Belvedere Residential Complex
Residence of the President of the Republic of Poland
The history of Belvedere - a classicist decoration of Trakt Królewski in Warsaw - began almost 500 years ago. In the first half of the 16th century, on the escarpment at the Vistula river, at the place where the Belvedere palace stands today Queen Bona's residence was most probably located. Another owner of these areas, the chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Krzysztof Zygmunt Pac rebuilt the old building or erected a new one on its place. It was named Belvedere from the Italian words 'bel vedere', which means 'a beautiful view'.
The golden period in the history of the palace began in the second half of the 18th century. The new owner, the last king of Poland Stanisław August Poniatowski included it into the Łazienki Park - his summer residence. At that time Belvedere was famous as one of the best manufactures of faience in Europe.
In 1818 the palace was purchased by the authorities of the Kingdom of Poland and was intended to be the residence of the commander in chief of the Polish army, the Grand Duke Constantine, brother of tsar Alexander I. Between 1819 and 1822 the palace was thoroughly rebuilt according to a design by an architect Jakub Kubicki. It was also then that a landscape garden was established at the back of Belvedere.
On 29th November 1830 the November Rising erupted in Warsaw. The insurgents attacked Belvedere with the purpose of holding the Grand Duke Constantine captive. However he managed to escape in dramatic circumstances.
Until the beginning of World War I Belvedere and Łazienki Park were at the Russian tsars' disposal. After the Russians withdrew from Warsaw between 1914 and 1918 the palace functioned as the seat of the German general-governor Hans von Beseler.
After Poland regained its independence Belvedere became the property of the reborn Polish state and was recognized a representative building of the Republic of Poland. In November 1918 the Chief of State, Marshal Józef Piłsudski moved into Belvedere. Later, in 1926 the palace served as a seat of the Polish Presidents - Gabriel Narutowicz and Stanisław Wojciechowski. After the so called "May Coup d'état" Józef Piłsudski returned to Belvedere to live there until his death in 1935. Between 1935 and 1939 the Marshal's memorial museum was located there.
In the period of Nazi occupation Hans Frank, the German governor-general resided at Belvedere. Between 1940 and 1943 the German rebuilt the palace. After the fall of the Warsaw Rising the Germans withdrawing from Warsaw did not manage to blow up Belvedere. The palace became the seat of the Presidium Office of the State National Council chaired by Bolesław Bierut. He later resided at Belvedere as the President of the People's Republic of Poland. Since 1952 the palace was the seat of the Council of State and its Chairman.
In 1989 Belvedere became the President's seat once again. At the beginning it served Wojciech Jaruzelski and since 1990 Lech Wałęsa, who was elected in popular democratic elections. In 1994 President of the Republic of Poland Lech Wałęsa decided to move to the palace at Krakowskie Przedmieście.
Between 1998 and 2001 a thorough renovation and reconstruction of Belvedere was conducted. The palace received a new facade, window woodwork was replaced, and the damaged isolation of walls and foundations was repaired. The reconstruction works included all architectural elements of the building, its surroundings as well as the historic furnishings.
Since 2010 Belvedere functions as the seat of the President of Republic of Poland. Also celebrations with the participation of the head of state or the representatives of the Chancellery of the President of Republic of Poland are held here.
The hall kept in the color of dove white, whose main decoration is the statue of Józef Piłsudski made of marble by Stanisław K. Ostrowski - a prototype of the Marshal's monument which was erected in front of Belvedere in 1998.
The hall with enormous mirrors is located in the south-eastern corner of the palace. One may also admire the arabesque paintings with zodiac signs blended into them here as well as a marble fireplace. There is also a caricature depicting Józef Piłsudski among the four mirrors of the hall - in the interwar period it was said that it depicts the Marshal with his advisors.
The bedroom part of the apartment of the Łowicz Duchess Joanna Grudzińska used to be located here. Because the original furniture did not survive, there are current empire style imitations of the furniture in this hall.
The Hall is known as the most representative in Belvedere. In the niche on the wall there are tapestries depicting genre scenes. The Hall used to be called the Blue Hall because of the hung Lyon Fabrics with arabesques. The current name refers to the paintings inspired by mural paintings discovered at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries in Pompei. The paintings exhibited in this hall are works of a Warsaw painter and collector Antoni Strzelecki from the end of the 19th century. This was the hall where the young Frederic Chopin gave concerts. It was also here that the meeting of Pope John Paul II and Edward Gierek took place in 1979.
The Blessed Virgin Mary Queen of Poland Chapel
The Chapel was called to life in 1990 on the initiative of President Lech Wałęsa at a place where the Łowicz Duchess Joanna Grudzińska used to pray. The interior was designed by Jerzy Kalina and the stained glass was performed by the workshop of Jerzy Owsiak. On the black granite wall there is a painting of the Mother of God of Częstochowa. A stylized cross created by the sculptor Zofia Wolska was founded by President Aleksander Kwaśniewski. Pope John Paul II prayed at the Belvedere Chapel in 1991. At the entrance there is a plaque commemorating this visit.
The exhibition devoted to Marshal of Poland Józef Piłsudski
The exhibition that counts almost 3 thousand memorabilia is located in the caves with barrel vaults. The majority of the exhibits were contributed by a Warsaw collector Janusz Ciborowski. Among them there are portraits and caricatures of the Marshal as well as medals depicting him, diplomas and documents.
The War Order of Virtuti Militari Cabinet
Here one can learn about the history of one of the oldest military orders granted in the world and the highest distinction granted for prominence on the battlefield. The first chevaliers of the order were Prince Józef Poniatowski and Tadeusz Kościuszko.
The first floor of the palace constitutes the residential part. At the palace garden a fountain and sculptures - personifications of seasons draw our attention.
Terms and scope of sightseeing:
Sightseeing of Belvedere is free of charge and takes place in organized groups of 15-20 people with a guide. The exhibitions devoted to the memory of Marshal Józef Piłsudski and the chevaliers of the War Order of Virtuti Militari may be visited from Monday through Friday and on selected Saturday of a month between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. (the last entrance at 2 p.m.).
Bookings for excursion groups:
Bookings of dates for sightseeing of the exhibition devoted to the memory of Marshal Józef Piłsudski and the Cabinet of the War Order of Virtuti Militari may be made at the office of the Guides' Tourist Office TRAKT phone no. (0-22) 827 80 68/69, fax no. (o-22) 827 66 02 or directly at the Belvedere Residence between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.: phone no. (0-22) 695 19 53, fax no. (0-22) 695 19 52, e-mail: [email protected] Individual tourists are guided together with organized groups. Because of the building's character the manager of the Residence reserve the right of cancellation of bookings even one day before the agreed date.