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Konrad Kucza-Kuczyński

Warsaw, Politechnika Warszawska

The purpose of the present reflection is not to be yet another, closed proposal of the typology of architecture of Polish churches. As an architect, also designing churches, I am wary of the possibility of recording excessively detailed typological specifications. It stems from the very nature of a creative work of architecture – here additionally limited by theological-liturgical guidelines. Such an approach is perhaps in contradiction, if only subtly, to the methodological approaches of art and architecture historians, who often go further in the revealing of the concept of a work than the creator. Obviously I am aware of the right to freedom in constructing a typology.

I would like to attempt here only a critical comparison of Polish typologies, including my own, with a background of foreign studies and private observations. The purpose will be the definition of a methodological plane for creating a typology of results, possibly universal, and intended for three types of recipients: creator-architect, architecture historian and critic, and Church users, thus taking into consideration the liturgical aspect. It should be underlined that in none of the so far defined typologies has there been place for the recipient, especially a believer, who is the main user of church architecture.

Also the demarcation of the period of the analysed material is required. I believe that the standard periods employed in art and architecture history (e.g. ‘the 20th century’ or ‘the post-war period’) or others connected with stylistic periods (e.g. ‘modernism’), or finally political-economic periods, also employed by myself, reflecting diverse conditions in which sacred construction developed in Poland (‘1972–1989’ or ‘1975–1985’) may not be compatible with liturgical decisions, and yet without this element, the construction of the typology of church space cannot fulfil its function. In the light of such an assumption it is natural to establish a period according to the current notions of contemporary liturgical space defined in the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and the year 1964 as the beginning of the period. It is already 43 years of experience – not much as for the history of the Church, but perhaps sufficient for initial classifications. One may include earlier studies or works in the established period on the condition that they reflect the spirit of Vatican Council II (as e.g. Romano Guardini’s liturgical revival movement of the 20s and 30s of the previous century[1]).


I analysed the proposals of typologies by Jan Zachwatowicz (1969)[2], Konrad Kucza-Kuczyński (1987[3], 1991[4], 2005[5]), sister Maria Ewa Rosier-Siedlecka (1989)[6], Andrzej Olszewski (1989)[7], Robert Wróbel (2005)[8], Julia Sowińskia (2006)[9] and Andrzej Majdowski (2007)[10], while from foreign studies – the classifications of Maurizio Bergamo (1994)[11], Edwin Heathcote and Iona Spens (1997)[12] and Wolfgang Jean Stock (2002[13], 2004[14]).

How can one quote and characterise in short the aforementioned typologies?

Jan Zachwatowicz in 1969 proposed a division into ‘historicising churches, churches with features of wooden churches, churches alluding to Perrot, churches of reinforced concrete construction which create a new form of block and interior’[15]. Thus the criterion of classification was the form of a building and the division concerned in fact the pre-council churches, which were constructed prior to 1965.

In 1987 I attempted to group contemporary sacred buildings, isolating three main trends: ‘architecture of repetitions, conscious modernism, and search for autonomy’[16]. The criteria of the division, concerning churches erected in the years 1975–1985, were connected either with particular stylistics (modernism) or with the degree of consciousness and maturity of creators (repetitions, search for autonomy). In perspective, I notice how limited a selection it was, dictated rather by journalistic than academic considerations, and the studied period 1975–1985 was connected only with the time of the greatest dynamics of construction of new churches.

The typological classifications presented in the introduction to my book Nowe kościoły w Polsce [New Churches in Poland] from 1991 are more precise and closer to my present views. I employed two basic criteria there – community-forming features of an interior and architectural stylistics. The former defined the simplest features of a design connected with the relations of the believers to the central, presbytery sphere: square, rectangle, rhombus, hexagonal, circle, quarter of a circle, para-central irregular form, elongated rectangle and elongated irregular. The latter was based on the division proposed in 1987, but with an adaptation of the employed names of stylistics: modernism, “high-tech”, expressive modernism, postmodernism, regional stylistics[17]. The essence of the division – equally valid today, in my opinion – is the connections of the issues of liturgy with architectural stylistics, although without integrating the two criteria.


[1] F. Debuyst, “Permanenza di un’architettura specificamente liturgica da Guardini ai giorni nostri”, in  Architektura e spazio sacro nella modernità, Milano, 1992,  pp.54–57.

[2] J. Zachwatowicz, Kościoły w Polsce odbudowane i wybudowane 19451965, Warszawa, 1969.

[3] K. Kucza-Kuczyński, ”Kamienie węgielne 1975–1985”, Przegląd Powszechny (1987), no.2, pp.248–258.

[4] K. Kucza-Kuczyński, ”Polska architektura sakralna 1972–1989”,  in K. Kucza-Kuczyński, A. Mroczek, Nowe kościoły w Polsce, Warszawa, 1991.

[5] K. Kucza-Kuczyński, ”Przez liturgię – do architektury: kościoły świata na przełomie wieków”, in Budownictwo Sakralne i Monumentalne ‘2002. V międzynarodowa konferencja naukowo-techniczna, Białystok 910 maja 2002, Białystok, 2002, p.68.

[6] M. E. Rosier-Siedlecka, ”Inspiracje w polskiej architekturze. Stan i potrzeby”, Ateneum Kapłańskie 81 (1989), vol.113, no.2–3, pp.180–195.

[7] A. K. Olszewski, “Próba typologii współczesnych kościołów w Polsce”, in: Sacrum i sztuka. Rogóźno. Materiały z konferencji zorganizowanej przez sekcję Historii Sztuki KUL. Rogóźno 1820 października 1984, Kraków, 1989, ed. N. Cieślińska, Kraków, 1989, p.97.

[8] R. Wróbel, Nowe kościoły w diecezji łódzkiej 1945-1989. Uwarunkowania i klasyfikacja rzymsko-katolickiej architektury sakralnej, Łódź, 2005, p.43.

[9] J. Sowińska, Forma i sacrum. Współczesne kościoły Górnego Śląska, Warszawa, 2006, p.57.

[10] A. Majdowski, ”Stylistyka kościołów powojennych w Polsce”, Ecclesia (2007), no.3, pp.38–40.

[11] M. Bergamo, Spazi celebrativi, figurazione architettonica, simbolismo liturgico. Ricerca

per una chiesa contemporanea dopo il Concilio Vaticano II, Venezia, 1994, pp.67–69.

[12] E. Heathcote, I. Spens, Church Builders, London, 1994, pp.16–65.

[13] W. J. Stock, Europäischer Kirchenbau 19502000, München –Berlin–London–New York, 2002, pp.11–13.

[14] W. J. Stock, Architekturführer. Christliche Sakralbauten in Europa seit 1950, München–Berlin–London–New York, 2004, p.11.

[15] J. Zachwatowicz, p.86.

[16] Kucza-Kuczyński 1987, pp.248–250.

[17] Kucza-Kuczyński 1991. 

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