Mariensztat – undiscovered place of Warsaw? Story of the smallest Warsaw’s housing settlement
Mariensztat was the first post-war housing estate in Warsaw. It was built at the same time as the W-Z route, the first large communication investment after II World War which connected the Warsaw districts and was an important transit route through the city (during the period 1948-1949, and the second period to 1953). Despite the central location, almost at the foot of the Royal Castle and the church of St. Anna, it remains a place known only to a small group of locals. It’s a sad thing, because Mariensztat has a great history worth to discover.
The oldest documents of this district come from 1413, when it was the area of the Vistula riverbank, intended for a rubbish dump coming from outside the Old Town walls. Next it was an area inhabited by poor fishermen and sandbanks, which changed into a small village. The historical neighbourhood corresponding to the former jurisdiction called “Mariensztadt”, founded by local noblemans Maria Kątska and Eustachy Potocki in 1762. The name of the town comes from the name of the founder Maria and reflects the old custom of giving foreign names to the districts of the capital city (German: Marien – Maria, Stadt – city). In 1768 the town had 72 manors, houses, tenement houses and squares (including only 3 “stone” houses, the rest had to be wooden).
Before 1939, Mariensztat combined various buildings, which in places resembled provincial towns. It was rather a tangle of narrow streets that abounded in architectural contrasts. Near the multi-storey, residential “skyscrapers”, there were eclectic tenement houses and bending houses that still remember the times before the partitions. Mariensztat became at that time one of the most abandoned and littered districts of Warsaw.
The district was razed to the ground during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, with only a few burnt out shells of buildings remaining. Reconstruction work began in 1948 and lasted only 15 months, until July 1949. A significant part of the houses there was made of demolition brick originating from destroyed Warsaw. The center of the foundation is a rectangular market surrounded on three sides by two-storey blocks covered with tiles, modeled on modest 17th and 18th century houses. The rest of the project has a similar character. Although as many as 53 blocks were built, the scale of the settlement is small. Large public green areas have been designed at the back of the blocks. The houses were complemented by a social infrastructure and services, including nursery, kindergarten, public school, library and various shops. Small-scale architecture, sculptured details and painted wall decorations made the area more picturesque, especially a mosaic clock with chimes and a sculpture of a street vendor with a hen by Barbara Zbrożyna, one of the most interesting sculptors of the 20th century.
Mariensztat was a showcase, pride and fame of Warsaw. Everyone wanted to live here. The apartment in Mariensztat was the summit of dreams not only of ordinary citizens, but also of writers, artists, actors and work leaders. It is not surprising then that this is where the first colorful Polish film, Adventure in Marienstadt was filmed. Don’t forget to visit “the city of Maria”, the hidden pearl during your stay in Warsaw and treat yourself to unforgettable adventure!
Mariensztat can be connected with the following tours: