St. Alexander's Church in WarsawCopyright: © Public Domain
Religious heritage, reconstruction and identity. St. Alexander's Church in Warsaw in context (tentative title)
After the Second World War Warsaw was reshaped as capital of a socialist state. The city was severely damaged during the war and rebuilt during the post-war decades. A capital is a stage for state ideology, the architectural appearance a platform for manifestations and celebrations, the urban landscape a setting for social and political life. The postwar reconstruction of war damaged socialist cities typically included a secularization of the urban space. In Warsaw, reconstruction of ecclesiastical buildings was part of the rebuilding of the destroyed city. Churches including their towers were brought back in the urban landscape. Religious heritage is an important part of local and national identity. Unlike other socialist cities, where churches were destroyed or kept as ruins for shaping a socialist identity, in Warsaw the reconstruction of religious heritage can be regarded an instrument for reviving national identity. In Warsaw, the religious buildings were reconstructed as part of the shaping of a state identity, the spirit as capital city of an independent Polish nation was reconstructed. Saint Alexander’s Church is a perfect example. Reconstructing this building to its state prior the remodeling during the later nineteenth century must be understood as premeditated. The motivation for constructing St Alexander’s in the early nineteenth century, the design concept, has importance. Rebuilding churches in Warsaw becomes an act of legitimizing the Polish People’s Republic as the lawful successor of an independent Poland and a heir of the state that adopted the 3 May 1791 constitution.
The dissertation focuses among others on the following questions:
Why was the war-damaged Warsaw St. Alexander's Church rebuilt in the years 1949-1952 in the new Polish People's Republic? Why was the reconstruction according to the original, classicistic design of Piotr Aigner (1818-1825) as an example of a Pantheon inspired building and not according to the historicistic transformation by Józef Pius Dziekoński (1886-1895), which formed the pre-war state? Was it usual to rebuilt religious heritage during the postwar reconstruction of Europe, especially in a socialist city like Warsaw?