Stunning new museum to be built in memory of murdered priest Jerzy Popiełuszko
The legacy of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, the priest murdered by Communist security services at the height of the Solidarity protests, is set to be honoured in a stunning new museum dedicated to his life.
As recently announced, the concept as well as the structural design and the design of the permanent exhibition will be the responsibility of Nizio Design International, a globally recognized Warsaw-based studio whose seminal works have included the core exhibition at the POLIN Museum and the permanent exhibition at the Warsaw Rising Museum.
Redefining Poland’s cultural landscape, other noteworthy projects in the firm’s cannon include the Polish Vodka Museum, the building and exhibition of the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in Markowa, and the Gallery of Ancient Art in the National Museum of Warsaw.
The museum will be located in the north of the Podlasie region, in the village of Okopy where Popiełuszko was born.
According to Mirosław Nizio, the studio’s founder and principal architect and designer, the museum will follow “a timeless form” that will enable people to “nurture” the memory and spiritual heritage of the priest.
“The combination of architectural tradition and modernity will be achieved here by referring to the beauty and simplicity of the region’s roadside chapels, country houses and local churches,” says Nizio.
Making use of local materials, the passage of time will see the structure patinate, thereby lending it a distinctive character.
At the heart of the complex will be the Place of Contemplation – a small chapel with a gabled roof specifically designed to blend in with both the natural landscape and village nearby. Symbolically, there will also be gaps left sporadically between the concrete building blocks so as to remind visitors of a life cut short.
Furthermore, narrow, vertical slits will allow for natural light to flow into the object, an effect that will be reminiscent of the stained glass windows found in Gothic cathedrals or the shafts of light that penetrate old, rural cottages. Come evening, the Place of Contemplation will exude a glowing light in much the same way as a stone lantern.
Born in 1947, Popiełuszko attended the priests’ seminary in Warsaw and served in numerous parishes. A staunch anti-Communist, his sermons were often interlaced with political rhetoric that exhorted his listeners to protest.
Often broadcast on Radio Free Europe, his vocal stance against the system brought him to the attention of the internal security services who placed him under close surveillance. Having evaded a previous assassination attempt, he was abducted by agents on October 19th, 1984 after being stopped in his car.
Badly beaten, he was tied and bound before being tossed off a dam and into a reservoir near Włocławek.
The murder outraged Poles, and his funeral attracted over 250,000 mourners.
Referencing the manner of his death, the museum will also be built to include a stream and a symbolic dam; although the latter will serve to remind visitors of the way in which Popiełuszko died, the water will represent life and the washing away of sin.
Intended as a place of reflection, prayer, pilgrimage and education, other features will number a reconstruction of Popiełuszko’s Warsaw apartment, a library, reading room, auditorium, café and space for both permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Further, the names of other priests persecuted during the PRL era will also be inscribed on the wall of the outside dam.
Estimated to cost between PLN 15 and 20 million, a tender for the construction is expected to be announced next year with completion slated for 2024.