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Chopin historical places in Poland


Duszniki - Zdrój
Kraków - Ojców - Wieliczka


Trying to reach the places Chopin himself visited in Poland in his lifetime one should realize the difference in historical realities. A considerable number of localities he travelled to, which today are in Poland, in those times used to be abroad, close to the frontier. Other places, like Wrocław in Lower Silesia or Gdańsk in Pomerania were a part of Prussia then. Cities which are large urbanized areas today, were inhabited by not more than around twenty thousand people at the most  and - except Warsaw- their administrative borders encompassed areas not much larger than  those within the old town defence walls. Their substance, character and appearance have also changed, sometimes due to the normal course of events  but more often in result of turbulent events in their history.



The Chopins moved from Żelazowa Wola to Warsaw in September 1810. At first they settled in the Boem's burgher house and next, between July 1811 and November 1812, they went to live in the right wing of  the Saxon Palace nearby[1]. At that time the Saxon Palace housed the Warsaw Lycée - a secondary school - in which Mikołaj Chopin, the father, was employed as a teacher of French. The Saxon Palace was situated in Krakowskie Przedmieście Street but faced a spacious courtyard known as the Saxon  Square created by two side wings. Today its exact situation is approximately equivalent to that of the Piłsudski Square. On the axis of this particular architectural layout there was the Saxon Garden. When the Warsaw Lycée  was moved to the Kazimierzowski Palace in Krakowskie Przedmieście (within Warsaw University grounds now), the Chopins, like the families of other professors, took abode in the right outbuilding of the palace.[2] A sad event in April 1827 - the death of the youngest daughter,  fourteen year old Emilia, was a direct reason for yet another change of the address: the family moved to the other side of the street and into the left wing of the Krasińskis palace. The new flat was considerably larger than the previous one which made it possible to set up a room for young Fryderyk who was already a student then. In 1960 a section of  the Fryderyk Chopin  Museum - The Chopins' Drawing Room -  was opened to the public on the second floor.

Fryderyk Chopin was especially closely connected with this part of Krakowskie Przedmieście Street. He not only lived here for a dozen or so years, but also went to school and later studied music. From 1823 till1826 he attended the Warsaw Lycée and, on graduating with honours, he went on to study continuo, counterpoint  and composition with Józef Elsner in the Main School of Music which was a department of the Royal University of Warsaw.

In the direct neighbourhood of the University, there is a Baroque Church of the Nuns of the Visitation. In Chopin's time it served as a school and academic church and Fryderyk used to play the organ there during mass. Not far, on the other side of Krakowskie Przedmieście Street there is the Holy Cross Church. In one of its main aisle pillars, an urn with the composer's heart has been buried: following the last will of the composer, his heart was removed from his body and brought to Warsaw. Nearby, in Kredytowa Street, there is a Lutheran church designed in the form of a rotunda topped with an impressive dome carrying a lantern. In this church, sixteen year old Fryderyk gave concerts on a new instrument built by A. F. Brunner, the choraleon, which was similar to the harmonium; Fryderyk also sang in the choir here.

Out of many palaces which are known to have witnessed  piano performances by Fryderyk, widely recognized as Warsaw's child prodigy, let us mention just two: the Radziwiłł Palace and the Belvedere Palace. They are situated on opposite ends of the Royal Route: one near the Royal Castle Square and the other one within the area of the most beautiful park in Warsaw called Łazienki Królewskie - the Royal Baths (both palaces serve as the seat of the President of Poland). In the Łazienki Park, directly opposite the main gate,  the world famous monument to Chopin can be seen, the work of Wacław Szymanowski, the sculptor. The monument erected in 1926 by the citizens of Warsaw, now provides the backdrop for very popular concerts of Chopin music which traditionally take place every Sunday all throughout spring and summer.

In the times of Chopin, the Royal Castle Square with the monument to King Sigismund III Vasa, the founder of the capital city of Warsaw, was yet another prominent feature of  the Warsaw panorama. Chopin visited this part of the town often because very close by, at the exit of Miodowa Street, there was Antoni Brzezina's  music shop where Chopin used to stop by regularly. Across the road, in the Tepper burgher house, the "Dziurka" café was the meeting place for  representatives of the young Warsaw intelligentsia who contested the imposed political order. Some of them, as for instance, Maurycy Mochnacki, were Fryderyk's university colleagues. Also on the Royal Castle Square, the Music Conservatory was located in a monastery that used to belong to the Bernardine monks, where Chopin gave a concert on 27 May 1825 [3]. The rooms of the Music Conservatory were dear to Chopin especially from the time when he met Konstancja Gładkowska, a student in a vocal class who became the ideal of his young years.

