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Juliusz Osterwa Theatre

alias Teatr Zimowy (Winter Theatre, 1886-1906), Stadttheater (City Theatre, 1939-1944); Teatr Zrzeszenia Aktorskiego (Theatre of Actor’s Union, 1944), Lubelski Teatr Centralnego Okręgu Przemysłowego im. Juliusza Słowackiego (Juliusz Słowacki’s Theatre of Central Industrial Area in Lublin, 1939), Teatr Wielki (Great Theatre, 1906-1921), Teatr Miejski (City Theatre, 1921-1939, 1945-1949), Teatr Wojska Polskiego (Theatre of Polish Arm Forces, 1944-1945)
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1882 | architectural contest

The contest was announced of initiative of Jan Junczys, rural builder, whose project was rejected twice by municipal authorities. There were entered only six projects, done by young architects. Decision of jury, awarding Karol Kozłowski, aroused a lively discusion in press, however it was accepted with enthousiasm by local authorities.

(detail)6.2.1886 | inauguration of the stage as Winter Theatre with the performance "Nikt mnie nie zna" ("Nobody knows me") by Aleksander Fredro and act one of "Halka" by Stanisław Moniuszko

Thetare in Lublin was constructed as the 4th theatre building in Poland (after theatres in Cracow, Warsaw and Poznań). It was founded by Lublin inhabitants, who had bought the shares of Civil Company Lublin Theatre.

(detail)1914 | theatre was changed into the hospital

(detail)11.9.1921 | inauguration of the stage as City Theatre

(detail)1924 | reconstruction of the stage, additional rooms

(detail)1931 | redecoration of theatre in white and gold

(detail)1941 | theatre existed as German Stadttheater

(detail)29.11.1944 | official inauguration of the stage with "The Wedding" by Stanisław Wyspiański
(detail)18.8.1949 | theatre has been nationalized and named after Julisz Osterwa

(detail)2003 | renovation of elevations, by PBSiRZ ARCUS Sp. z o.o.

(detail)2006 | renovation of staircase, dressing rooms, corridors (Tadeusz Malinowski)

(detail)2007 | stage renovation (Sławomir Pankiewicz, Marek Braun, Janusz Krzykawski)


(detail)Karol Kozłowski |architect
architect, educated in Warsaw and in France, author of projects of  theatre buildings in Lublin and Minsk, Warsaw Filharmony and many sacral buldingsMore theatres

(detail)Jerzy Torończyk |scenographer

scenographer, director of the theatre, interior designer, working mostly in Lublin, but also author of set design for many other theatres in Poland


(detail)Krzysztof Torończyk |theatre director
economist, director of Osterwa Theatre in Lublin since 2000 (previously, form 1978-1992 he was vice-director), also director of National Theatre in Warsaw from 1996 to 1998 (administrative director) and head director from 1998More theatres


In general, the inhabitants of the city liked the Zimowy Theatre, which had been built not long before in the early 1820s. However, it did not meet all their expectations, especially as far as the number of places and spectacular architectural form were concerned. Not surprisingly then, already in 1875 an anonymous author suggested in the daily newspaper ‘Kurier Lubelski’ establishing a joint stock company to erect a real theatre: new and splendid.[1] At the initiative of Lublin builder Jan Junczys, the governor’s office was addressed to sell an irregular plot, once belonging to the Capuchin order, between Szpitalna, Namiestnikowska and Kapucyńska streets, where the new theatre was to be built. The idea was not new: back in 1866 there was a project to erect a theatre in the same place, but the authorities refused to issue a building permit.[2] Similarly, five years later, in 1880, the next project proposed by Junczys was also rejected, since it did not comply with fire regulations. This did not discourage Junczys who, as the licensee of the Lublin theatre and a city builder, applied for a building permit and suggested that the design for the theatre should be selected through a competition.[3]

Therefore, in February 1882 a common open public competition was announced with three prizes, of 750, 450 and 350 roubles.[4] Its conditions were presented in the ‘Inżynieria i Budownictwo’, a specialist magazine, popular and highly recognised among architects,[5] while the local paper ‘Gazeta Lubelska’ presented detailed plans of the plot where the new theatre was to be erected.[6] Potential designers faced a very difficult task. Firstly, according to the rules, they had to draw up both the plans of the theatre and of the headquarters of the merchants’ association, which the organisers intended to play the role of financial backer. Secondly, the pentagonal shape of the plot was a challenge. Thirdly, after the tragic fires in Nice and in Vienna (Rintheater) in 1881, in which 650 to 1100 people lost their lives, for safety reasons the building of the new Lublin theatre had to be constructed of steel and equipped with an efficient ventilation system and secured water supply.

