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Collegium Nobilium Theatre

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)18.5.1743 | laying a foundation stone for the construction of the theater

(detail)1750 | first performance - "Alzira" by Voltaire

(detail)1950 | demolition of outbuildings

(detail)1999 | opening of the rebuilt theater


(detail)Jakub Fontana |architect
The architect of Italian origin, he studied in Italy and in Paris. He worked mainly in Warsaw and its surroundings. He was a representative of the baroque and rococo style.

(detail)Marian Sulikowski |architect
Architect and professor at the Faculty of Architecture Warsaw Polytechnic.

(detail)Andrzej Uniejewski |architect

Around 1950 he developed the concept of building Nobilium College of pseudo-classical design of the facade. The project was not implemented.

(detail)Ryszard Lisiewicz |architect

In 1972 he developed the concept of building of Collegium Nobilium. The architect proposed to place a detached modern pavilion. The project was not implemented.


In the programme of order-run schools, mainly Jesuit and Piarist, performances prepared by pupils were regarded as an important component of their education. Thus in every school building, from Pomerania to the most remote borderlands of the Republic of Poland there had to be either a separate theatre room or an interior (such as an assembly hall) adaptable to theatre performances. There is not much knowledge about the architecture of these rooms. The most magnificent ones (in Vilnius, Lublin, Grodno, Poznań or Polotsk) had modern stage equipment, offering large staging opportunities.[1]

            Priest Stanisław Konarski, the founder of a Piarist-run school for noble youths in Warsaw, i.e. the Collegium Nobilium, also appreciated the educative role of the theatre. The school theatre, designed by the royal architect Jakub Fontana, was located in an outhouse built on to the main edifice of the school (in Miodowa Street) from the side of the courtyard. Konarski, supervising the building process, ‘had the interior splendidly decorated and provided it with necessary equipment.’ The stage was equipped with eight pairs of wings and a two-storey house with boxes and balconies decorated with a gallery of portraits of distinguished professors and alumni. The first performance (Alzire by Voltaire) took place at the beginning of 1750. Plays were performed in Polish (tragedies, including Epaminondas by Konarski), French and German (comedies). ‘The principal will ceaselessly take care to maintain the theatre in a good condition’ – ordered Konarski. The last information about a performance comes from 1767, later the theatre room was used as an assembly hall, a place of festivities and shows. From the end of the 18th century it served as a pantry and storeroom.[2]

In 1820, under the Russian partition, the Collegium Nobilium Palace was rebuilt for the needs of the military and state institutions. During the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 the edifice was seriously damaged. During its reconstruction in 1950 (the building was to be the headquarters of the theatre school), the remains of the walls of the outhouse were knocked down.[3] In the 1990s the new theatre of the Aleksander Zelwerowicz Theatre Academy was erected on the site of the old one, the exterior block of the building was being recreated. It opened in 1999 as the Collegium Nobilium Theatre.

Jarosław Komorowski

[1] Jan Poplatek, Studia z dziejów jezuickiego teatru szkolnego w Polsce, Wrocław 1957; Jan Okoń, Dramat i teatr szkolny. Sceny jezuickie  XVII w., Wrocław 1970.

[2] Ryszard Mączyński, ‘Teatr pijarskiego konwiktu Collegium Nobilium w Warszawie’, Pamiętnik Teatralny 1988, No. 3–4.

[3] Ryszard Mączyński, Pijarski pałac Collegium Nobilium w Warszawie, Warszawa 1996.



The building of Collegium Nobilum Palace, the future headquarters of the Piarists boarding school, dates back to 18 May 1743 when the cornerstone was laid. The boarding school itself had been established two years earlier by priest Stanisław Konarski.

In 1744, Konarski published a bilingual brochure (in Polish and French) entitled The factory of the Collegium Nobilium (Planty fabryki Collegii Nobilium) with attached copper plate pictures (by Wawrzyniec Bartłomiej Markowski, according to the designs of Jakub Fontana), representing the edifice of the Collegium Nobilum.

