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The Warsaw Voice » Destination Warsaw » August 1, 2013
Destination Warsaw
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Must-See Sites: Krasiński Palace
August 1, 2013   
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Nestled on Krasińskiego Square and opposite the modern court building complex near the Old Town, the Krasiński Palace was built in 1682-95 for a Polish nobleman named Jan Dobrogost Krasiński, a well-educated patron of the arts and the heir to a great fortune. He held many senior political positions in the country, including as a member of parliament. At the same time, Krasiński pursued a military career as a colonel and commander of an infantry regiment.

Known also as the Palace of the Republic, the Krasiński Palace was once the biggest and one of the most beautiful palaces in the Polish capital. It was one of the most richly furnished residences in the city, second only to those of the king, containing a gallery that included works of art by the likes of Rembrandt, Rubens, Dürer and Correggio.

The palace was originally designed by Tylman of Gameren in Baroque style. Tylman of Gameren came to Poland in 1661 and 11 years later was appointed the king’s architect. He designed several palaces and churches in Warsaw, as well as many residences in other parts of Poland. The Krasiński Palace is considered his most outstanding work.

After a fire in 1793, the palace was partially rebuilt inside. In the 20th century, during the interwar period, the palace housed the Supreme Court of Poland. The palace was burned down by the Germans during World War II.

The decorations inside, originally designed in the 1780s by Domenico Merlini, were reconstructed after WW II as was the building’s facade, which featured sculptures by Andreas Schlutter.

The Krasiński Gardens, accessible to the public since 1768, boast some imposing 19th-century trees—such as maidenhair trees, Caucasian wing nuts, black walnuts and Turkish hazels.

Today, the palace is home to the National Library’s Special Collections Section—manuscripts and old prints from the Załuski Library. The Załuski Library was established in Warsaw between 1747-1795 by Józef Andrzej Załuski and his brother Andrzej Stanisław Załuski, both Roman Catholic bishops. The library was the first public library in Poland, the largest in the country and one of the earliest public libraries in Europe.

The library initially held some 200,000 items, which grew to some 400,000 printed items, maps and manuscripts by the end of the 1780s. It also accumulated a collection of art, scientific instruments, and plant and animal specimens. After the Ko¶ciuszko Uprising in 1794 the library’s collection was seized by the Russians on orders from Empress Catherine II and transported to St. Petersburg. Part of the collection was damaged or destroyed, while some items were stolen. Under the 1921 Treaty of Riga, about 50,000 items from the collection were returned to Poland in the 1920s. The Germans deliberately destroyed most of the library’s collection after the failed Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Today, the palace is only open by appointment to see the collection or for special events.
Jolanta Wolska
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