How Father Kazimierz Szulc designed Sh300m Subukia shrine

Father Kazimierz Szulc

Father Kazimierz Szulc who designed the Sh300 million Shrine church at the Village of Mary Mother of God in Subukia, Nakuru County outside the church on May 12, 2021.

Photo credit: Francis Mireithi |Nation Media Group

As he steps into the beautifully designed church under construction at the national Subukia Shrine in Nakuru County, Father Kazimierz Szulc from Poland mingles freely with the masons.

He wears his hat and dust coat and adjusts his rosary that hangs on his chest and says a prayer.

As he climbs a ladder on the wall of the 60 metres tall church, he almost misses a step but he is not shaken that he might fall and injure his fragile bones.

"If I fall and die I have no regrets, after all I will be buried here," he jokingly says.

Many workers at the site are not aware that Father Szulc is the man behind the design of the Sh300 million project whose foundation stone was blessed by Pope John Paul II on May 7, 1980, when he visited Kenya. The building will resemble the image of the Crown of Mary.  

Subukia Shrine

The Sh300 million Shrine church at the Village of Mary Mother of God in Subukia, Nakuru County on May 12, 2021.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi |Nation Media Group

Father Szulc has a lot of attachment to the 5,000- seater church whose construction is expected to end in two years. The church is located in a serene environment with natural beauty and streams flowing from the thick forest.  

Reconciliation

"The trees at the shrine match nicely with the building. I always match the natural elements with something artificial. I designed this church hoping that it can be a place of prayer, peace, reconciliation and rest where people can come to gather, to think about life, and reconcile with their God," he said.

Pilgrims who visit the shrine say the environment is very refreshing. On top of the mountain is a source of spring whose water pilgrims consider holy.  The national shrine receives an average of 100,000 pilgrims annually.

"This is a holy shrine where one feels closer and more connected to God," says the 58-year-old priest who describes Kenya as his second home.

For nearly 30 years, Father Szulc, who is a member of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual which manages the shrine, has preached the gospel and designed many buildings.  

Catholic Church

From Lang’ata in Nairobi to Meru, Kiambu and Nakuru, his work is commissioned by the most discerning and fashionable church building designs. He has designed a number of projects for the Catholic Church including halls and schools.  

"I have designed more than 15 buildings since I arrived in Kenya and fortunately, none of the buildings has cracks," he says.

Father Kazimierz Szulc

Father Kazimierz Szulc who designed the Sh300 million Shrine church at the Village of Mary Mother of God in Subukia, Nakuru County inside the church on May 12, 2021.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi |Nation Media Group

Father Szulc, who hails from Northern Poland in Gdansk province said he was asked by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops to create a place where people fill the pews to worship in a peaceful environment.  

"Every time curious faithful and priests come to see the project, they always ask me if I'm self-taught in architecture. Indeed, I have not received any special education in architecture, I learnt a lot from my father. I would watch as he built houses," he explains.

The church has 12 pillars and each of them will have big statues of 12 apostles. It has three small chapels that can be used by a small congregation.

"The roof is shaped like a tent and I specifically designed it like that after seeing leaders solving the citizens' problems under a tent. The church’s exterior looks like a crown of Mary mother of God," said Father Szulc who was ordained in 1992 in Poland by Bishop Silas Njiru of Meru Diocese.

Subukia Shrine

A family from Kinamba in Laikipia County praying at the Shrine church at the Village of Mary Mother of God in Subukia, Nakuru County on May 12, 2021.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi |Nation Media Group

The pulpit is made of a seven-ton marble which was imported from Italy.   

The walls will be decorated with pictures of Mary, Mother of God, her annunciation, the birth of Jesus, assumption to heaven and coronation. These will all be in mosaics.

Father Szulc, who came to Kenya in 1993, said that he was inspired to become a priest by his three sisters who are nuns in Poland.

He says balancing priesthood and architecture is not easy. "It is challenging but I 'm happy I have managed the two well," said the priest.

He said that the project faces financial challenges since the building is fully funded by locals.

The current shrine director Father Erick Ondieki describes Father Szulc as a dedicated and hardworking priest.

"He is a big asset to the project. When there is a mistake, he quickly detects it and it is rectified in good time," said Father Ondieki.

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.