Former castle of the Teutonic Order subsequently converted into a church, currently serving as the filial church of St John the Baptist, Bezławki
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Former castle of the Teutonic Order subsequently converted into a church, currently serving as the filial church of St John the Baptist

Bezławki

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A small Gothic castle built by the Teutonic Order which, despite subsequent modifications, remains an example of a well-preserved Teutonic chamberlain’s castle.

History

The village of Bezławki was chartered in 1371. The castle was built after 1377, which is proven by dendrochronological research of the beams preserved in the structure of the walls. The castle was built as the seat of the Teutonic chamberlain (Kammerämter). The main castle building was covered with a gable roof and was adorned with stepped gables; in addition, defensive walls were also erected around a quadrangular courtyard, with fortified half towers with open back sections and an entrance gate positioned by the gable wall (the north-eastern wall) of the castle. In 1402, the castle became the seat of Świdrygiełło, brother of Jagiełło, who allied himself temporarily with the Teutonic Order; as a result, minor adaptation works were carried out in the castle (Świdrygiełło left the castle in 1404). During the 16th century, the castle was transformed into a church, which most likely took place in 1583; the church served as a Protestant temple from the very beginning. In connection with its new function, the interior partition walls were demolished, the window and door openings were relocated (with new windows and a portal in the south-western side of the structure) and a sacristy was added to the north-eastern section of the church, the gable of which was completely redesigned. The gate leading into the courtyard was moved to the north-eastern wall, the courtyard itself taking on the role of a cemetery. In 1726-1730, a bell tower was erected ahead of the wall which incorporated a portal; much of the tower’s structure was half-timbered. Other additions made during this period included a new porch adjoining the longer wall of the building as well as an additional cemetery entrance from the south-east. In 1884, the interior received a new, wooden barrel vault, while the facades were covered with plaster. After World War II, the church remained in hands of the Evangelical commune until the 1970s; after its liquidation, it was abandoned and both the church and the cemetery gradually fell into disrepair. Following its handover to the Roman Catholic church, it was renovated in years 1985-1989. The church currently serves as a filial church of the parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Wilkowo. In 2008, renovation and maintenance of the tower commenced; this period was also the beginning of archaeological and inter-disciplinary research connected with the castle.

Description

The church – which started its life as a castle – is situated on a pronounced, isolated hill in the western part of the village (on the southern side of the road leading from Święta Lipka to Wilkowo). The edifice was built on a rectangular floor plan on the south-west – north-east axis, with the former courtyard adjoining the building from the south-eastern side (the body of the building also forms part of the fortifications). A tower, built on a square plan, is located in the south-western part of the church; the sacristy adjoins the opposite end of the church and may incorporate the walls of the former foregate. A porch containing the entrance to the church is positioned on the axis of the longer wall and faces the current cemetery yard. The body of the church is a compact, cuboid structure topped with gable roofs above the main section and the annexes; the tower, taller than the nave of the church, features a pyramid-shaped roof. The current chancel wall and porch are crowned with stepped gables adorned with pinnacles. The walls of the castle made of brick and stone, with split stones used for the lower sections of the walls and facing brick in the upper parts, covered with the remains of plasterwork. The ground floor of the tower is made of stone and brick, while the upper storeys feature a post-and-beam structure; the walls of the tower are covered with plaster on all levels. The roof truss and the interior of the tower are made of wood. The roofs are covered with ceramic roof tiles, with only the tower roof being clad with sheet metal. The castle’s facades are adorned with regularly arranged window openings on the first storey and blind windows on the second. Both the blind windows and the window openings are topped with pointed arches and positioned on the axes of the facade in an alternating arrangement. The first-floor level of the facade incorporating the entrance features additional, smaller blind windows topped with basket-handle arches, including one dual blind window above the roof ridge of the porch. Small windows topped with segmental arches are positioned beneath the eaves. The gable above the chancel follows a seven-axis design and is partitioned by pointed-arch blind windows; the low, broad pinnacles crowning the gable are positioned flush with the surface of the wall, their top sections featuring a flat horizontal strip of plaster between two brick cornices, each pinnacle being topped with a finial in the shape of a semi-circular or triangular pediment, arranged in an alternating pattern. One of the triangular finials also features simplified volute-shaped scrolls which form an extension of the cornice. The gable above the sacristy is similar in design, albeit without blind windows. The interior follows an open-space layout with plastered and painted walls, featuring a false wooden barrel vault with a slightly flattened cross-section. The walls surrounding the former courtyard are made of split stone, and are in a poor state of repair. In the north-eastern section near the church there is a brick gate topped with a basket-handle arch and adorned with a stepped gable with pinnacles. The gablet above the gate features shallow recesses (blind windows) on both sides, with a partially preserved inscription still visible in the inner recess in the centre.

The church remains in use and is closed outside church service hours. It may be visited upon consultation with the caretaker living in the house near the church.

Compiled by Joanna Piotrowska, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Olsztyn, 15.09.2014.

 

Bibliography

  • Bezławki. Ocalić od zniszczenia. Wyniki prac interdyscyplinarnych prowadzonych w latach 2008-2011, red. A. Koperkiewicz, Gdańsk 2013 (tam wcześniejsza literatura), w tomie tym szczególnie: W. Brillowski, Analiza funkcjonalna założenia obronnego w Bezławkach, p. 119-135; S. Szczepański, Bezławki i okolice w kontekście osadniczym plemiennej Barcji oraz kętrzyńskiego okręgu prokuratorskiego w średniowieczu, p. 14-31; W. Wółkowski, Architektura zamku w Bezławkach, p. 109-117.
  • Kościół pw. św. Jana Chrzciciela w Bezławkach, password in: Leksykon Kultury Warmii i Mazur (online publication), www.leksykonkultury.ceik.eu, access 15.09.2014

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1370-1379
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Bezławki 1
  • Location: Voivodeship warmińsko-mazurskie, district kętrzyński, commune Reszel - obszar wiejski
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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