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St. Martin and St. Nicholas Cathedral in Bydgoszcz

Date of construction: 1466-1502

In the main altar of the cathedral in Bydgoszcz there is a beautiful painting of Madonna with Rose and the Child. In what unusual circumstances was the artwork created? Why is the painting said to be miraculous and benevolent?

Historical objects can travel. History of cathedral objects shows it. Where do they come from and in what cirumstances did they find their way to the cathedral?

Above the figure of crucified Christ in the side altar there is a plate with an insription INRI. The insription shows up on crosses often, but what does it mean exactly?

Cathedral pipe-organs are an instrument made with true virtuosity. They are over 100 years old and have an untypical sound. What is the reason for it?

Monuments Project effects Gallery

Wooden monuments
St. Martin and St. Nicholas Cathedral in Bydgoszcz

The most noteworthy work of art is the painting of Our Lady of Beautiful Love (the name given by the cardinal Stefan Wyszyński during coronation ceremony for the 1000th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland) which is famous for miracles. The work was created almost 550 years ago and it shows the Mother of God with the Child who is holding a rose. The anonymous artist was presumably educated in a school in Western Europe. His perfect technique is visible in the style and masterful realization of the painting.

The painting of Madonna with a Rose is a votive offering donated when the war between the Kingdom of Poland and the Teutonic Order called the Thirteen Years’ War (1454-1466) finished. Its creation is connected with the desired time of peace after a long and devastating conflict which the people from the region of Bydgoszcz fell victim to. It is thought that the foundation of the votive painting can be linked to the king Casimir Jagiellon who was a frequent guest in the town at the time.

Extraordinary experiences of the faithful in connection with the painting caused it to be known as “miraculous” and “benevolent”. Due to the painting the onetime parish church has played the role of a local sanctuary since the 17th century. A papal indulgence in the intention of the deliverance of purgatory souls has been linked with the painting since the end of the 17th century.

The painting of Madonna is considered as one of the most beautiful images of the Mother of God – full of grace, subtle, delicate, who is tenderly holding symbols of love: a red rose and small Christ who is the evidence of God’s love toward people.

By Madonna’s feet there is an anonymous figure of the founder who hasn’t been clearly identified. According to the custom, the hierarchical proportion was used for the depiction of the figures: the size relates to the figures’ importance.

Bydgoszcz: katedra pw. św. Marcina i św. Mikołaja

In the cathedral in Bydgoszcz stalls dated to the second half of the 18th century should be paid special attention. Together with a pulpit and two altars they were once pieces of furnishings of a Carmelite church. After secularization of the order by Prussian partition authorities in 1816, the monuments ended up in the church where they have stayed until this day.

Due to their prominent position in the church, they are very decorative and sophisticated. Stalls were made in the Rococo style and were divided into six and seven parts. As a stylistic trend, Rococo has not been recognized as a separate style in the history of art. Rather, it relied on moving away from the rigid and pompous Baroque. It is characterized by an unrestrained, more intimate aesthetics. Important traits of the Rococo style are sensuality, refined artistic taste, strive for comfort, sentimental moodliness, lighter proportions, greater freedom and decorativeness.

The stalls are taken by canons who together make a chapter – a body of advisers assisting a bishop in
managing a diocese.

Images of Carmelite saints and blessed are painted on the backs of the stalls.

Also a side altar with a cross dated to the half of the 17th century is exceptional. In the center there is a Renaissance crucifix from 1525. The characteristic expressiveness of medieval depictions of suffering Christ made way to a beautifully modeled body depicted with anatomical accuracy in the Renaissance. The loincloth which covers the hips, a so called perizoma, is also depicted differently. During the Middle Ages, the perizoma was short and rigidly draped with a knot on the side whilst during the Renaissance it was narrow and finely wind-blown.

Over the figure of crucified Christ there is a sign framed in an ornamental cartouche. The sign INRI put on the cross reads: Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum – Jesus of Nazareth Jewish King.

Figures of St. Gregory and St. Veronica are placed on the altar. There is little information on St. Veronica’s life. It is said in the Bible that she accompanied Christ who was carrying the cross and that she wiped His face with a cloth. In return she received an image of Jesus’ face reflected on the cloth. The name comes from Greek vera eicon – “the true image”.

St. Gregory lived in the 6th century and he received a nickname “the Great” during the Middle Ages as he was called “the apostle of the barbarians”. His theological activity made him one of the four great Doctors of the Western Church. He reformed service to the the poor, improved the state of papal finance, managed estates, unified and propagated the Roman Rite. The practice of 30 mass for the dead, called Gregorian Masses, dates back to his pontificate. The masses make the time of souls in Purgatory shorter.

Singing is an integral part of the liturgy and we can find hints of the Lord’s glorification in this way in the Bible: “Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!” (Psalms). The organs, the organ front and the gallery are situated opposite the main altar which makes the music float above the heads of the faithful and fill the whole space of the church to complete the celebrations. Even though the instrument and its front were put at the back of the church, they were usually extraordinarily decorated and that’s why they are indisputable works of art – in both musical and sculptural aspects.

The pipe-organs were created in 1907 in the workshop of an organ builder Paul Volkner. Volkner inherited the workshop, established in the middle of the 19th century, from his father. In his works we can find “the divine spark” which shows itself in sounds as well as in the material form of the cathedral’s instrument. It possesses a unique quality of sound and is an interesting example of the romantic organ building style. Volkner used technological innovations thanks to which the sound of the organs imitated the instruments from an orchestra, was more complete, soft and warm.

The musical gallery with the organs is also a work of art. It was decorated with sculptures of angels playing the instruments – trumpets, violins and harps. In the central part there is a cartouche which reads: “Praise the Lord my children, Praise His name! 1923”.

Photo gallery
St. Martin and St. Nicholas Cathedral in Bydgoszcz

Useful information

St. Martin and St. Nicholas Cathedral in Bydgoszcz


2 Farna Street, 85-101 Bydgoszcz
tel.: 52 322 45 86


8.00 am, 9.30 am, 11.00 am , 12.30 pm. 6.00 pm

holy days of dispensation: information in parish notices

working days:
8.00 am, 12.00 pm, 5.00 pm (Monday – Friday), 6.00 pm (Saturday only)

Indulgence date

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary: September 8th

St. Martin’s day: November 11th

St. Nicholas’ day: December 6th

The project is co-financed by European Union subsidy as a part of European Regional Development Fund