Aleksandra Newskiego
Fot. Sławomir Milejski, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

St Alexander Nevsky Church – a masterpiece of Orthodox architecture in Lodz

The Church of St Alexander Nevsky is one of the most interesting examples of masonry church building in Lodz. The temple, showing influences of Byzantine and Russian art, is characterised by splendour and grandeur. It was built in the second half of the 19th century by the will of Lodz factory owners. Thanks to this initiative, the not very numerous Orthodox community living in Łódź received their own place of prayer meetings.

The area of the multinational and multicultural Łódź of the turn of the 19th and early 20th centuries abounded in temples and cemeteries of various faiths. Among the Catholics, Evangelicals and Jews living in the city, the few Orthodox belonged to the Piotrków Trybunalski parish, which had existed since 1788. The state of the Orthodox population was changed by the arrival of the 37th Ekaterinburg Infantry Regiment to the city after 1862. The idea of building a temple was also accelerated by the failed assassination attempt on Tsar Alexander II. It was decided to celebrate the ruler’s rescue in 1879 with the construction of an Orthodox church.

The church in 1896. Photo: Bronisław Wilkoszewski, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Aleksandra Newskiego

The building committee consisted of the most prominent industrialists of Lodz, headed by Karol Scheibler and Juliusz Heinzl. The project was entrusted to the long-time city architect Hilary Majewski. In 1880, construction began. The location of the church near the railway station further emphasised the symbolic significance associated with Russian rule. In May 1884, a parish was established. The new St Alexander Nevsky Church, with a capacity of 900 worshippers, was consecrated by Archbishop Leontius of Chelm and Warsaw.

Aleksandra Newskiego
Interior of the church before the war. Source: State Archive in Łódź

The mass of the proportional, small temple is based on a central plan. The body of the church is covered with a cupola, and to the west there is a square three-storey tower covered with a golden onion-shaped cupola. The first storey of the tower is decorated in the four corners with small pinnacles ending in miniatures of the cupola crowning the tower. The three ornamental portals containing the entrances to the church are accentuated by pairs of delicate columns with Corinthian capitals and semicircular tympanums filled with Marian paintings. The openwork, gilded decoration of the tower’s helmet and dome, as well as the vivid colours of the façade and architectural details, clearly show the splendour and richness of Byzantine art mixed with Russian influences.

The church in the 1920s and today. Photo: State Archive in Łódź , CC0, via Wikimedia Commons and Аимаина хикари, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The interiors of the church are equally representative. Particularly noteworthy is the oak iconostasis funded by Israel Poznanski. It was designed by H. Majewski and made by an artist from St. Petersburg. The authors of the polychrome were also brought from St Petersburg. The stained glass windows were made by the Breslau firm of Adolf Seiler. The colourful floor in brown, blue and yellow was arranged in a geometrical pattern surrounded by a border. In the interwar period, unlike many other churches built in the Kingdom of Poland for the Russians, it was neither re-dedicated to the Catholic Church nor demolished, which is usually explained by the circumstances of its construction – it was founded by wealthy, respected citizens of Lodz. On the eastern side, the church is surrounded by Stanislaw Moniuszko Park, and on the western side the area in front of the building was significantly depleted in the 1960s due to the widening of Kilińskiego Street.

Photo by HuBar, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Between 1980 and 1984, the structure and sheathing of the roofs and domes were replaced, and conservation work was carried out on the polychromes. In recent years, comprehensive, extensive conservation work has been carried out on the interior and exterior of the building. Based on the original designs of H. Majewski, the original colouring of individual details and rich gilding of the decoration of the dome and the tower helmet were applied. The temple was entered in the register of monuments on 20 January 1971 under the number A/117.


Read also: Architecture in Poland | Sacral architecture | Interesting facts | Łódź | whiteMAD on Instagram

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