alia, in the Theatine Fathers’ Monastery located at Długa Street and in the Archbishops of Gniezno Palace in Skierniewice. There is a lack of more detailed information on this subject.

After the First World War, Monsignor Achilles Ratti came to Warsaw as apostolic visitor. At the beginning, he was hosted by Archbishop Kakowski who allocated an apartment in Archbishop Palace at Miodowa Street to his disposal. Monsignor Achilles Ratti stayed there till 5 June 1918.

The next place of residence for the papal envoy was the parsonage of St. Alexander parish located at 21, Książęca Street. Monsignor Achilles Ratti continued to live there also after having been nominated on 6 June 1919 by Pope Benedict XV as the Apostolic Nuncio to Poland. His successor, Archbishop Lorenzo Lauri, took up residence in the same place. In this way, the parsonage building continued to be a residence of the local parson and at the same time “was promoted” to the rank of the Apostolic Nunciature building.

In the 1920s, episcopacy decided to buy a property in Warsaw that would serve as a residence for the representatives of the Holy See. The task of finding an appropriate estate was entrusted to mitred prelate Stanisław Adamski, a priest from Archdiocese of Poznań who later became a Bishop of Katowice.

According to the number 5055 of the land and mortgage register, in the year 1924, mitred prelate Stanisław Adamski bought, in his name, a property located in Warsaw at 10, Aleja Szucha, with the area of 5863 ells which equals 1945 square kilometres (register number 5394). In post-war period, the address of the property was changed to 12, First Polish Army Avenue. The cost of the property was 70 thousand USA dollars; it was bought from a married couple, Tekla (maiden name Węgierek) and Maksymilian Jezierscy. The transaction was made on the recommendation of and financed by the Polish Bishops’ Conference. Priest Adamski donated the property to the Holy See with a legal instrument written by Zygmunt Wasiutyński and dated 30 September 1924. The deed of donation was written in the land and mortgage register on 14 October 1924. On behalf of the Holy See, the property was taken over by Monsignor Carlo Chiarlo.

It was marked with the number 5394 in the inventory of real estate assets in Warsaw in 1928 (owner: the Holy See). Its address was 12, Aleja Szucha whilst at the moment of purchase its address was 10, Aleja Szucha. It is possible that between the years 1924 and 1928 there was a change in numbering of Aleja Szucha. Today, the building still bears the number 12.

The documents attached to the land and mortgage register do not give any information about the size of the building located on the property premises. It is only known that it was a one-floor edifice. Little is known about its history. It was probably built in the last quarter of the nineteenth century because the entry in the land and mortgage register was written in 1883. On the basis of Polish sources, it is impossible to determine to what extent the building was rebuilt or adapted, after having being bought by the Holy See, in order to realize the tasks of apostolic nunciature.

At the beginning of December 1924, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Lorenzo Lauri moved to the palace of nunciature at Aleja Szucha and on 4 December the building was ceremoniously delivered.

On 31 December 1929, Nuncio Marmaggi ceremonially consecrated the building of nunciature and devoted it to the Sweet Heart of Jesus.

During the term of his office, the nunciature building was thoroughly renovated and received a new chapel with decoration which referred to the history of Poland. On the walls there were paintings which presented saints, patrons of Poland, Our Lady of Częstochowa, scenes depicting the defence of Jasna Góra in 1655 and the Battle of Warsaw on 15 August 1920 (the so-called “miracle at the Vistula River”). The chapel was consecrated on 8 December 1932 by Cardinal Aleksander Kakowski.

The next Nuncio, Archbishop Filippo Cortesi, engaged into decoration of the nunciature and he even had a plan for the extension of the building by adding one more level. At the beginning of July 1939, he received consent of the Holy See to undertake an overhaul but the looming of the Second World War made all the plans impossible to implement.

When Archbishop Cortesi left Poland, a Salesian priest Tadeusz Głąb stayed in the building at Aleja Szucha and took care of the property and of what was left in it.

On 6 September 1939, the first bomb was dropped on the building, and on the next days, five more bombs fell. As a result, the insides of the building changed into ruins and the surrounding garden was devastated.

It is difficult to determine what was happening in nunciature during wartime occupation. It is only known that priest Głąb performed his duties until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising.

After the wartime conflagration, the returning inhabitants of Warsaw started to rebuild the totally destroyed capital. Cardinal August Hlond constituted the Primate Council for Rebuilding the Churches of Warsaw. Restoring the residence of the nuncio symbolized faithfulness of Polish Church to the Holy See. A project of reconstruction and extension of the building by adding one more level according to the unrealized plan of Nuncio Cortesi was prepared by architecture engineer Władysław Tomaszewski. It was approved by Church authorities and endorsed on 13 June 1947 by the representative of the president of Warsaw, architecture engineer Kazimierz Mieszkis.

The building must have been seriously devastated because the above-mentioned permission for starting the construction work included a condition that before starting the re-building process, all the endangering fragments of walls should be removed and structural walls should be prepared.

The restoration work was done particularly quickly. In a letter dated 21 April 1948, cardinal Hlond addressed ordinary bishops with the following words: “rebuilding of the Apostolic Nunciature in Warsaw comes to an end; however, the remaining tasks and furnishings will require considerable financial outlay.” Therefore, Cardinal Hlond appealed to the bishops for financial support and personally gave an example by donating money for the refurbishment.

The successor of Cardinal Hlond, Archbishop Stefan Wyszyński, after his arrival in Warsaw on 14 January 1949 stayed for a short time in a Jesuit building at Narbutta Street.