When on 2 November 1830, Chopin was leaving Warsaw with an apprehension that he might never return to his home town, he had an album in his luggage containing commemorative stanzas in Konstancja's hand, and featuring an etching of Sigismund's Column on the first page, a symbol of Warsaw which he liked  to look at in his Paris times facing moments of homesickness or doubt ...



Of the historical places connected with Chopin, Żelazowa Wola is the closest one to Warsaw and the best known. In its vicinity, there is a small place called Brochów, a Mazovian village on the right bank of the River Bzura, noted for its church of Saints John the Baptist and Roch which is a rare example of  sacral architecture: a fortified church with a defence function. In this church three family ceremonies of the Chopins took place: on 2 June 1806  the wedding ceremony of Mikołaj Chopin with Justyna neé Krzyżanowska, on 23 April 1810 the christening of their only son Fryderyk and on 22 November 1832 the wedding ceremony of their oldest daughter, Ludwika with Józef Kalasanty Jędrzejewicz.  The original parish registers with entries confirming the above mentioned ceremonies are kept in church archives and are inaccessible to the wider public. However, copies of those documents are on display and can be viewed in the church.

For a few years now, recitals of Chopin music have been organized in Brochów by the Fryderyk Chopin Society within the framework of a summer Chopin Festival. The powerful defence walls, that witnessed the christening of  Fryderyk, now provide a memorable setting for concerts of his music performed by Polish pianists.



Travelling across the Mazovian plain in the direction of north- west, one comes upon Sanniki, quite a large settlement of rich cultural traditions that are centuries old. At the beginning of the 19th c., the estate was bought by Aleksander Pruszak. The Chopins maintained close social contacts with the whole of Pruszak's family and Aleksander's younger son, Konstanty, was a close friend of Fryderyk. In the summer of 1828 the young composer spend his holidays at the Pruszaks' during which he composed Trio in G-minor, Op.8, for piano, violin and cello and also transcribed his Rondo in C major, Op.73, for two pianos.


The Pruszak's house of the time has not survived. The neo-classical palace that can be seen now was built in 1910 to the design of a famous architect, Władysław Marconi. Since 1981, the Fryderyk Chopin Commemorative Centre  has been active in Sanniki supervised by the  local branch of the Fryderyk Chopin Society and the GOK Local Centre of Culture. They organize cycles of poetry and music concerts which take place once a month between 22 February and 17 October of each year. During these meetings, attended by large audiences, Warsaw actors recite Polish Romantic poetry and popular pianists present compositions by Chopin. In the Chopin Centre there is also the Mateusz Gliński Library that houses a collection of books  donated by Mrs Glińska, the widow to that renowned Polish musicologist, who devoted much attention to Chopin both in his research work and as a writer.

The palace is surrounded by a park with picturesque old trees. In  front of the building there is an oval space with a drive and - to the west of the palace - a monument to Chopin, the work of Ludwika Kraskowska-Nitchowa.



It was in Szafarnia, a tiny village on the borderland between the Mazovia and Kujavy regions, that Chopin spent his summer holidays in 1824 and 1825. At that time, the estate belonged to the Dziewanowski family and one of the family's younger representatives, Dominik, a school pupil, took lodgings with Mikołaj Chopin and was a colleague of Fryderyk's. The composer's visits to Szafarnia were really well documented in his many letters, frequently written to his family. Some of those letters, dated 1824, were written in the form of a newspaper modelled after one of the Warsaw dailies of the time. The  newspaper was entitled The Szafarnia Courier and was written and "edited" by Fryderyk himself who was also always game for a joke and signed his articles "Pichon",  "Little Mikołaj", "Jacob" or "Fryc". Funny reports describing the events of everyday life in the country were interspersed with other news,  more significant for the future researchers analysing not only the circumstances of the composer's  life but also his creative work. For those letters testify to Chopin's  genuine interest  in folklore, and in particular in the village music of the region.

The neighbourhood retained quite a number of localities whose names featured in Chopin's letters. Some of them he visited himself e.g. Obrowo where he watched harvest home festival, or  Sokołów where he went to see his school friend, Jan Białobłocki. Bigger outings to more  distant locations also took place in company of several household members. In August 1824, their destination was an little old castle in nearby Golub (an interesting Gothic-Renaissance historical monument which can be still seen in a place called Golub-Dobrzyń). During his second stay at Szafarnia in 1825, Fryderyk travelled to Toruń, which was in Prussia then, and was famous for being Mikołaj Kopernik's home town,  for its magnificent monuments of Gothic architecture and ... for its legendary gingerbread cakes which  the young traveller found very much to his taste.