According to Fontana’s designs, the outbuilding of the palace, housing the theatre, was located on a plot that was bought later, called Gdańsk Garden. However, the construction works did not proceed very quickly due to financial troubles. The edifice of the theatre was completed three years after commencing the building, as Szymon Bielski mentioned in Vita et seripta quorumdam e Congregatione Cler: “In 1746, the theatre in the neighbourhood of the boarding school was built and covered,” [1] though the furnishing and embellishments were not completed until about 1748. Minor construction works lasted for two more years, and the first performance in the newly erected building took place in 1750. The play chosen for the opening was Alzira by Voltaire, though was staged under the title Americans.

Konarski wanted the theatre to play a key role in the education process of the youth, “to bring amusement, enjoyment and utility (…) to the youth and the most vital people in the country in the closing days of the carnival, in order to efficiently uproot selfishness, particularly strong among the upper classes, and to fuel subdued gusto into the hearts of compatriots, to heroically sacrifice themselves for the grand causes of religion, virtue and homeland.”[2] For this reason, the building was especially well taken care of: an extreme example is a recommendation to clean all the chimneys at the beginning of every month.[3] The person in charge of the building was Augustyn Orłowski, who had considerable merits both for erecting Collegium Nobilium itself and for furnishing the theatre.

In spite of the rich interior decoration described in the preserved documents, the theatre interior was probably never finished, which is confirmed by an audit conducted in 1817.[4]

Although the theatre had been erected with great endeavours, it was probably not used for a long time. According to some sources, the last performance was given in 1783.[5] The theatre is known not to have been working at all at the beginning of the 19th century, though boxes and the stage still existed. At that time, the theatre was already used as a pantry and a granary.

According to the original design by Jakub Fontana, the two-storey theatre room was to be erected two metres above the ground level, in view of the orchestra pit to be constructed. The auditorium was to fit two-thirds of the whole length, and the stage – one third. The entrance to the building was located in Miodowa Street. A simple portal separated the box stage from the auditorium. The stage floors were to be slightly raked towards the audience, with eight pairs of wings placed on them, and, thanks to an annex built to the north, two more pairs could be added.  Dressing rooms and a storeroom for decorations and costumes were also included.

 “The application of functional solutions, invented for the comfort of future users, proves how modern the monastic building was. The designed stage was deep enough to fit rich sets and to freely choreograph the movement of actors. The auditorium was spacious and mostly offered good visibility. As the ample, flat ground floor of the building shows, the auditorium was going to be used, as was the custom, also for non-theatrical purposes, i.e. for gatherings requiring ample room. The large backroom was so arranged that costumes and sets could be stored there, and, in addition, it allowed actors to quietly prepare for the performance. In fact, it was the first theatre in Poland with such an ample backroom.” [6]

The architectural designs are known to have changed. Nevertheless, alterations did not considerably influence the originally designed structure of the outbuilding. Eventually, the outbuilding was extended so that it was 77 ells long, 19 ells wide and 18 ells high. The whole building was covered with a gable roof. The theatre room was 42.5 ells by 17.5 ells with two vestibules and a representative staircase leading to it from the street. Compared to the original design, the number of seats in the auditorium was increased, the foyer was extended and the communication with the backroom was improved.

Successive conversions of the building, leading to changes in its function, started while it still belonged the Piarists. They were followed by gradual devastation: in 1807, during the Napoleonic Wars, the building was transformed into a hospital, and in 1811 it was used to house the Artillery and Engineering School. In 1832, Antonio Corazzi drew up a design for the conversion of the building for the needs of the Supreme Accounting Chamber. He divided the theatre room in two storeys and on the site of the stage he placed a staircase to facilitate communication between the newly-created floors. Afterwards the building successively housed the Court of Appeal, the editorial headquarters of the “Deutsche Warschauer Zeitung”, and finally, after the First World War, a State Printing House. During the Second World War, the building was badly damaged; as a result, in 1950 it was decided to pull down the remains of the outbuilding.

