Natolin, one of the most beautiful eighteenth
century residences in the vicinity of Warsaw, is approximately
from the city center and once formed part of the Wilanów estate. In
1730 August II who succeeded Jan III Sobieski to the Polish throne,
purchased the Wilanów estate and founded a pheasantry with
a fan shaped park in what is today Natolin. Hence its original
name of the 'Pheasantry'.
the second quarter of the 18th century the then owner of Wilanów,
Prince August Aleksander Czartoryski, ordered five radial avenues
to be cut through the forest. In 1780 his daughter Izabella,
the future owner of Wilanów and the wife of Crown Marshal Prince
Stanisław Lubomirski, built a palace there, designed by one of
the most distinguished exponents of Polish neo-classicism, the
architect Szymon Bogumił Zug.
The palace is situated picturesquely on
the edge of what was once the Vistula escarpment, its most outstanding
feature is the oval
reception room opening on to the park, from which it is separated
by a semi-circle of columns. The interior design was entrusted
to the Italian architect Vincenzo Brenna, who later worked for
Tsar Paul I in St Petersburgh. Brenna painted the walls of the
interior with fantastic scroll-work and landscape motifs; the
reception room was decorated with a huge mural and a painted
1799 the Wilanów estate, including the palace in the pheasantry,
became the property of Aleksandra Lubomirska, daughter of Crown
Marshal Lubomirski and the future wife of Stanisław Kostka Potocki,
a prominent patron of the arts, collector and amateur architect,
as well as the first European Minister for Education and Religious
In 1806 work began on the conversion of
the palace into a summer residence for Stanisław Kostka Potocki's
Anna Tyszkiewicz. The work was supervised by Piotr Aigner,
another distinguished architect of Polish neo-classicism. Since
decorations were no longer fashionable, they were replaced by
stucco reliefs designed by Wirgiliusz Bauman. Outstanding among
a bas-relief representing a Dionysian feast, which runs around
the entire drawing room.
Between 1806 and 1815 Anna Tyszkiewicz
personally supervised the work of transforming the grounds into
pavilions built at this time include the so-called Holendernia,
a 'Dutch' farm comprising a pseudo-medieval barn with a tower,
battlements and embrasures put up in the period 1812-1814.
completed between 1808 and 1815 include the terrace and amphitheatre
in front of the palace, as well as the servants' quarters, coach-house
and stables. In 1807 the estate was renamed Natolin, after
Natalia, the daughter of Aleksander and Anna Potocki. After his
from his first wife Anna Tyszkiewicz, Count Potocki employed the
Polonised Italian architect Henryk Marconi
several new pavilions in the park. These additions, dating from
the years 1820-1845, include a Doric temple, a Roman aqueduct,
and a Moorish gate.
In 1830, Natalia Potocka who married Prince
Sanguszko, passed away. Her father erected a statue in her honour in the park,
executed by the sculptor Ludwik Kauffman, a pupil of Antonio
In the second half of the nineteenth and
early twentieth century the palace was seriously neglected: the crumbling walls
of the Dutch farm were pulled down in 1922.
During the Second World
War, the Natolin estate became a place of refuge for Polish patriots
who were pursued by the Gestapo. In 1942-43, due to
the efforts of Count Adam Branicki and his wife Beata, a programme
was launched in the palace and the park's outlying buildings.
However during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, retreating Nazi troops
extensive damage to the palace and looted its interiors.
In 1945 Natolin became a state property,
and as a part of the Warsaw national museum it underwent important
restorations. From 1946
onwards Natolin was closed to the public and became the weekend
residence of the President of the Republic. During the early
years of Communist rule, the estate was associated with the hard
Presidential faction within the Communist Party known as the
'Natolin Group'. With the loss of influence of the Presidential
after the death of President Bolesław Bierut, the estate passed
into the hands of the Council of Ministers.
1992 the Polish Government gave the Natolin estate to the Foundation
'European Centre Natolin' which administers the site on behalf
of the Polish Treasury. The European Centre has adopted old
buildings, and put up new ones in a style, which has kept with
of the Palace and its outlying park.
Since 1993 the European Centre Natolin has hosted
the only branch of the College of Europe (Bruges) whose students
spend a year in
Warsaw studying for an MA in European Studies. The European
Centre also hosts the Research Laboratory of the European University
Institute (Florence), and it carries out extensive educational,
and training programs.
Today Natolin is a place of European debates,
conferences, seminars and visits of prominent European politicians,
and thinkers, keeping with the spirit of its original owners.