Immediately after the second world war, efforts were made in Szafarnia to commemorate Chopin's two visits. The building that houses the Chopin Centre now, can boast only of the original foundations of its predecessor (the timber manor house where Chopin stayed was taken down a few years after his visit), but the manor house outbuilding has been preserved as has a part of a landscape garden with a big pond, dating back to Chopin time.

The history of the Chopin Centre since 1949 is marked by its changing fortunes but over the last twenty years it has conducted diversified and lively activities in which the main emphasis is on work with children and young people, designed to spread and deepen knowledge about Chopin's life and work. The International Piano Competition for children and young pianists is the Chopin Centre's most significant event enjoying wide renown also abroad.

In this part of Poland - the Chełm and Dobrzyń region, there is one more place that Chopin visited. It is Kowalewo near Drobin, in those times an estate owned by Ksawery Zboiński with whom Fryderyk's family was on very good terms. The composer paid a short visit in the summer of 1827, and it was probably from here that he set out on his way to Gdańsk. However, about this journey and a stay in the capital of  the Prussian Pomerania there is very little creditable information in the sources that we have access to today.



This small place, inconspicuous and hidden in the forests between Poznań and Kalisz owes its existence and name to Prince Antoni Radziwiłł who had his summer palace built here to the design by Karl Friedrich Schinkel at the beginning of the 19th c. The unusually remarkable edifice was built of solid larch on an octagon with four additional wings and was called the Hunting Lodge. Perhaps the renown of the palace was not so much due to its eminent German architect as rather to the visits of a just as illustrious young guest invited by the Prince: the first time probably in 1826, and then in 1829 again. The guest in question was Fryderyk Chopin himself and for a while rumour had it that he was the Prince's protégé. The attempts to confirm those rumours proved ineffective but there exists sound evidence that Chopin visited Antonin in 1829. Prince Radziwiłł, the Governor of the Grand Duchy of Poznań, was a great devotée and enthusiast of music. He played the cello and was also quite a gifted composer. His music to Goethe's Faust was highly appreciated by Chopin and their joint playing of music, which was a real pleasure to them both, inspired Fryderyk to compose  the Polonaise in C -major op.3 for piano and cello, specifically for their joint performance. Apart from musical soirées in the company of the Prince, Chopin gave piano lessons to his younger daughter - Princess Wanda who really took his fancy. Her sister, Princess Eliza who was greatly talented in the sphere of fine arts, drew two little portraits of Chopin in her sketchbook, considered to be very faithful likenesses of the composer in his lifetime.

In the times within our living memory the former Radziwiłł's residence has been restored and handed over for use to artists of all spheres of art. In its unique interiors, that survived almost intact, cultural events are organized whose atmosphere stays forever in the memory of their large audiences. Among those events, The Chopin in the Colours of Autumn International Festival featuring pianists of  established position is invariably the most popular.

The location of Antonin between two large urban centres: Poznań and Kalisz provides a reason good enough to see them both, especially as Chopin also visited them. In Poznań, he paid a visit to the governor's palace of Antoni Radziwiłł where he stopped on the way from Berlin to Warsaw in 1828. In Kalisz, he appeared at a wedding ceremony of  some acquaintances of Mikołaj Chopin in 1829 when he was on his way back from Vienna. The following year, travelling in the opposite direction, he made an appointment in Kalisz with his friend Tytus Woyciechowski in order to travel on to Vienna, the capital of Austria, in his company.

Not far from Antonin there is Strzyżew, in those times  the property of Stefan Wiesiołowski whose wife, Anna née Skarbek, was Fryderyk's godmother. The composer visited Strzyżew in autumn 1829 and from there he travelled straight to Antonin. It is possible that three years earlier Justyna Chopin and Fryderyk might have stopped at Strzyżew returning from a spa treatment in Reinertz.


Duszniki - Zdrój

This is a spa in south-west Poland where the oldest International Chopin Festival in Europe has been taking place for the last sixty years. However, Chopin's acquaintance with Duszniki started 120 years earlier. At that time that little town was a Silesian spa known by the name of Reinertz which, like Karlsbad and Marienbad, both situated on the other side of the Karkonosze Mts (Riesengebirge or the Giant Mountains), enjoyed considerable renown among numerous spa visitors and patients in that part of Europe. In the summer of 1826, Justyna Chopin arrived in Duszniki with Fryderyk for treatment on the orders of his Warsaw doctors. The monotony of the daily treatment routine and the need to  follow the spa life "order" were only  sometimes alleviated with short walks in the mountainous neighbourhood which was beautiful but demanded climbing, much too exhausting for convalescents. Fryderyk also missed having access to a good piano which could help him to do away with boredom the way he liked best. That was remedied  with two charity concerts the boy gave in the  local  spa house. This was his first appearance in front of a foreign audience.

