Presidential Palace in Warsaw
Contact: Sightseeing of the Presidential Palace is free of charge. It takes place in organized groups with a guide after prior arrangement of a date. Interested persons should send an application to a fax number 22 695 11 09. More info: [email protected]
* * *
Utility function: Seat of the President of the Republic of Poland
The Palace was erected in the 1640s by the Great Crown Hetman Stanisław Koniecpolski and his son Aleksander, according to a design of Constantino Tencalla - a court architect of King Władysław IV. Only a few years after the palace was erected it became the property of the Lubomirski family and since 1674, for almost 150 years it was in the hands of the Radziwiłł family of the Nieświeska branch. Between 1768 and 1778 it was adapted to serve as a theater, where King Stanisław August Poniatowski had his box.
The palace played a significant role during the Great Sejm session; the first political party - the Assembly of Friends of the Government Act of 3rd May was in session there between 1791 and 1792. In 1818 it was purchased by the government of the Congress Kingdom and adapted to be the seat of the Governor. Then General Józef Zajączek started to live there.
An 8-year-old Frederic Chopin performed publicly for the first time in the palace in February 1818 at a concert organized by the Warsaw Charity Society.
At the beginning of the 19th century the palace was rebuilt into the classicist style, giving it the shape we know today. In 1821 sculptures of lions by Camillo Laudini were placed at the front of the palace.
In 1852 the main body of the palace was almost entirely destroyed as a result of a fire. Reconstruction works were supervised by Alfons Kropiwnicki, who built the Grand Theater in Warsaw together with Antonio Corazzi and reconstructed the Saint Charles Borromeus Church at Powiązki.
After Poland regained independence in 1918, the palace became the seat of the Prime Minister and the side wings were occupied by the offices of the Chancellery of the Council of Ministers.
At the time of occupation, between 1941 and 1942 the palace was rebuilt into the Deutsches Haus - it was then a luxurious hotel with a casino. As it was not destroyed during the defense of Warsaw in September 1939 and during the Warsaw Rising, after the end of World War II and after the adverse changes in its architecture introduced by the Germans were removed, it could fulfill public functions again - it became the seat of the prime minister and the Council of Ministers.
In 1955 the Warsaw Pact was signed at the palace and in December 1970 - the agreement concerning the basis of normalization of mutual relations between Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany.
From 6th February to 5th April 1989 at the palace at Krakowskie Przedmieście the sessions of the Round Table proceeded to start the process of democratic systemic changes in Poland and all of Central and Eastern Europe.
In 1994, after completion of four years' renovation works, a new stage in the history of the palace began - it became the official seat of the President of the Republic of Poland and has been named the Presidential Palace ever since.
The turn of the 20th and the 21st centuries was marked by important events for our history in the calendar of the palace. It was here that the President of the Republic of Poland signed the Constitution of the Republic of Poland (1997) and ratified the Treaty of Poland's accession to NATO (1999) and EU (2003).
During its long history the palace was rebuilt and renovated many times as it currently is. In April 2011 the staircase was renovated. Also commemorative plaques were unveiled on the facade of the palace. In February 2010, exactly at the 192nd anniversary of Frederic Chopin' s first public concert, which took place in the palace, a plaque commemorating that event was unveiled.
In August 2010 a plaque commemorating the victims of the plane catastrophe near Smolensk, including the presidential couple Maria and Lech Kaczyński, was unveiled on the wall of the southern wing of the palace, on the side of Krakowskie Przedmieście, near the place where a cross was placed in the days of the mourning.
In September 2010 the President of the Republic of Poland, Bronisław Komorowski unveiled a plaque at the chapel commemorating all persons connected with the presidential office both from the Chancellery of the President and from the National Security Bureau who died in the catastrophe near Smolensk. On the first anniversary of the Smolensk catastrophe a plaque was unveiled in the palace chapel commemorating priest Roman Indrzejczyk, the chaplain of President Lech Kaczyński, who died tragically at the Smolensk catastrophe.
Description of rooms:
The Main Hall
The Main Hall is relatively modestly furnished. A marble fireplace, a baroque Gdańsk-style wardrobe and January Suchodolski's painting entitled "The Death of Cyprian Godebski at Raszyn" constitute its main decorations. At the Main Hall guests are welcomed in the name of the President of the Republic of Poland. Only heads of states are welcomed by the President in person.
The Hall affords views of ten works of Jerzy Nowosielski, including abstract pieces, landscapes, Orthodox monasteries. Jerzy Nowosielski, who was born in 1923 and died in 2011, was one of the most prominent figures in the Polish contemporary culture. Painting, theology, teaching art and engagement for the promotion and support of Polish art are only a few examples of the disciplines in which Jerzy Nowosielski excelled.
The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Chapel is a place of prayers of the President, the First Lady, the ministers of the Chancellery and the invited guests. There are gifts from popes: John Paul II and Benedict XVI, on the walls as well as a cross cut in the remains of the World Trade Center towers destroyed on 2001. Beside the cross there is a plaque devoted to the attacks in New York with words of a psalm engraved: "Thou hast made the earth to tremble; thou hast broken it: heal the breaches thereof; for it shaketh". There are commemorative plaques in the floor, at the place where John Paul II and Benedict XVI prayed. On the wall there are plaques commemorating the officers of the Chancellery of the President and the National Security Bureau, who died in the catastrophe near Smolensk as well as of the President's chaplain, priest Roman Indrzejczyk. Also the peace light from Bethlehem given every year to the President by scouts is kept at the chapel.
