Dąbrowa Tarnowska – a town worth discovering

View of the wooden church in Dąbrowa Tarnowska. There are trees around the building. City buildings in the background.
The largest wooden church in Poland and a phenomenal synagogue whose history is a symbol of the fate of the Polish Jews – these are the showpieces of Dąbrowa Tarnowska, a town on the outskirts of the Małopolska region, which is too often forgotten in the tourist excursions. Let us go there!

The painted village of Zalipie, the Hasidic synagogue, wooden churches and cycle trails are just some of the attractions in the Dąbrowa Powiśle area. This time we encourage you to visit the somewhat forgotten Dąbrowa Tarnowska, the main town of the Powiśle area. The origins of the town of Dąbrowa Tarnowska date back to the Middle Ages, when a small village was established on the edge of the Sandomierz Forest, owing its name to oak groves growing nearby. At that time, the village was called Dambrowa. In the 19th century, the term ‘Dąbrowa near Tarnów’ began to be used to distinguish the town from other towns with similar names. Today’s name was adopted shortly before the World War II. What tourist attractions does Dąbrowa Tarnowska offer today?

Remnants of a castle in Dąbrowa Tarnowska

The building was constructed in the early 17th century on the order of the Sandomierz castellan Mikołaj Spytko Ligęza of the Półkozic coat of arms. Through the marriage of Mikołaj Ligęza’s daughter to Marshal Jerzy Lubomirski, Dąbrowa became part of the Lubomirski latifundium. The new owners began extensive reconstruction and expansion of the castle in 1697. To this end, they brought in the famous architect Tylman of Gameren, builder of Krasiński and Gniński palaces in Warsaw, among others. The reconstruction resulted in the creation of a magnificent baroque magnate’s residence; the construction involved the work of Turkish prisoners taken prisoner during the Vienna Campaign. The opulence of the residence can be seen in the fact that above the largest marble ballroom there was a glass ceiling and on it a kind of aquarium with exotic fish. Unfortunately, the castle has not survived to the present day. During the 1846 revolt known as the ‘Galician massacre’, the castle was plundered and severely damaged. The destruction of the estate was completed by fire a year later. What remained was demolished and used as construction material. By 1858, the palace no longer existed, apart from the entrance gate. Large parts of the palace park have also been preserved and are now used by residents as a place to rest and relax.

Two brothers beat each other up

On the castle hill, where the Lubomirski castle used to be, there is an interesting monument. According to old accounts, the obelisk stands on the site of a duel between two Lubomirski brothers, in which one of them was killed. The obelisk is divided into two parts: the lower one bearing the Szreniawa coat of arms, dating from the 18th century, and the upper one made of the Chęciny marble with a bas-relief depicting two lions and a cartouche with the Półkozic, Trąby, Leliwa, Nieczuja and Sulima coats of arms. The obelisk is topped with a Maltese cross, as the brother who got killed was a member of this very order.

Monument to the Fallen Sons of the Town of Dąbrowa

The obelisk is located in the Town Park. During World War I and the Polish-Bolshevik War, many residents of Dąbrowa and the surrounding area got killed. In 1931, it was decided to commemorate them. A memorial to patriots who fell fighting in the ranks of Józef Piłsudski’s Legions was unveiled in the Town Park. The monument was founded by the town’s public and designed by Professor Hanna Nałkowska. After the end of World War II, the communist government of the town changed the earlier date 1914–1920 to 1918 and the date 1939–45 was added. The eagle’s appearance was also modified by removing its crown. On 11 November 1990, on the initiative of the Dąbrowa Civic Committee, the monument was unveiled again with a new granite plaque and an inscription: ‘Monument in memory of the Sons of the Town of Dąbrowa fallen at war in the years 1914–1918 and 1920’.

The largest wooden church in Poland

Church of All Saint in Dąbrowa Tarnowska is among the largest wooden churches in Poland. The temple is located on the Wooden Architecture Route of the Małopolska voivodeship. The first church on the site was erected in 1430, and another was probably built in 1614 thanks to the Sandomierz castellan Mikołaj Spytek Ligęza. The church we can admire today is the third on the site. The temple was founded by Kajetan Potocki, Sandomierz canon and parish priest in Dąbrowa. The modesty and simplicity of the exterior architecture of the body, hides a beautiful interior, filled with Baroque and Rococo furnishings. The most valuable is the late 15th-century late-Gothic crucifix on a rood beam. The Church of All Saints in Dąbrowa hosts classical music concerts.