In 1897, next to the building in which the concerts took place a monument was erected by Wiktor Magnus, a dedicated admirer of Chopin's music. On a granite obelisk it features a bronze plaque designed by Roman Lewandowski after a Jean-Antoin Bovy medallion, under which there is a commemorative tablet with an inscription in Latin.

On the 120th anniversary of the young Chopin's concerts, piano recitals were organized in the former spa house which today bears the name of Chopin Theatre: the pianists were Zofia Rabcewiczowa and Henryk Sztompka and their performance marked the beginning of the annually organized Chopin Festival. With time, the modest event gained momentum and international renown due to the participation of various pianists from all over the world. Every year it is preceded by master class courses for young pianists, and  their most talented members are invited to take part in the  Chopin Festival.

About 100 kilometres north-east of Duszniki is Wrocław, the capital of Lower Silesia. That beautiful city, located on the banks of the  River Odra, full of green parks and magnificent historical monuments, was visited and admired by Chopin several times: the first time in 1826 when he was on his way to Duszniki[4], the second time, on the way back, the third time  a stop in Wrocław on the way back from Vienna to Warsaw in 1829, and a stop on another trip to Vienna a year later. During his fourth stay in Wrocław, Chopin gave a concert at which he played his own compositions and improvised.


Kraków - Ojców  - Wieliczka

The localities enumerated above, all in the south of Poland, were visited by Chopin during his first artistic journey on his own to Vienna in summer 1829. In Krakow, he admired the historical monuments in the old Polish capital, and  also went to see to the Jagiellonian University. The salt mine in Wieliczka, which he knew from a popular description by Ewelina Tańska-Hoffmanowa made an unforgettable impression on him. Next, together with his fellow travellers, he set out on the way to Ojców to stay the night. The romantic excursion ended with not a very nice adventure when the driver lost his way and the carriage got stuck in a stream: they had to continue on foot to get to the place they where they had arranged to stay overnight.. In the falling dusk, they wandered around for quite some time before they reached their destination, all wet and cold.

In Wieliczka, a trace of Chopin's stay has survived in the form of an entry in the visitors' book. The same goes for Kraków: in the Jagiellonian University Library a visitors' book is kept with a commemorative entry written and signed by Fryderyk and his fellow travellers. The Jagiellonian Library also has a few musical manuscripts of his. On the other hand, the collection of the Czartoryski Museum (a branch of the National Museum in Kraków) features a collection of letters written by Fryderyk Chopin to Wojciech Grzymała, a few small objects that once belonged to the composer and several portraits  from the collection of Princess Marcelina Czartoryska, a pupil and friend of Chopin from the times he lived in Paris.



A village in the Lublin region, in Chopin's time it was a part of the family estate of Tytus Woyciechowski, Fryderyk's best friend at school. In July 1830, Chopin spent a few weeks in Poturzyn: the two friends  whiled away the time with long conversations, confidences, descriptions of  artistic plans, playing music and walks in the neighbouring fields. Chopin remembered that  holiday nostalgically which probably stemmed from his premonition that his next planned longer journey abroad might mean a permanent parting with his country.

The Woyciechowskis estate, according to the accounts of eye-witnesses who used to live in Poturzyn, was a very large one. It consisted of a big manor house, orangery, outbuildings and a sugar plant which Tytus built there in the later years of the19th c. The buildings were surrounded by a beautiful park stretching over a slight rise in the area. The estate buildings survived unfavourable historical circumstances and even in the time of the Second World War were not substantially damaged. Unfortunately, in 1949 the buildings were burnt down to  the ground.

The only preserved picture of that distant part of Poland is contained in the words:

There is a certain longing that your fields  fill me with  - that birch tree under the windows does
not want to leave my memory [...]

(From a letter of Fryderyk Chopin to Tytus Woyciechowski, Poturzyn, 21 August 1830)



Teresa Czerwińska

English translation: Magda Mierowska



[1]    The dates mark the birth of  two younger daughters of the Chopins: Izabela and Emilia that have been determined  after discovery of their birth certificates, independently by two scholars: A. Clavier (1984, Emilia) and Janina Siwkowska (1986, Izabella).

[2]    In  the east wall of that building, a commemorative plaque was set in with a likeness of Fryderyk Chopin after a medal by J.-A. Bovy.

[3]    Zofia Helman, Zbigniew Skowron, Hanna Wróblewska-Straus (ed.): Fryderyk Chopin Letters,Warszawa 2009 (appendix: Announcements and reviews), p.631 [henceforth: FCL 2009]

[4]    (FCL 2009, p.207, footnote 3)





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