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Prominent Poles

Brat Albert,(Saint Brother Albert, born Adam Hilary Bernard Chmielowski aka Brother of Our Lord, Our God's Brother),monk, canonized in 1997, painter

Photo of Adam Chmielowski,monk

Born:  August 20, 1845, Igolomia, Russian partition of Poland (presently Poland)

Died:  December 25, 1916, Cracow, Austro-Hungarian partition of Poland (presently Poland)

Summary. Polish monk, founder of the Arbertine congregation. Insurgent from the January 1863 rising; talented painter. Known for self-sacrifice work for the poor and the homeless, was pronounced the Saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

Early days. He was born to a noble family. Father, Wojciech Chmielowski, worked for a Russian tax office, his mother was Jozefa Borzyslawska. Adam had three siblings: Stanislaw, Marian and Jadwiga. After the death of his father in 1853 he got a stipend and went to a school in Petersburg (Russia). In 1854 his mother moved him to a Gimnazjum in Cracow. She died in 1859 and all three of her children were taken care of by his aunt, Petronela Chmielowska. Adam continued his education in the Polytechnical Institute in Pulawy. He also became active in the Polish underground, participated in 1863 Rising during which he lost his leg. To avoid imprisonment he escaped to Paris in 1864. The amnesty of 1865 allowed him to return to Warsaw.

Painting. In Warsaw Adam started studying painting but he had to abandon those studies because of the opposition of the custodial council established after the death of his mother. In 1868 he departed for Genf (Belgium) to study engineering but after a year he obtained a private stipend from Wlodzimierz Dzieduszycki and moved to Munich to study at the Academy of Fine Arts. There he met several known artists: Stanislaw Witkiewicz, Jozef Chelmonski, Aleksander Gierymski, Leon Wyczolkowski and others. He painted intensively and shipped his paintings to Poland. From this period date his first paintings on religious themes, for instance: The Vision of St. Margaret and the most famous of his religious paintings, Ecce Homo (presently in the presbytery of a church in Cracow). All together he painted 61 oil paintings, 22 water colors and 15 drawings. The best known are among others After the Duel, Cemetery, A Lady with a Letter and The Sunset.

Monastic activity. After painting Ecce Homo Adam Chmielowski underwent a change. On September 24, 1880 he joined the Jesuit Order in Stara Wies. After a year he resigned because of depression and a nervous breakdown. In 1984 he settled in Cracow at 4 Basztowa St. where he continued to paint but got more and more involved into care over paupers and homeless. After a while he completely abandoned painting devoting himself entirely to helping the poor. He lived in a municipal warming house on Skawinska St. in Kazimierz (Cracow) together with homeless, alcoholics and the wretched. On August 25, 1887 he put on a grey habit of the Brothers of the III Order of Saint Francis and was since known as Brother Albert.. A year later he took the vows and created a congregation of Albertine Brothers (or the Gray Brothers). In 1891 he created a congregation of Albertine Sisters (Gray Sisters). The Albertines organized food and shelter for the poor and homeless. He also led a poorhouse in Cracow where he lived together with the poor. Albert preached that the great calamity of our time was that so many refused to see and voluntarily relieve the suffering of their miserable brothers and sisters. The "haves" lived away from the "have-nots" in order to ignore them and leave their care to others.

Last moments. He got stomach cancer and died on December 25, 1916. In 1938 he received posthumously a Grand Sash of the Order of the Polonia Restituta (Poland's Revival). His body lies, since 1949, in the crypt in the church of Fathers Discalced Carmelites.

Beatification and canonization. On June 22, 1983, during a Mass on the Cracow’s Blonia, the Pope John Paul II beatified Brother Albert and subsequently on November 12, 1989 he was canonized in Rome. Since 1999 Saint Brother Albert is the patron of the city of Pulawy, Poland.

In 1949, Pope John Paul II wrote a well-received play about Albert; the work was filmed in 1997, released as Brother of Our God

This article uses, among others, material from the Wikipedia article "Adam Chmielowski (in Polish)" licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. :
Wikipedia (in Polish)

Other sources:
Pinakoteka - reproductions of six of his paintings (click on thumbnail to enlarge)

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