On 7 February 1949, he canonically took rules over archdiocese of Warsaw and on 14 February, moved his residence to the building of the Apostolic Nunciature where the office of the Primate of Poland was moved as well. On the same day, Archbishop Wyszyński dedicated the house to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Primate of Poland resided in the building of the Apostolic Nunciature until 27 December 1952 because on this day he went on a trip to Częstochowa and Gniezno and upon returning to Warsaw, on 3 January 1953, he moved into a recently rebuilt residence of Warsaw Archbishops at 17, Miodowa Street. The office of the Primate of Poland was also located there.

When the construction work was finished, the secretariat of the Primate of Poland started to administer nunciature building. In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the representatives of the Holy See who used to come to Poland always stayed in that building.

In 1966, at the recommendation of the Primate, Jesuit Father Kazimierz Chudy assumed the duties of an administrator of the Apostolic Nunciature building in Warsaw. He immediately undertook the task of an overhaul. It was an urgent issue because at the beginning of the 1970s, when Władysław Gomułka was replaced by Edward Gierek who headed the newly formed government, the representatives of the Holy See were frequently coming to Poland to talk with contemporaneous Polish authorities about normalization of bilateral relations.
In 1985, when the overhaul of nunciature building was completed, Father Kazimierz Chudy was moved to St. Stephen parish located at 21, Narbutta Street in Warsaw.

A year later, the residence was assumed by auxiliary Bishop of Warsaw, Marian Duś, Additionally, he served as an administrator on behalf of the secretariat of the Primate of Poland. This situation continued until the proper host assumed the building after 50 year-long pause. Archbishop Józef Kowalczyk, the first Nuncio since 1939, arrived in Warsaw in autumn 1989.

It was necessary to adapt the building to give it a character of a diplomatic post aimed at representing the Holy See.

Refurbishment and renovation works of the whole building were conducted in a very short space of time. The work was done on the external part of the building, in the surrounding garden as well as inside the building where nunciature offices had to be arranged. It was necessary to organize logistic facilities which would enable performing the role of a representative post. It was connected, inter alia, with the function of the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps exercised by the Apostolic Nuncio. It is noteworthy that about seventy diplomatic representations functioned in Warsaw at that time.

Renovation works were conducted by Michaelite priest Stanislaw Stachera together with a whole team of contractors. Owing to a high level of generosity of Polish dioceses as well as of individual donors, it was possible to furnish the whole building.

Before the visit of the Holy Father John Paul II in June 1991, it was necessary to expedite the restoration works in order to make it possible to receive the dignified guest together with his entourage.

On the second floor, a chapel was built according to the project of Professor Wincenty Kućma. It received interesting interior design in the form of “the biblical burning bush” and the vestry was furnished with furniture and liturgical vestments. Next to the chapel, a room for the Holy Father was prepared. Some of the old and valuable paintings and pieces of furniture were refurbished. In March and April 1991, the elevation of the building was renovated. The columned arcade of the main entrance was modernized and given the shape of glass porch with glass double doors.

In March 1990, paving stones before the main entrance to the building were inscribed with the papal keys and symbolic memorial dates: year 1919 commemorating the beginnings of nunciature at the times of the Apostolic Nuncio Achilles Ratti and year 1989 marking the resuming of nunciature activity. Mosaic of Pope John Paul II herb was prepared in the Vatican workshop and it was put on the fronton of the building.
Also, garages and a detached house with lodgings for Sisters serving in the nunciature were subjected to an overhaul.

However, the building of the Apostolic Nunciature was too small considering the representative needs of the establishment. Therefore, when the Holy Father’s visit ended, in order to enlarge the dwelling space, the patio was closed and developed up to the height of the first floor. The project was done by colonel MSc engineer Ryszard Tarasewicz from Military Office for Building Studies and Projects in Warsaw.

In 1993, a historical act took place; Polish Catholic Bishops’ Conference delivered a new plot of land located in the vicinity of nunciature. It enabled the extension of the nunciature building.

The construction works were supervised by Monsignor Karol Łapiński. The extension was done in an economic way according to the general project of engineers Bogdan Ciok and Tomasz Zemła. The latter prepared a project of an elevation of the extended part of the building. In this way, the area of nunciature was doubled.

A new spacious chapel was built. The preparation of its interior design was entrusted to engineer Jerzy Machaj. Stained-glass windows were installed according to the project done by Barbara Pawłowska from Warsaw. The original chapel was disassembled and its furnishings were delivered to the parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Szczawno, in the diocese of Tarnów.

The representative part was enlarged by adding a big reception room intended as a place for different meetings connected with exercising by the Apostolic Nuncio the function of the Dean of Diplomatic Corps.

It is noteworthy that nunciature gained rooms for guests coming in connection with more and more often organized international conferences. Before another visit of John Paul II expected in Poland in 1999, a spacious papal apartment was prepared for the Holy Father. Also, in a detached building, accommodation was arranged for persons accompanying the Holy Father on his trip.

The administrative area of nunciature was modernized and enlarged while the Sisters received a new residential building and a chapel for their disposal.

The part of the inner fencing on the south side was surrounded with arcades and the whole area was beautified with greenery. The final construction works were supervised by engineer Henryk Bedyński.

On 30 April 1998, Angelo Sodano, the Secretary of State of His Holiness the Pope, ceremonially consecrated the new part of nunciature building.