Upon its completion and unveiling on November 24, 1644, the Column of Zygmunt III Waza was the only modern monument in Europe to present a layman on a column. It has since then become an inextricable component of Warsaw's skyline and one of its most emblematic symbols
The monument is a 22-meter granite Corinthian style column topped with a bronze statue of the king. The statue presents the monarch in armor, with the Order of the Golden Hind, his coronation robe and closed crown, sword in his right hand and large Latin cross in his slightly bent left hand.
King Władysław IV Waza conceived and financed the monument. He hired the best artists and craftsmen to complete the monument to his father. Physical planning was entrusted to the royal architect from Rome, Agostin Locci Sr. The ultimate shape of the monument was designed by the 'second royal architect' Constantine Tencalla, with Clemente Molli sculpting the figure of the king. Warsaw's mold maker Daniel Tym made the plaques and statue. The latter two artisans eternalized their names on the base of the statute, CLEMENS MOLLUS STATUAR DANIEL TYM FUSOR AD: 1644.
For centuries, paintings, drawings, graphic prints, photographs, and postcards recorded changes in the column's surroundings and appearance. One of the first iconographic messages was issued in the Hague in 1646 as a copper etching by Wilhelm Hondius, made according to drawings by the main planner, Locci. The etching, dedicated to Queen Maria Ludwiga, presents the column with its history. The inscriptions from the plaques, scenes from the assembly and transport are found below in decorative cartouches.
It initially consisted of sculpted color stone, reminiscent of headcheese, lime, so-called "świętokrzyski marble" quarried near Chęciny and "zygmuntówka." The base was later changed three more times. The column's fence was also changed - in modern times it was surrounded by an iron fence, as of 1817 wooden poles linked by chains, as of 1855 - a water spout with four Tritons in the corners of a pool built in place of the steps, as of 1931 - granite steps. The monument has been renovated in 1743, 1810, 1855, 1887, 1928-1931, 1949, 1977, 1987 and 1994-1996.
Atop the column, Zygmunt III is presented as a knight and ruler. The crown and robes are symbols of monarchy, armor and sword - knighthood, the cross is a symbol of submission to the Catholic faith. Construction of the column devoted to his father was an element of Władysław IV's dynastic politics and also a successful form of propaganda.
When visiting the capital in 1711, Russia's Peter the Great was captivated by the column and received it as a gift from August II of Saxony, fortunately it was impossible to transport to Russia for technical reasons. "Zygmunt's Column" in the heart of Warsaw's Old Town is situated in direct proximity to the Royal Castle, and constitutes an exceptional monument with deep-seated ideological and political history. Until the unveiling in 1810 of the Napoleonic column on Paris' Place Vendôme, it was the only secular column in Europe.
The plaques on the sides of the plinth have inscriptions in Latin:
Inscription on current western side:
Zygmunt III freely elected King of Poland by birthright, succession and law - King of Sweden, first among kings in eminence and love of peace, bowing to none in war and victory, has taken captive Muscovite leaders, conquered the Muscovite capital and lands in defeat of their armies, captured Smoleńsk, broke the Turkish power at Chocim, reigned for 44 years, 44th in line of kings, equaled all in glory or took it all.
Inscription on south face:
In homage to the glory and piety, Władysław IV ordered Zygmunt III to erect this column in Anno Domini 1643, the former being the born and loving son, successor through election, succession and favored by fate, filled with gratitude in his desires, emotions and honor to the father of the homeland, father most deserved, to whom fame - triumph, progeny - gratitude - the memorial had brought or should bring.
Above, in the cartouche surmounted with eagle among garlands:
Work of reverence and homage of Władysław IV to his father Zygmunt III, erected Anno Domini 1643, renovated under the fortuitous reign of August III in Anno Domini 1743.
Inscription on plaque on eastern face:
As in Heaven, so on Earth - King Zygmunt III exceptional in piety and power, fittingly achieved double eminence: sword in one hand, he holds the cross in the other hand brave and equally pious: with sword he fought, under this symbol he was victorious, lived secure, undefeated, contented. Now, thanks to the bliss he hath visited upon Earth - exulted, and for which hath deserved in the heavens - blessed.
Inscription on current north side:
The fame of Zygmunt grows not for columns or boulders chiseled: he was mountain unto himself: he takes not light of the sun nor strength from gunmetal: his radiance exceedeth that of gold and stronger it be than gunmetal.
Author: Katarzyna Mączewska, December 2009. Translated by Jerzy Kamecki, September 2010.
- Column of Zygmunt III Waza
Royal Castle Square in Warsaw
Agostino Locci, Constantine Tencalla, Clemente Molli, Daniel Tym