Pieta, Tarnów Cathedral

The Tarnów Cathedral has always been a place of particular worship of the Mother of God. This is indicated by its name: Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as the chapel of Our Lady of the Scapular built in 1514. Today, the famous Baroque statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, famous for its graces, is particularly venerated. The sculpture is wooden, 1 m high, polychromes and gilded. It depicts the Mother of God known as the Pieta with Jesus’ dead body sliding from Mary's lap to her feet. Mary holds her Son’s shoulder with her right hand and lifts Christ's hand slightly with the left one. She is fainting with grief as she raises her eyes to Heaven and a painful lament seems to be coming from her slightly parted lips. Looking at the sculpture, it is clear that the artist had a very good knowledge of human anatomy, masterfully captured movement and skilfully expressed the inner experiences of the depicted characters.  In the Pietà, one can have the impression of calmness created by the balance of the composition based on the principle of an isosceles triangle and the drama expressed by the fine, almost nervous arrangement of the drapery of the robes in the sculpture of the Mother of God. Based on studies of the wood, gilding and paint pigments, the statue dates to the 17th century but its author and founder are unknown and nobody knowns when the sculpture was brought to the Cathedral.  Art historians can see similarities between the Tarnów Pieta and a fragment of the ‘Lamentation’ by Van Dyck or another ‘Pieta’ that is the central motif of the Boim family epitaph in their tomb near the Latin Cathedral in Lviv. That epitaph is the last, unfinished work by Jan Pfister, the sculptor of the Ostrogski family monument in the Tarnów Cathedral. It is known that the Pieta figure stood in the southern vestibule of the cathedral as of the beginning of the 20th century and is worshipped by many.  It was transferred to the altar of the Most Holy Sacrament in 1987. The bronze altar was designed and made by Czesław Dźwigaj in 1986. The sculptor used the motif of three crosses from the Solidarity monument in Gdańsk at the top of the altarpiece and placed bronze plaques with scenes of the Seven Sorrows of the Mother of God in the base of the altar. Pope John Paul II prayed in front of this Pieta during his stay in Tarnów in 1987. The cult of the Tarnów Pieta lives on. The cathedral was named the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sorrows in 2006. In addition to the Pieta, the southern nave also features two altars: the main one (stone, neo-Renaissance, dating back to ca. 1900) includes a bas-relief depicting Christ according to the Last Supper fresco by Leonardo da Vinci, carved in the Carrara marble, and a bronze altar with gilding designed in 1987. There are also gravestones: between the confessionals is a late Renaissance tomb of  Rev. Marcin Łyczko (1578), a Provost of the Collegiate Church and the founder of the Tarnów Academy, built of sandstone with a horizontal marble figure of the deceased, and the neo-classicist white-marble tomb of Prince Eustachy Sanguszko, the governor of Galicia, with a reclining figure of the deceased made by Antoni Madeyski.


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