            The competition did not arouse great interest in professional circles, possibly as the whole enterprise was not very well publicised. Only six entries by beginners, young architects and builders were sent by the deadline. The jury, dominated by Warsaw architects (represented by Władysław Hirszel, Stanisław  Adamczewski, Witold  Lanci and Konstanty  Wojciechowski), as well as the representatives of building authorities and the city of Lublin, headed by President M. Woliński and the city builder J. Junczys, awarded Karol Kozłowski the first prize, the common project of Stefan Szyller, Hieronim Osuchowski and Antoni Jabłoński the second, and Edward Goldberg, an architect from Petersburg, the third.[7]

Karol Kozłowski (1847-1902)[8] was at that time only thirty-five and had made his debut in the demanding architectural market by taking part in the Lublin competition. His greatest successes in the field of theatre architecture were yet to come: several years later the architect erected, among other edifices, two theatre buildings in Mińsk Mazowiecki and Ciechocinek (both in 1890). His work also included the enormously spectacular Warsaw concert hall from 1902, unfortunately no longer standing, with a splendid Neo-Baroque roof.

            However, not everybody approved of the jury’s verdict, which led to a live discussion in the Warsaw newspapers: ‘Inżynieria i Budownictwo’, ‘Kłosy’, ‘Przegląd Techniczny’ and ‘Biesiada Literacka”’. Zygmunt Kiślański, for example, accused the jurors of bias,[9] Antoni Jabłoński, who was awarded second prize, pointed out various faults and disadvantages in the winning project,[10] while Franciszek Ksawery Martynowski praised Kozłowski’s project and defended the jury’s decision.[11]

The results of the competition were enthusiastically accepted in the city. The scale of the building, its appearance and especially its representative character fully suited the tastes of the local dignitaries and met their ambitions. Nevertheless, due to some necessary changes to the fire protection system and to the appearance of side elevations, where non-decorative construction elements were seen,[12] and, due to serious financial problems for shareholders, the building could not be started at once. It only began in 1884.  Karol Kozłowski and Jarzyński, a builder from Lublin, were in charge of earthworks and brickworks. The fully equipped but unplastered building was ceremonially opened finally on 6 February 1886 (the exterior was probably plastered only ten years later, in 1896). The opening encompassed a traditional mass (in the nearby former Visitation Sisters church) at 11 am, a ceremonial performance and a concert at 7.30 pm (during which a mazurka by Karol Kozłowski was played among other pieces), and there was a banquet at the Europejski Hotel, which, partly due to the endless speeches of thanks, finished long after midnight.  A brochure, entitled ‘A New Theatre in Lublin’, was published (Lublin 1886) with the exact history of the building and a detailed description of the interior. Moreover, the Warsaw ‘Biesiada Literacka’ issued a complete list of builders: bricklayers, locksmiths, tinsmiths and decorators,[13] while the local paper ‘Gazeta Lubelska’ had been updating the inhabitants of the city about all matters connected with the building and the equipment of the new theatre since at least 1885.[14]                                                                                                                                                                   

