Architect from Utrecht

He was born in Utrecht in the Netherlands, but spent most of his life in Poland, where he made an incredible career. Not only was a leading architect of Warsaw in the second half of the 17th century, but became a nobleman and earned a big fortune and high esteem. Many aristocrats and even kings applied for his services.

The hero of this story is Tielman van Gameren (1632 – 1706), a talented son of a tailor Jacob Janszoon van Gameren. To get a comprehensive education in art and architecture the young man from Utrecht, blessed and supported by his family, went to Germany and Italy where he met his fate in a person of young Stanislaw Heraclius Lubomirski, son of one of the most powerful Polish magnates who invited him to Poland. But first Tielman studied architectural in his own country, under the guidance of well-known designer Jacob van Campen, the greatest Dutch architect of this time. Some time later he visited Italy and Germany. Photo: Tielman van Gameren, self-portrait (1667).

In Venice he had to gain recognition as a painter, as an Italian painter and engraver Marco Boschini wrote in his poem “Carta del Navigating pitoresco” that: “he is particularly elegant colorist and great painter of mythological scenes and nudes.” Unfortunately, no one Tielman’s painting has survived, neither in the Netherlands nor in Venice, or in Poland. It is also interesting that such respected person didn’t leave behind any serious portrait or self-portrait, with the exception of the self-made draft from 1667, drawn in ink on the reverse side of his notes. Abroad the young Dutchman also learnt geometry, the humanities, and military science. Well educated, he captured the interest of young Lubomirski, who was a son of Jerzy Sebastian Lubomirski, the Grand Crown Marshal of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of Two Nations. It is supposed that both men met in a Venice bookstore.  On the picture: first page of “Adverbium Moralium” written by Stanislaw Lubomirski Heraclius, engraving, 1688, private collection /


Lubomirski junior recommended talented Dutchman to his father, who asked him to serve him as an engineer and expert on fortifications. Tielman van Gameren arrived in Poland in 1661, and remained there for the rest of his life, at Lubomirski’s family service. He started this service as a specialist at military fortifications (his first works were embankments, bridges, fortresses and siege engines). In 1665 he participated in the armed occurrence of the Jerzy Sebastian Lubomirski (on the picture left) against King John Casimir (marshal didn’t accept king’s attempts to establish absolutism). This infamous episode was forgiven, however, as Tielman served later in the royal army, and he even participated in the battle against the Turks at Chocim and in the King John III Sobieski expedition at Vienna. For these achievements in 1672 van Gameren was granted the title of royal architect at King Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki’s court. Four years later, during King Jan III’s coronation, the artist was appointed Golden Spur Knight (the diploma has survived), a title equivalent to nobility status.

Knight of the Golden Spur Diploma (1676)

This allowed him to fully settle in Poland and marry a Pole, Anna Komorowska. What’s more – from now his name was often used in a Polish form as Tylman Gamerski.

After Jerzy Sebastian Lubomirski death the Netherlander started his service for his son, Stanislaw Heraclius. He was the Grand Marshal of the Crown and one of the brightest minds of the Commonwealth (he was also one of the greatest writers of the 17th century Poland). Orders from the representatives of other aristocratic families were accepted by Tielman sporadically. It was only in the 90. when the number of van Gameren clients grew. Among those happy ones was Queen Maria Kazimiera (Marysieńka), the beloved wife of John III Sobieski. On the pictureStanislaw Heraclius Lubomirski.

Thanks to numerous orders Tielman became very wealthy and respected person. His luck was that during King Sobieski reign Warsaw enjoyed a period of great prosperity in building. Therefore he settled in the capital, in the vicinity of today’s Belvedere, and died in 1706 at his home. Unfortunately, the tomb of the famous Warsaw architect disappeared. He was buried in the Moscow Chapel (of some interesting past, by the way) which was demolished in 1818 to make place for the Staszic Palace. His property Tielman gave to some religious institutions.


 After leaving the army Tielman focused his interest on civil architecture only – palaces, castles, gardens, pavilions, churches. He also designed tombs and… even the city chalet! The vast majority of the buildings were erected in Warsaw. According to prof. Stanislaw Mossakowski , Dutch architect built as many as 75 objects and no one architect working in the lands of the Commonwealth can be compared to him.

Tylman van Gameren shows Stanisław Heraclius Lubomirski plan  of the Bernardine church and monastery in Czerniakow / fresco from the church

“Built” is improper word as Tielman was the architect of a new type – he only designed without having control upon the construction. He oversaw only the most important ones. This had a negative side as builders not always were able to meet the challenge, especially since the architect’s sketches were often vague, only a small-scale drawings.


Tielman architectonical style is defined as classicizing in high baroque architecture. This means that the structures are characterized by peace and harmony. Many of the features of his style grew out of traditional Dutch architecture and designs of classicizing North Italian artists, such as Andrea Palladio and Vincenzo Scamozzi. Dutch architect introduced and popularized in Poland a decorative motif in a form of tympanum supported on columns, placed at a front of the palace. This antique theme, for the first time used in the palace in Pulawy, was reproduced many times in the Polish noble mansions and palaces. On the photo above: tympanum of the Ostrogski Castle in Warsaw.

