The Roman Catholic church of St Catherine of Alexandria in Braniewo, Braniewo
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The Roman Catholic church of St Catherine of Alexandria in Braniewo

Braniewo

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An outstanding example of a Gothic hall church in an urban setting, located in the former territory of the State of the Teutonic Order. The building is the only surviving church in Warmia which features a triple apse in its eastern section.

History

The church of St Catherine in Braniewo was erected in several stages in years 1343-1422. It was built on the site of an earlier church, most likely built of wood, that was first mentioned in 1251.In the first stage of the construction process (after 1346), the walls of the shorter chancel were built. In around 1350, the lower parts of the peripheral walls of the nave were erected; initially, the church was to feature a basilica layout. In the 3rd quarter of the 14th century, the walls of the body were raised to the height of the current hall structure; the pillars separating the individual naves were also constructed during that period. The name of the construction engineers who participated in the construction process are Hayne, Herman Perkun (or Penkun) and Godiko Hamm. The eastern side of the nave was built by master Berndt after 1381. Construction was completed at the end of the 14th century, which can be inferred from the fact that information about the actual use of the church comes from the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries. The construction of the tower and the northern chapels started before 1420 and was completed in around 1427. In 1442 the vaulting inside the church was completed. The original shape of the church has changed slightly over the years during the period between its construction and the beginning of the 20th century. The vaults had to be reconstructed following a fire which damaged the church in 1480; in 1500 a gallery for psalm singers was erected in the northern aisle, while in 1526 the roofs above the naves were reconstructed following another fire. During the 16th and the 17th century, the church received new, sumptuous interior fittings which survived until 1945. In 1722, a baptismal chapel was added to the eastern section of the nave. In years 1855-1859 a new western gable was constructed. In 1891-1897 the church was redesigned in the Gothic style. In 1892-1893 Justius Bornowski from Elbląg executed the wall paintings inside the church. In 1945 the church was bombed and gutted by the resulting fire. All of its interior fittings have been destroyed. By the end of the1960s, the ruins of the church remained unprotected. In 1968, the remains of the tower collapsed. The reconstruction of the church took place in years 1975- 1986.The form of the church is rather unusual, its chancel featuring a triple apse; no other buildings of this kind exist anywhere in the Warmia region, although similar churches can be found in the territories alongside the southern shore of the Baltic (Lübeck, Hanover). The church of St Bartholomew in Demmin (Mecklenburg-West Pomerania) bears the closest resemblance to the church in Braniewo in that it is also a hall church with a polygonal end section and a gable in the east.

Description

The church of St Catherine of Alexandria is located in south-eastern part of the old town in Braniewo. The church is a brick building whose walls are partially made of nearly vitrified bricks; the church was designed in the Gothic style and built on a rectangular floor plan. The three-nave church features a hall layout with three apses and a gable wall in the east, a tower in the western part of the building as well as a steeple perched atop the roof ridge. The roof is covered with sheet metal. The walls of the naves are adorned with tall, Gothic windows and buttresses, while the seven-storey tower features slender arched window openings and decorative blind windows. Two chapels flanking the tower abut the western facade. The tall, spacious interior of the church is partitioned by columns and features a clearly distinguishable chancel section. The aisles and the nave feature stellar vaults, while the northern and the southern chapels positioned alongside the tower feature a lierne vault and a Baroque vault with lunettes respectively. The main nave follows a six-bay layout; the chancel is relatively short and features a single bay.

The structure can be viewed from the outside. The interiors may be visited upon prior telephone appointment.

Compiled by Joanna Jakutowicz, Regional Branch in Olsztyn, 11.07.2014.



Bibliography

  • M. Arszyński, M. Kutzner, Katalog zabytków sztuki. Braniewo, Frombork, Orneta i okolice, Warszawa 1980, s. 9-17.
  • J. Adamski, Między „modusem regionalnym” a innowacją. Kościół św. Katarzyny w Braniewie i jego związki z gotycką architekturą południowych pobrzeży Bałtyku [w] Studia Zamkowe, t. IV, 2012, p. 9-19.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1343-1442
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: bł. Reginy Protmann 1, Braniewo
  • Location: Voivodeship warmińsko-mazurskie, district braniewski, commune Braniewo (gm. miejska)
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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