The Basilica of Our Lady of Licheń is a Roman Catholic church located at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows, Queen of Poland, in the village of Licheń Stary near Konin in the Greater Poland Voivodeship in Poland.
The size of the church is staggering, the nave (central part of the church) is 120m long and 77m wide. It has a 98m tall central dome and a 141.5m high tower and is Poland’s largest church and one of the largest church buildings in the world. It has been estimated that the church can house a congregation of 7,000 worshippers.
A painting of the Virgin Mary, the Sorrowful Queen of Poland, is displayed on the basilica’s main altar. The painting is believed to date back to the 18th century and alongside the church itself is one of Poland’s principal pilgrimage sites.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Licheń was constructed between 1994 and 2004 and was designed by Barbara Bielecka, a Polish Functionalist architect and was funded by pilgrims’ donations.
The temple is a five-nave transept cruciform basilica (Latin cross) with a semi-circular chancel. Its façade is headed by an impressive column portico. The whole building is covered with an enormous golden dome, visible from the distance of almost 20km away.
The history of the foundation of the church can be traced back to 1813. It all started with a Polish soldier named Tomasz Kłossowski who was fighting under Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig and was seriously wounded.
According to legend, he prayed to the Virgin Mary begging her not to let him die in a foreign land and she appeared to him wearing a golden crown, a dark red gown, with a golden mantle, and holding a white eagle in her right hand.
She comforted the soldier and promised he would recover and return to Poland. Tomasz was instructed to have an image of her made, and to place the image in a public place so that “My people will pray before this image and shall draw many graces at My hands in the hardest times of trial."
Pope John Paul II blessed the Basilica in 1999.
The largest organ in Poland (13th largest in the world) was added to the church between 2002 and 2007.