The high towers, openwork details, arched elements, stained glass windows and an elongated structure towards the top – this is how one can describe the architecture of Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Tashkent. The second name of the sacred building – Polish Church – has become more popular than the first.
Construction of the cathedral began in 1912, and the architect who designed the building at that time was a Pole named Ludwig Panchakiewicz. The labour force for the construction were Catholic soldiers who had served in the army in the East. Most of them were highly qualified specialists. In addition, prisoners from the camp near Tashkent participated in the construction. From them they selected the specialists in sculpture and engineering.
During the years of the revolution, the architect and main initiator of the construction of the church Father Pranaitis died. The leadership of the continuation of the work was taken over by another abbot. But with the arrival of the Bolshevik government, the construction was frozen. The main reason was the lack of sponsorship.
During Soviet rule, the unfinished building of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was not used for its intended purpose. The church was not only a camp, but also a dormitory and even a hospital. This ruthless exploitation left a sad mark: some of the sculptures were stolen, others were destroyed and damaged.
It was not until the late 1970s that the authorities began restoring the sacred building. Thanks to the combined efforts of the architects and engineers, the restoration did not take that long. After its completion, the church was entrusted to the care of the local Ministry of Culture. And in the 1980s, the building was officially recognised as a monument of architecture and history.
In 1992, the government of the independent republic decided to give the cathedral to the city’s Catholics. A year later, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Tashkent underwent another restoration. Engineer Aleksandr Ponomarev and architect Sergei Adamov led the entire process.
October 2000 was significant for the Catholic community in the Uzbek capital as the church was consecrated by Archbishop Marian Oles.
The Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Tashkent is impressive not only for its architecture but also for its interior decoration. Visitors step over the threshold into a spacious room lined with marble tiles and granite. Such workmanship creates an atmosphere of grandeur and triumph.
The two-storey building consists of several rooms:
The oldest is the crypt chapel, whose construction dates before 1916. The room is used for Holy Mass (weekdays only).
The St. John Paul II room is used for church meetings and lectures. It is named after the Pope.
The largest area is occupied by the Hall of St Anthony of Padua. Here you can see a huge mosaic panel and a sculpture of St Anthony made by the master Adamov.
However, the centrepiece of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Tashkent is the hall on the second floor. The room impresses with a 2-metre-high bronze statue of Jesus Christ floating above the floor. On the right side of the sculpture is a confessional. Above the altar is a 26-voice organ. The hall is used for choir concerts and Sunday services.
If you thoroughly examine the grounds around the Roman Catholic Church, you will find a memorial plaque listing the names of those who died in the Second World War.