Today Piłsidski’s Square is a large open square in the middle of Poland’s capital. Originally the courtyard of the now nonexistent Saski Palace, the square is now mostly known as the location of the palace’s remaining archways – also the home of the grave of the Unknown Soldier – where the daily ritual of the changing of the guards attracts many curious onlookers.
What stood on the square before? Few remember that the square served as the ground for a building that, while it stood, was the tallest in Warsaw. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – a Russian Orthodox Cathedral built between 1894 and 1912 – was a monumental structure. Designed by renowned Russian architect, Leon Benois, the building was a symbol of the Russian occupation of Poland. After standing for a mere 13 years, the Cathedral was met with a fate similar to many Russian Orthodox places of worship in Poland, and demolished around 1925. As Poland regained its independence after 123 years of Prussian, Austrian and Russian occupation, any reminders of its tyrannical past were deemed unsightly.