However, for economic reasons the erected theatre and the headquarters of the merchants’ association differed vastly from the competition plans. First of all, Karol Kozłowski failed to erect the wing closing the quadrangle of buildings from the side of the Capuchin church. Moreover, the height and the number of floors in the side elevations had been unified and their decorations reduced, leaving the elevations resembling typical three-storey tenement houses, quite popular even in provincial Lublin. As for the most representative front elevation (the wing in Namiestnikowska street), it differed completely from the façade in the original plans, full of splendour and dignity. Admittedly, vertical and horizontal partitions, reduced to a minimum, constitute a harmonic and simple whole, but it does not show what the façade or side elevations conceal. This is why it should be strongly regretted that the five axis elevation with enlarged cornices between storeys, strips of sgraffito plasters (on the ground floor), a frieze with festoons (above window openings on the second floor), rhythmically placed pilasters, flanking door and window openings  (on the ground floor and on the first floor) and eventually an impressive attic crowning the façade, with a group of sculptured figures in the middle and domes on both sides, crowning pseudo projections (that can be associated with towers in this way), the effect of Kozłowski’s talent and his maturity as a designer, remained on paper. Had it been built in all the details, this piece of 19th century Lublin would have gained a glamour and atmosphere close to that of the capital of France of the Second Empire.

The interior of the theatre (in the wing in Szpitalna street) is the closest to the original plan, although it finally was not completed with most of the sculpture and stucco decorations, designed with great momentum. The auditorium is still as impressive as it was on the opening day although over 120 years have passed. Horseshoe shaped, it holds about 700 places, there are boxes on the ground floor, balconies on the sides of the first and the second floor and a gallery on the third. The house is united in one whole with a suitably large stage, originally equipped with four book wings at every of eight positions and five traps, as well as very modern machinery, which could be operated by one man, if necessary. The curtain depicted a part of Krakowskie Przedmieście street with the view of the Krakowska and Trynitarska Gates, as well as the building of the City Council. According to the architect’s design, the spacious vestibule was to be a completely separate element (set to the auditorium at an acute angle), even more impressive, dripping with splendour, housing a box-office, a cloakroom, a buffet and a staircase (leading to the auditorium and galleries). These rooms were deprived of almost all decorations, embellished only with emblems of fine arts, mirrors, mirrored ceilings and stuccos and filled the whole space of the front wing.

The dominant colour in theatre interior became Pompeian red, which was chosen for the colour of walls, of the upholstery of chairs in the auditorium and in the boxes.

[1] Teatr w Lublinie, ‘Kurier Lubelski’ 1875, No. 90, p. 358.

[2]Nowy teatr w Lublinie, ‘Kurier Lubelski’ 1866, No. 33, p. 151; Budowa teatru w Lublinie, ‘Kurier Lubelski’ 1877, No. 45, p. 2 (part 1); No. 46, p. 2 (part 2); see also: Karol Hoffman, Przeszłość i przyszłość teatru w Lublinie, [in:] Nowy teatr w Lublinie, Lublin 1886, pp. 1-3.

[3] Leon Bogdanowicz, Nowy teatr w Lublinie, [in:] Ibid, pp. 3-8.

[4]Maria Rudowska, Warszawskie konkursy architektoniczne w latach 1864-1898, Warszawa 1972, pp. 30-31.

[5]Jan Junczys, Konkurs na projekt architektoniczny budowy teatru i resursy w Lublinie, ‘Inżynieria i Budownictwo’ 1882, No. 4, pp. 33-34.

[6] Teatr lubelski, ‘Gazeta Lubelska’ 1883, No. 74, p. 1.

[7] Leon Bogdanowicz, op. cit., p. 7; see also: Konkurs na teatr i resursę w Lublinie, ‘Przegląd Techniczny’ 1882, vol. XVI, No. 12, pp. 143-144.

[8] Unfortunately, there is no monograph on this architect, so the basic information concerning his achievements must be still derived from the irreplaceable dictionary by Stanisław Łoza, Architekci i budowniczowie w Polsce, Warszawa [1954], pp. 155-156.

[9] Zygmunt Kiślański, Kilka słów z powodu konkursu na budowę teatru w Lublinie, ‘Przegląd Techniczny’ 1882, vol. XVI, No.10, p. 89.

[10] Antoni Jabłoński, Projekt konkursowy teatru i resursy w  Lublinie budowniczych Stefana Szyllera, Antoniego Jabłońskiego i Hieronima Osuchowskiego, ‘Przegląd Techniczny’ 1882, vol. XVI, No. 12, pp. 135-140; Antoni Jabłoński, Z powodu artykułu p. Martynowskiego o projektach konkursowych na gmach teatralny w Lublinie, ‘Kłosy’ 1883, No. 933, p. 319.

