There are many hidden places in Poland that you may not know about or even seen without the help of those in the know. I had no idea this hidden gem existed. I would say that I had walked past it many times and never realised it was there. This amazing jewel in Lodz’s eclectic architecture can be found next to one of the most popular shopping destinations in the city, Manufactura. I was given the clue that this place existed through a conversation with one of my students who was explaining the history of another church near to their home. This hidden pearl is The Church of Saint Joseph, Spouse of Virgin Mary Parish Church.
Saint Joseph church was originally named the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The first wooden version of the church is dated to about 1370. It was founded by the owner of Lodz, Bishop Zbylut Golanczewski and located in the vicinity of what today is the crossroads of Zahodnia and Lutomierska Street. At the same time Bishop of Gniezno – Jaroslaw Bogoria Skotnicki officially founded a parish there. Various disasters, fires, military raids on the city contributed to the church’s neglect and subsequent decline.
Between the years 1765-1768 a new church with a stone foundation was built under the auspices of Bishop of Kujawy – Antoni Ostrowski. It was situated on the so called Gorki Plebanskie (today known as Plac Koscielny). Until the 18th century Lodz remained a small village and the church effectively met its parochial responsibilities. During the years of 1835-1857 the church was reconstructed making the church longer and stronger.
In the 1880 Lodz was becoming an important industrial centre and the parish boasted a 6000 strong congregation. Consequently, in 1881 it was suggested that the church be enlarged further. The construction efforts were seen as inadequate and a decision was made that a new brick church should replace the original wooden structure. The Russian authorities (at the time Poland did not exist and had been split between the Russian, Prussian and Austro-Hungarian Empires) authorities ordered the old church to be pulled down and its then vicar Jan Siemiec resolved to move the temple to a new location.
An Old Cemetery on Ogrodowa Street which had been unused since 1856 was chosen as the new location. The Russian authorities were informed that after the relocation and the main alter will hold a painting depicting St Nicolas and that in front of it people will pray for Tsar Nicholas I. The idea worked and so after 123 years, the church was relocated. A legend has it that was moved in only one day by the workers of the nearby Israel Kalmanowicz Poznanski’s textile mill. In fact the whole process started on the 10th of April 1888 and was finished on the 21st of May 1888, the church was consecrated by the Archbishop of Warsaw and was given the name Saint Joseph and functioned as a filial church to the Parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This changed in 1910 when Archbishop Chosciak Popial decreed the foundation of Saint Joseph Parish. The first vicar appointed, introduced further structural changes, adding side aisles, side alter and a modernised Presbytery.
In the following decades further changes were made to the church with five new alters being made for the church and further rebuilding with the side chapels being widened. There was also further redecoration of the church with polychrome paintings, which led to the church losing some of its original character. St Joseph Church has it unique appeal despite its architecture being ill-suited in the centre of a large city. The church remains one of the oldest buildings in Lodz and a mute witness to the city’s history.
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