St John’s Arch Cathedral – Warsaw, Poland - Atlas Obscura

St John’s Arch Cathedral

The last king of Poland was interred in this church nearly 200 years after his death.  


The Arch Cathedral of St John is one of the oldest in the Polish capital. The historic church was almost completely destroyed during World War II.

It has since been painstakingly restored, retaining its noble gothic facade, though having lost its opulent, baroque interior. With a lofty, vaulted ceiling and some striking stained glass windows, the interior is now more gothic in character. Its crypt, which is the last resting place of generations of bishops, dukes, and other eminent Poles, has survived the ravages of time largely unscathed.

The remains of the Dukes of Masovia, King Stanisław August Poniatowski, and statesman Stanisław Małachowski are interred inside. Poniatowski was the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, the last ruling monarch of the commonwealth. Malachowski was the first Prime Minister of Poland.

Born into an influential family on a large estate in present-day Belarus, Poniatowski was well-read, as well as a connoisseur of the arts and a reformer. He introduced the Constitution of Poland in 1791, the first codified constitution in Europe. Unfortunately, Poniatowski had powerful enemies and few friends. 

Forced to abdicate his throne following the final partition of Poland, he lived his last years on a meager pension in St. Petersburg as a ward of the Russian Tsar. During the Soviet regime, his body was exhumed from the church where he was buried and shipped to his birthplace. He was interred, for the second time, in the crypt of his family chapel in the village of Volchyn in Belarus. In 1995, his remains were moved one last time, to his final resting place in the Arch Cathedral of St Johns in Warsaw, almost 200 years after his death.

Know Before You Go

To see the burial site of Stanislaw August Poniatowski at the Arch Cathedral of St John, visitors are required to pay a small fee for entry into the crypt.

As with many churches in the region, St Johns regularly hosts concerts throughout the summer months, popular with the lovers of classical music. 

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August 12, 2020

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