[11] Franciszek Ksawery Martynowski, Co się komu należy, ‘Inżynieria i Budownictwo’ 1882, No. 19/20, p. 217; Franciszek Ksawery Martynowski, Teatr w Lublinie. Projekta konkursowe, ‘Kłosy’ 1883, No. 913, p. 293.

[12] Opis planu konkursowego na budowę gmachu teatru i resursy w Lublinie. Projekt architekta Kozłowskiego, ‘Inżynieria i Budownictwo’ 1882, No. 18, pp. 211-212.

[13] L., Nowy teatr w Lublinie, ‘Biesiada Literacka’ 1886, No 11 (532), pp. 165-166.

[14] Wiadomości miejscowe i z kraju, ‘Gazeta Lubelska’  1885, No 65, p. 1;  No. 84, p. 1; No. 99, p. 1-2; No. 112, p. 1; No. 137, p. 2; No. 236, p. 1;  Z miasta i okolicy, Ibid. 1886, No. 4, p. 1; J.P., Nowy teatr, Ibid. 1886,  nr 27, p. 1; Z miasta i okolicy, Ibid. 1886, No. 28, p. 1; No. 29, p. 1; No. 31, p. 1; No. 43, p. 1-2; No. 69, p. 2. 



  1. Bogdanowicz L., Nowy teatr w Lublinie, [w:] Nowy teatr w Lublinie, Lublin 1886.
  2. Budowa teatru w Lublinie, „Kurier Lubelski” 1877, no. 45, 46.
  3. Hoffman K., Przeszłość i przyszłość teatru w Lublinie, [w:] Nowy teatr w Lublinie, Lublin 1886.
  4. Jabłoński A., Projekt konkursowy teatru i resursy w  Lublinie budowniczych Stefana Szyllera, Antoniego Jabłońskiego i Hieronima Osuchowskiego, „Przegląd Techniczny” 1882, T. XVI, no. 12.
  5. Jabłoński A., Z powodu artykułu p. Martynowskiego o projektach konkursowych na gmach teatralny w Lublinie, „Kłosy” 1883, no. 933.
  6. Junczys J., Konkurs na projekt architektoniczny budowy teatru i resursy w Lublinie, „Inżynieria i Budownictwo” 1882, no. 4.
  7. Kiślański Z., Kilka słów z powodu konkursu na budowę teatru w Lublinie, „Przegląd Techniczny” 1882, T.XVI, no. 10.
  8. Konkurs na teatr i resursę w Lublinie, „Przegląd Techniczny” 1882, T. XVI, no. 12.
  9. L., Nowy teatr w Lublinie, „Biesiada Literacka” 1886, no. 11 (532).
  10. Łoza S., Architekci i budowniczowie w Polsce, Warszawa 1954.
  11. Martynowski F.K., Co się komu należy, „Inżynieria i Budownictwo” 1882, no. 19/20.
  12. Martynowski F.K., Teatr w Lublinie. Projekta konkursowe, „Kłosy” 1883, no. 913.
  13. Nowy teatr w Lublinie, „Kurier Lubelski” 1866, no. 33.
  14. Opis planu konkursowego na budowę gmachu teatru i resursy w Lublinie. Projekt architekta Kozłowskiego, „Inżynieria i Budownictwo” 1882, no. 18.
  15. Rudowska M., Warszawskie konkursy architektoniczne w latach 1864-1898, Warszawa 1972.
  16. Teatr lubelski, „Gazeta Lubelska” 1883, no. 74.
  17. Teatr w Lublinie, „Kurier Lubelski” 1875, no. 90.
  18. Wiadomości miejscowe i z kraju, „Gazeta Lubelska” 1885, no. 65, 84, 99, 112, 137, 236.
  19. Z miasta i okolicy, „Gazeta Lubelska” 1886, no. 4, 28, 29, 31, 43, 69.
  20. J.P., Nowy teatr, „Gazeta Lubelska” 1886,  no. 27.

Artists: Feliks Toplicki (paintings); Ploeschko (stuccos); Wiktor Naramowski and Miłosław Krzesiński (set design to the theatre); Stanisław Cyrański (theatre machinery)



Author: Lechosław Lameński

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