Noble house in Bobra Wielka

He also introduced an original type of Polish palace, constructed on the basis of a rectangle with central and corner breaks, with a huge central hall, multi-room apartments on the sides and a grand staircase. Of course van Gameren had to adapt to the tastes and requirements of his Polish customers. And they more appreciated stability and comfort than aesthetics.  And it was not always possible to get various construction materials and suitably qualified contractor. Therefore, in most of the residences only a brick and plaster were used, and much less stone or marble. However, where the customer wanted to spend more money, buildings became sophisticated. An excellent example of it was the Krasinski Palace, considered from the beginning as one of the most beautiful aristocratic residences in Warsaw.

Krasinski Palace – a model built according to the original design by Tylman

Despite these limitations, Tielman managed to create outstanding works, and his architecture is sophisticated and well thought. Dutch architect didn’t also reject designing churches – in those designs he used the central architectural form and axial symmetry.


primate Michał Radziejowski palace, also called the palace of Czapski (family)

Czapski palace – view from 1750

Krasinski palace

Krasinski palace, Bernardo Belotto “Canaletto” (18th century)

Branicki palace in Białymstok, one of the best preserved Saxon era aristocratic mansion in the lands of the Commonwealth, called the “Versailles of the North”

Branicki palace in Białystok

palace in Nieborów

Palace in Nieborów

Ostrogski Castle, destroyed during World War II but rebuilt precisely according to original Tielman’s drawings (presently the seat of Fryderyk Chopin Museum)

Ostrogski Castle in Warsaw

It is also worth to know that from  the „bath house” built by Tielman for Heraclius Lubomirski originated the „Palace on the Water” in Warsaw Park Łazienki (read: Warsaw).

Baths of the Lubomirski – view from the 17th century

Among interesting religious buildings are:

St. Anna Church in Cracow, which is considered one of the most beautiful baroque buildings in Poland

St. Anna church in Cracow

St. Kazimierz Church (so called “sakramentki church”) in Warsaw, destroyed in 80% in 1944, rebuilt

St. Kazimierz church in Warsaw, Bernardo Belotto “Canaletto” (18th century)

Royal Chapel next to St. Mary’s Church in Gdansk

Royal Chapel in Gdansk

Other works:

Sophia Lubomirska tombstone in Końskowola

Sophia Lubomirska tombstone

Trenches of the Holy Trinity (Okopy Świętej Trójcy) – the former stronghold in Poland, on the Dniester, at the mouth of Zbrucz

Trenches of the Holy Trinity – Kamieniecka gate

17th century altar of the Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Trinity (the altar of the fatherland) – destroyed in 1944 and reconstructed

Altar of the Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Trinity – view from 1927


The size of architectural designs – those completed and those unrealized – can be seen through the large collection of Tielman’s sketches, which are unique on a European scale. About 800 of them survived until today (about 180 was lost during the Warsaw Uprising).

Sketch of the Bruhl palace, non-existing anymore

Van Gameren’s sketches are currently stored in the Drawings Cabinet of the Warsaw University Library. They were drawn with pencil first and finished with a brown ink. Drawings of sculptures (ornaments, gravestones) are characterized by a big expression, showing great drawing skills of their creator. Some architectural sketches were presented in 2003 at a special exhibition at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. The exhibition was also shown in Amsterdam. On the picture: “Project of statues of angels for the St. Anthony church in Warsaw”, ink, 1687.

Another architect’s legacy is collection of his books, which he brought with him to Poland and constantly supplemented. The items were related not only to the military, architecture and engineering, but also to history, philosophy, theology and the natural sciences. In terms of the extent of his interests Tielman was truly a Renaissance man. At the time of his death collection consisted of 118 items, of which only 53 volumes survived, located today in various collections.

Tielman van Gameren was the greatest, most original and most prolific architect operating in the Commonwealth. Some sketches he left behind him show ideas which could make him famous far beyond the Polish borders. Unfortunately, fate was not kind to his work. Many buildings were destroyed during the WW II, although many of them have been rebuilt with great care, like st. Casimir Church (sakramentki) and Krasinski Palace.

Bruhl palace, non-existing – view from 1939

The altar in st. Cross church is also rebuilt. Many aristocratic residences were changed after Tielman’s death and have not been preserved in their original shape.

Palace in Puławy – project of Tielman

Palace in Puławy – the present view

Some objects, such as Marywil (1693 – 1695) – the first hotel and commercial complex in Warsaw – was demolished to give place for National Theatre.


But still the trace of Thielman’s architectural activity is so distinctive that while walking through the Polish capital it is easy to find his works. Without Tielman van Gameren the picture of Polish 17th century culture would be incomplete.

Krasinski palace, 2012

300 years later another Dutch architect – Erick van Egeraat – admits to a big fascination of the Tielman’s achievements.  Van Egeraat designed the current Kingdom of the Netherlands Embassy in Warsaw, one of the most beautiful (read: Embassy in the garden). But that is another story…

Renata Głuszek

Published: September 15, 2012

Read also: Embassy in the garden

Photo: Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons,,,, Renata Głuszek

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