The Rococo Hall
The hall is called feminine because of its decor. When the heads of states are conducting talks at the White Hall, their wives are waiting at the Rococo Hall for their conclusion. Presidents' wives, usually dealing with charitable activity, host their guests in this hall. It also happens that the President hands in souvenirs to his guests in this hall.
The White Hall
The most important hall in the Presidential Palace. Our head of state hosts foreign heads of states in this hall. The Hall is located on the axis of the main entrance so after the greeting of a guest by the President at the courtyard, they move on to the White Hall for the first talks. Only the most important persons take part in these talks, not all the delegation coming to the Palace. 17th and 18th century paintings and Miśnia porcelain vases are decorations of this hall.
The Dining Hall
The Hall where the President hosts a gala lunch for his guests. It also happens that the Head of the Cabinet or the Head of the Chancellery meet important persons here whom the President cannot meet on a given day.
The Blue Hall
The more important conferences take place in this hall and foreign delegations are hosted. There is a place for the President of the Republic of Poland in the middle of the table put in this hall. There are two important portraits on the walls - of Prince Poniatowski and of Tadeusz Kościuszko.
The Staircase connects the Hetman's Hall with the Antechamber and the Column Hall. At the foot of the stairs there is a sculpture of "Prometheus" by Pius Wieloński.
The Antechamber's (fr. antichambre) name originates from French and means a room of greetings located in front of the ball room. When the Column Hall used to be a Ball Room, the arrival of subsequent guests used to be announced there. Today it is a kind of a hall that may be passed on the way to the head's of state secretariat as well as to the office of the Head of the Cabinet of the President of Poland. It continues to be the place where greetings with guests take place before gala dinners hosted by the President in honor of the heads of states paying official visits to Poland. It is a special ceremony at which guests stand in a line holding cards with a name and surname. Before the greeting of heads of states cards are handed in to the head of protocol, who reads the name and surname aloud. From there the guests move on to the Column Hall, where they take their seats at the tables.
The Column Hall (The Ball Room)
It is the largest room in the Presidential Palace that is best known from TV reports. All ceremonies with a greater number of people participating take place in this room. This is the place where the President appoints and dismisses governments, confers scientific titles, appoints judges, confers ranks of general, highest state decorations and orders. That room was also witness to important events of the recent history of Poland. Here in 1955 the authorities of the People's Republic of Poland, the Soviet Union and other communist bloc states signed the Warsaw Pact. In 1989 representatives of the government met at the round table with the representatives of the opposition in this room. 10 years later, on 12th March 1999 the treaty of accession of Poland to NATO was signed here and on 23rd July 2003 the treaty of accession of Poland to the EU.
The chandelier in this room consists of 5 rings and 80 candles, in the lower part of the chandelier there are 3,600 crystals. In the 19th century the chandelier was lighted with gas. In February 2009 the carpet was replaced. The previous one was 40 years old. The new carpet has a surface of 185 square meters and was designed by Professor Jolanta Rudzka-Habisiak, a renowned specialist in artistic weaving, and was created by the "Agnella" Factory of Carpets.
Gala dinners in honor of heads of states are hosted in this room. Interestingly, in the diplomatic protocol a breakfast has a similar form to a traditional dinner and begins at about 1 p.m. and lasts for about 2 hours. A dinner is considered an evening meal during which the host makes a formal toast in honor of the hosted guests.
The Banquet Hall (The Painting Hall)
The hall got a name of a painting hall for the number and size of paintings exhibited here. During important ceremonies, national celebrations or important nominations a reception for the guests is prepared in this hall. The judges, professors, generals or newly appointed members of the government come in here from the Column Hall.
The Banquet Hall is also a place where cabinet councils are held - sessions of government under the leadership of the President of the Republic of Poland and credentials of the newly appointed ambassadors are presented. The Banquet Hall also happens to be used as a place of conferences and meetings of the President with the media.
The Winter Salon (The Winter Garden)
A new room, which was created in 2000 by covering up of a terrace that remained unused. Now it embodies the connection of secession with modernity. Stained-glass windows symbolize seasons of the year. Snacks are served for guests and behind-the-scenes talks are often conducted in this part of the palace after celebrations. Two sculptures decorate the salon: a marble one "Psyche with doves" by Wiktor Brodzki from 1881 and "Snowball Tree" by Pius Weloński from 1896.
The Round Table
During the talks the Round Table was located in the Column Hall. Currently it is located in the right wing of the Presidential Palace because of the constant use of the Column Hall. On 6th February 2009 during the formal celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the talks the table was again moved to the Column Hall. An international conference condemning terrorism, organized after the attacks of 11th September 2011 was also held at this table. Since February 2009 lessons of history for students of Warsaw schools are conducted here.