Traces of Jewish culture. Synagogue

The synagogue in Dąbrowa Tarnowska is one of the town’s most interesting monuments and the largest preserved synagogue in the Małopolska region. It was also one of the most beautiful and magnificent ones. Today, visitors from all over the world are enthralled by the prayer hall. The old wooden synagogue, dating from 1697, burned down in the town fire of 1885. The new temple was built in the years 1855–1863. At the beginning of the 20th century, a mikvah (water tank used for ritual washing) stood next to it. Between 1936 and 1937, a three-storey cloister was added to the synagogue, which was renovated after damage of World War I. During World War II, the devastated building was used by the Germans as a warehouse. In 1950, local Jews set up a prayer area in a room near the hallway. In 1971, the building was allocated to cultural and educational activities, and in 1972 Professor Wiktor Zin drew up a project to renovate it and convert it into a community centre. The work that had begun was unfortunately interrupted and the synagogue fell into disrepair. The deteriorating condition continued until 2007, when renovation work began. In 2012, the Meeting of Cultures Centre, a place for intercultural dialogue with a modern exhibition, began operating in the renovated synagogue. The Centre organises concerts, performances and lectures. History and regionalism lessons as well as occasional exhibitions are held here. In the museum that was set up, we can not only trace the history of the synagogue itself but also of the Jews who lived in the area. We will also learn about the history of the town and the region. A lot of artefacts and antique furnishings from the homes of the former inhabitants of Dąbrowa have been collected here, right down to ... mammoth bones. Also of interest are fragments of a (British) Royal Air Force four-engine Handley-Page Halifax bomber  that was shot down by a night fighter and crashed near Dąbrowa in 1944. In the basement of the building you will additionally see a small ethnographic exhibition on the folk art of Zalipie. The synagogue is a brick building in the eclectic-classical style with Moorish-oriental elements, built on a rectangular plan, richly decorated. Between its two square towers is a portico with a gallery supported by columns connected by arcades. Inside is a prayer hall covered by a flat vaulted ceiling and a vestibule, and above it a two-storey granary open to the main hall. The walls are decorated with polychromies by Italian artists. The prayer room displays the original furnishings of the house of prayer. At the exhibition you can learn about the history of Judaism and the local Jewish community. A bourgeois salon with furnishings was arranged on the first floor of the granary. The historic synagogue is located on the Berka Joselewicza Street in Dąbrowa Tarnowska The largest preserved synagogue in the Małopolska voivodship, it is considered a pearl of the Hasidic architecture in Poland.

Jewish cemetery (kirkut)

Near the synagogue, on the opposite side of the street, is a kirkut (Jewish cemetery). It was built in the early 18th century and covers an area of almost two and a half hectares. It features around 200 gravestones. The site suffered a similar fate to other Jewish cemeteries in Poland during World War II: it was devastated by the Germans. Most of the tombstones were removed and used to pave roads and to make walkways. After the World War II, some of the tombstones taken away were brought back to the cemetery. However, not all of them could be found. It is estimated that there were up to a thousand before the war. The last burial in the cemetery took place in 2005. It was the funeral of the last religious Jew from Dąbrowa Tarnowska, Samuel Roth.

War cemetery number 248

One of the many tourist-historical peculiarities that distinguish the area around Dąbrowa Tarnowska and Tarnów, among others, are the military cemeteries from World War I that have been preserved to this day. They are a reminder of the bloody battles that had been fought in Western Galicia. The cemetery in Dąbrowa Tarnowska was designed by the Austrian architect Johann Watzal. The main feature of the cemetery is a chapel situated on a small terrace in the form of four pillars supporting a hipped roof topped by a wooden structure of three vertical and horizontal beams. The stone pillars bear motifs of isosceles crosses. Inside the plaque is an altar surmounted by a wooden cross, into which a marble plaque is embedded. During the World War I, 44 soldiers from the Austro-Hungarian army, 9 from the German army and 236 from the Russian army were buried in the war cemetery when it was established. It also contains graves from World War II.

Attractions in the vicinity of Dąbrowa Tarnowska

The Dąbrowa Powiśle region is above all an idyllic landscape of villages, including the unique one of its kind in Poland – the painted Zalipie. Here, local painters decorate the walls of their houses, farm buildings and fences with colourful floral ornaments. The unusual village attracts many tourists from home and abroad, who often travel specifically to Powiśle to see the colourful paintings. Enthusiasts of two wheels will surely find many interesting cycle routes in the vicinity of Dąbrowa Tarnowska. One of them is the Vistula Cycling Route. In the palace and park complex in the village of Breń, amateurs of hiking and cycling can relax and spend time actively. Whoever wishes to explore the Dąbrowa Powiśle region on two wheels can rent a bicycle from the tourist office located here.

See the other breathtakingly beautiful towns in the Małopolska region:



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