As soon as the current Theatre Academy (at that time the State Higher School of Theatre - Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Teatralna) was allocated headquarters in the palace, steps were taken to reconstruct the building of the theatre. “Regained from the oblivion by Professor Piotr Cieślak, it was reconstructed through the endeavours of two consecutive chancellors, Professors Andrzej Łapicki and Jan Enlert between 1989 and 1999. The ceremonial opening took place on 30 September 1999 during the inauguration of the academic year.”[7] Nowadays the Collgium Nobilium Theatre hosts diploma performances of the students of the Actors’ Faculty, as well as guest performances.

Monika Jarzyna

[1] Bielski Sz., Vita et seripta quorumdam e Congregatione Cler. Reg. Scholarum Piarum in provincial polona prefeasorum…, Varsaviae 1812, p. 57.

[2] Kamieński K., Dzieje konwiktu  pijarów n. Żoliborzu,  drawn up by  R. Mączyński.

[3] Ordynacje wizytacji apostolskiej dla polskiej prowincji Szkół Pobożnych [in:] S. Konarski, Pisma pedagogiczne, drawn up by   Ł. Kurdybacha, Wrocław 1959, p. 283.

[4] Karczewski A., Z działalności budowlanej i artystycznej oo. Pijarów w Polsce, [in:] "Nasza Przesłość” 1962, p. 237.

[5] "Wiadomości Warszawskie” 28.02.1767, No. 17.

[6] Mączyński R., Dokumentacja historyczno-architektoniczna teatru pijarskiej uczelni Collegium Nobilium w Warszawie, Warszawa 1986, the typescript is available in the library of the Theatre Institute in Warsaw.

[7] An excerpt from the website of the Theatre Academy http://www.at.edu.pl/page.php?name=siedziba_teatru




  1. Bartczakowa A., Collegium Nobilium, Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1971.
  2. Bielski Sz., Vita et seripta quorumdam e Congregatione Cler. Reg. Scholarum Piarum in provincial polona prefeasorum…, Varsaviae 1812, p.57.
  3. Kamieński K., Dzieje konwiktu  pijarów n. Żoliborzu, oprac. R. Mączyński.
  4. Karczewski A., Z działalności budowlanej i artystycznej oo. Pijarów w Polsce, [in:] „Nasza Przesłość” 1962, p. 237.
  5. Łagowski F., Collegium Nobilium Stanisława Konarskiego, Warszawa 1888 ([Warszawa] : K. Kowalewski).
  6. Mączyński R., Gdzie mieścił się konwikt Konarskiego? : rozważania o gmachach szkolnych Collegium Regium w Warszawie, Warszawa, Kraków: IHNOiT. PAN : [Wydaw. ZPPP], 1993 ([Kraków : KPZP]).
  7. Mączyński R., Pijarski pałac Collegium Nobilium w Warszawie, Warszawa: Upowszechnianie Nauki Oświata "UN-O", 1996.
  8. Mączyński R., Teatr pijarskiego konwiktu Collegium Nobilium w Warszawie „Pamiętnik Teatralny” 1988 No. 3–4, p. 287–358.
  9. Mączyński R., Zespoły architektoniczne Collegium Regium i Collegium Nobilium warszawskich pijarów 1642-1834, Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Neriton, 2010.
  10. Ordynacje wizytacji apostolskiej dla polskiej prowincji Szkół Pobożnych [in:] S. Konarski, Pisma pedagogiczne, ed. Ł. Kurdybach, Wrocław 1959, p. 283.
  11. Żolibor: i w nim konwikt Xięży Piiarów założony przez Stanisława Konarskiego S: P: przy Miodowéy Ulicy r: 1744 przeniesiony w to przyiemne miéysce r: 1807,[S.l., post 1822].



Authors: Jarosław Komorowski, Monika Jarzyna

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