The Mniszech Palace
History of the Mniszech Palace
The earliest reference dates back to 1620, when a wooden mansion was built for the King’s cupbearer Zygmunt Kazanowski at the current location. In 1692 the Voivode of Kalisz Feliks Aleksander Lipski acquired the grounds and decided to erect a brick-built baroque palace next to the wooden construction. It is this brick building that would later become the “Mniszech Palace”.
The palace got its name when in 1714 it became the property of Józef Wandalin Mniszech, Grand Marshal of the Crown. Half a century later, in 1788 while the property of Michał Jerzy Wandalin Mniszech, the Mniszech Palace was the location of a historic event :, the very first hot-air balloon flight in Poland started in the palace gardens – a project from scholar and writer Jan Potocki, who would later on become the owner of the Mniszech Palace.
At the end of the 18th century, the Mniszech Palace was damaged by a devastating fire and the Potocki family sold the building to a Prussian officer Friedrich Wilhelm Mosqua and his wife in 1805. They hired architect Fryderyk Albert Lessel to renovate and modify the building , and the palace transitioned from a baroque style into neoclassicism. It is at this moment that the impressive columns and front were added.
During the 19th and 20th centuries the Mniszech Palace had a succession of different owners and functions. Following the arrival of the Napoleonic troops in 1806, it became a hospital. In 1809 it housed the Ingermran mechanic marionettes theatre, then a French theatre in 1821. From 1829 to 1940 the palace was used by the « Société des Marchands », an association of entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, merchants and artists. In ownership of the Order of Malta in 1940, it again became a hospital. In 1944, the German occupation forces burned the palace down until only ruins were left.
Before the Second World War, the Kingdom of Belgium had an embassy on Aleje Ujazdowskie. This building was destroyed during the war and the Belgian state was looking for options for its new Embassy.
A rumor has is that the Polish authorities approached art-loving Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, wife of King Albert I, during one of her visits to the Warsaw Chopin piano competition, with the suggestion of the reconstruction of the Mniszech Palace. Poland had earlier expressed its appreciation for the late King Albert I by organizing in 1919 an honorary celebration -- in the Grand Hall of the Mniszech Palace -- and by naming a Warsaw street after him in 1934. Sensitive to this subject, Queen Elisabeth would have spoken about it to the Belgian authorities.
The suggestion was taken up. In 1959 Etienne Davignon signed the check on behalf of the Belgian government which acquired the plot with the ruins for reconstruction and use as an Embassy. Belgium decided to restore the palace to its former glory; basing the reconstruction on the neoclassical plans from the 19th century. After three years of work In 1962, the new Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium opened its doors in the reconstructed Mniszech Palace.
First sketches of the Palace
Bernardo Bellotto, Mniszech Palace in Warsaw, 1779, oil on canvas, in the collection of Royal Castle in Warsaw
Mniszech Palace in 1919.
Mniszech Palace today
50 years of residence of the Embassy of Belgium in Warsaw at the Mniszech Palace
The Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium has been located in the Mniszech Palace since 1962. At the occasion of the 50th anniversary or its installation in this exceptional Palace, we have marked this occasion with an exhibition telling the history of the palace, of the events which took place in and around the palace and of the Belgian-Polish relations from the Middle-Ages until now.
Have a look at the text and image of the exhibition
Publication “The Mniszech Palace in Warsaw – Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium”
On March 4th, 2009, the book “Pałac Mniszchów w Warszawie – Ambasada Królestwa Belgii/The Mniszech Palace in Warsaw – Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium” was presented to the public, among other events, commemorating 90 years of Polish – Belgian diplomatic relations.
This publication gives a detailed history of the building, which houses the Embassy of Belgium.
The text, written by Professor Marek Kwiatkowski, a well-known Polish historian, is illustrated by contemporary and historical pictures of the building, within and without.
Photographer Krzysztof Hejke captures wonderful images of the exterior as well as the interior of the building.
The book was published by PIW (Panstwowy Instytut Wydawniczy - ul. Foksal 17 – Warszawa) and can be bought there for 54 PLN.