Church of the Elevation of the Holy Cross in Brzeg - Zabytek.pl
Brzeg, Plac Zamkowy 3
woj. opolskie, pow. brzeski, gm. Brzeg
History of the structure
The parish church of the Elevation of the Holy Cross in Brzeg was built between 1734-1739 on the site where a Dominican monastery and the church of the Holy Cross had stood until 1545. The founders of the temple were Jesuits, who in 1681 came to Protestant Brzeg with the mission to restore Catholicism in the city. The monks acquired the land in 1727, and from 1729 they gathered the materials necessary to build the temple. The design was made by the architect Józef Frisch, employed by the Jesuits for the construction of the Jesuit St. Joseph’s Convent in Wroclaw (1734-1755). On 14 September 1735 the cornerstone of the Brzeg temple was ceremoniously laid. The construction manager was master mason Jan Krzysztof Melcher (founder of the Holy Trinity column), who employed, among others, stonemason Karol Schleien, carpenter Potr Nieden, carpenter Jan Petz and sculptor Jan Hecht. Construction was completed in 1739 (without the towers or facade). In 1740 the church was put to use, but due to the occupation of Silesia by Prussia (after the battle of Małujowice fought on 10 April 1741) the construction of the towers and façades according to Frisch’s design was not completed and in 1742 a temporary roof was made. The solemn consecration took place in 1746, after the main altar and two side altars were set up and the walls and vault were covered with illusionist polychrome by the Jesuit Jan Kuben.
In 1801, after the dissolution of the Jesuit order, the temple became a parish church. In 1856 the church was extended according to the project of Wilczek, an architect from Wrocław (after corrections by the building advisor August Stüler). The façade of the church was completed and the towers of the Catholic Church, which dominated the skyline of the western part of the city, were erected. In 1906 Józef Langer, and in 1929 Alfred Schneider conducted conservation works on Kuben’s polychromes.
The church suffered during World War II. It was renovated and restored from the outside in 1959.
On 29 March 1949, the temple was entered in the register of historic monuments of the Opole Voivodeship under number 56.
Description of the structure
The Church of the Elevation of the Holy Cross in Brzeg is located near the complex of the Silesian Piast Castle in Brzeg - a Monument of History. In front of the main portal stand two Baroque statues from 1722 - Judas Thaddaeus and John of Nepomuk, which were moved to the present place in 1755.
The post-Jesuit, Baroque temple was built on a rectangular floor plan. It is a single-nave church with a simple four-bay body, flanked on two sides by rows of chapels in place of the side aisles and a two-bay chancel ending in a straight wall. The chancel was enclosed by a pair of triforium chapels, located on its sides, and on the northern side there is a second sacristy, which connected the church with the monastery complex. The side chapels open into the nave through arcades; the triforium above them, decorated with wooden balustrades, extend into the interior in the form of semi-circular arches. The main nave was separated from the chapels by arcaded pillars framed by doubled composite pilasters carrying sections of the entablature. The main nave and the chancel are bordered by concave pilasters. The entire space of the church is covered with a barrel vault with lunettes, and the chapels have transverse vaults. In the last south bay of the nave, a spacious choir gallery is located above the porch, with a choir and organ gallery above it.
The exterior elevations were divided rhythmically into bays by pilasters with simple imposts and regency capitals. Between them in the lower storey there is a rusticated plinth in a strip layout, and above it in two zones there are window openings framed with bands and closed with a full arch. The dominant feature of the body is a three-axis front facade. It is flanked by two four-storey towers with a three-storey vestibule in the middle and an entrance portal on the main axis with a crucifix in a niche above. The towers are topped with pyramidal, classicistic cupolas with lanterns. The church is covered by a gable roof with a steeple above the roof ridge. From the north, the elevation is closed by a volute-shaped gable.
Particularly noteworthy in the interior of the temple are the impressive paintings with an extremely lavish iconographic program, thematically related to the call of the church. They fill almost all the spaces of the walls and vaults: the altar wall, the vault of the nave, the chapels, the walls and arches of the arcades and the window frames. The main representation, occupying the entire surface of the nave vault, is the Adoration of the Holy Cross. This scene is the counterpart of the Old Testament scene of the Exaltation of the Serpent in the chancel, and which is closely connected with the mystery of the cross.
Visitor access: the site is accessible to visitors
Author: Joanna Banik, Katarzyna Latocha, Regional Branch of the National Institute of Cultural Heritage in Opole, 26.06.2018
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Protection: Register of monuments, Monuments records
Inspire id: PL.1.9.ZIPOZ.NID_N_16_BK.37563, PL.1.9.ZIPOZ.NID_E_16_BK.9529