Pomerania Online: Józef Chełmowski's apiary

He created sculptures, bas-reliefs, painted, made instruments and played them. He built a multi-story bicycle (from a height the world looks better), a sundial, and a mini-cinema. Józef Chełmowski is called by many the Kashubian Leonardo da Vinci, yet, when one encounters his works gathered in the open-air museum in Brusy-Jaglie, one instinctively feels that he is an artist hard to compare with anyone else.

Besides a homestead filled with art and inventions, Chełmowski also left behind an apiary consisting of several dozen beehives – straw ones, figurative, but also those more practical than decorative, in the form of wooden rectangular solids, which still provide shelter for bees.

Beekeeping was a very popular form of cultivation in Pomerania. Woven, straw baskets were placed in gardens (called "kószki"), and as Friedrich Lorentz reports – beekeeping in the forest (bees were kept in hollows carved in tree trunks) has been practiced since time immemorial. Bożena Stelmachowska also lists these two types of hives as the most popular in Pomerania: "Usually the shape of the hives is elongated, most often they are made of wood, although it is now considered that round straw 'kuszki' were better and beekeepers are starting to return to them.”

Carved figurative hives depicting animals or patron saints came to Kashubia from the south of Poland, where they began to gain popularity probably in the 17th century. The hives in Józef Chełmowski's apiary are set up in several rows, so one can easily walk among them and view them up close. Many of them have been severely gnawed by the tooth of time. As the artist from Brusy said of his collection: "Some younger, some older, just like in humanity – there are old and there are young, but all in one garden."

All those interested in the work of Józef Chełmowski are referred to the website of the Józef and Jadwiga Chełmowski Foundation, which conducts a collection for the renovation of wooden sculptures presented on the grounds of the open-air museum:

Prepared by: Agnieszka Domańska


F. Lorentz, "Kaszubi: Folk Culture and Language," Toruń 1934.

B. Stelmachowska, "The Ritual Year in Pomerania," Region Publishing House, Gdynia 2016.

Photo by Agnieszka Domańska