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She was Poland’s youngest monument. Demolition of the Tarnów chapel

Alex’s Votum Chapel is located in the small town of Tarnow in the municipality of Wilga in the Mazowieckie Voivodeship. It was built on a private plot of land in 2011. Its design was prepared by architects Marta Rowińska and Lech Rowiński of the Beton studio. The building was entered in the register of monuments in 2022, but its demolition began a few days ago.

It was the youngest monument in Poland. The chapel was entered in the register of monuments by the Mazovian Regional Monuments Conservator in 2022. Previously, the building had been covered by the trade media and foreign titles about architecture. It was impressed by its honest, simple form, its use of wood and its setting in picturesque greenery. The simple religious building stood in contrast to the often over-decorated churches in Poland.

The architects designed the building on a rectangular plan; the gable wall with the entrance was clad in boarding. A double door led into the interior. The first room was the vestibule, the next the nave. On the other side, a transparent wall was built framing the view of the greenery. This was a deliberate measure to promote concentration and tranquillity. The construction was initiated and funded by a private donor who wanted to refer to the wooden church that existed in the village in the 17th century.

At the time of its construction, the building was very impressive. It was among 45 buildings from across Europe that competed for the prestigious Mies van der Rohe Architecture Prize in 2011.

The demolition was reported by Tomasz Urzykowski of Gazeta Wyborcza, who received the news from a concerned reader. The published photos of the demolition were taken by the reader on 7 April. Last Sunday he wanted to visit the chapel, to see the ‘architectural gem’….

What was my surprise when, on arrival, I found that the chapel was currently being dismantled! Theroof and some of the sheathing were gone, and loose planks and sawdust were strewn about the plot,” reads a message sent to the Wyborcza.

In September 2022. prof. Jakub Lewicki, the then Mazovian Voivodeship Historic Preservation Officer, entered the chapel in the register of monuments. The entry was requested by the Foundation for the Protection of Monuments of Mazovia. Such legal protection was intended to safeguard the building from destruction. At the time, Professor Lewicki justified that Alex’s Votum was: “…a work of a bygone era, as it is one of the last examples of wooden sacred architecture erected in the Polish lands for several hundred years and is a testimony to the very high artistic level of this architecture“. The small chapel thus became the youngest monument in Poland in 2022.

So what happened that the object no longer exists?

photo by a reader, after

Just before the founder’s death in November 2011, the plot of land with the chapel was taken over by new owners. Initially they wanted to sell the building, but without the land. It was to be relocated to another site. Such a translocation is allowed by law.

After being listed in the register as Mazovian Provincial Conservator of Monuments, I wanted to finance the translocation and proposed this to the current owner. Thank you for the good and constructive discussion with the owners on this subject. It was absolutely the only chance to save this monument and outstanding piece of architecture. It was a so-called rescue entry. The current owner, for personal reasons, did not want to save the chapel and had the right to do so. This was due to a conflict with the previous owner, who was the founder and investor inthe chapel,” informs Prof. Jakub Lewicki.

We wrote about the chapel in 2022, its photos can be found here:

Najmłodszy zabytek w Polsce. Kaplica w Tarnowie ma zaledwie 11 lat!

The new owners appealed the conservator’s decision to the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. The Ministry overturned the decision of the provincial conservator on 21 February 2023 and ordered him to reconsider the case. Thus, the case has not been clearly resolved. As Wyborcza reports, against this decision, the owners filed an objection to the Provincial Administrative Court, which, on 27 April 2023, agreed with them and ruled that the ministry should make a decision on the issue. on 14 September, the ministry overturned the conservator’s decision and announced that the building had not been added to the register. “…the object in question does not fulfil the prerequisites of the legal definition of a monument” – mKiDN informed.

Thus, in the majesty of the law, Polish architecture lost a building that was considered by architecture experts to be one of the most outstanding sacred works of the 21st century.

source: Mazovian Voivodeship Historic Monuments Conservator,

Read also: sacral architecture | Wood | Archialert | Monument | Architecture in Poland | whiteMAD on Instagram

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