Parish church of the Triumph of the Cross, Brzeziny
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Parish church of the Triumph of the Cross

Brzeziny

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A building of outstanding historical and architectural value, with a complex of historical funerary sculptures, making the church an object of high rank in the Polish Renaissance art. The church is associated with Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski, one of the greatest humanists and political writers of the 16th century who acted as its parish priest in years 1540-1558 (he was appointed by Sigismund I the Old). Also his famous work, De poena homicidii, (a sermon on the punishment for manslaughter), came into being in Brzeziny. The Renaissance chapel of the Lasocki family, one of the earliest chapels inspired by the Sigismund's Chapel, is an extraordinary architectural phenomenon which makes the church stand out from similar structures of that time.

History

The Roman Catholic parish church in Brzeziny was founded in 1139, by archbishop of Gniezno, Jacob of Żnin, which suggests that a settlement was present there already at the turn of 11th and 12th century. The first recorded mention of the local parish priest, Sułek, comes from 1364. The Church of the Holy Cross, founded in 1321, was erected outside the then town, probably by the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Knights from Miechów in Poland (they were the official defenders of the Christ’s grave in Jerusalem and catered to the needs of the sick and pilgrims). The church was modified and extended a couple of times. The first substantial modification took place in the end of the 15th or in the early 16th century, when the chancel was extended and two late-Gothic gables were added. In 1534, a tomb chapel, founded by Stanisław Lasocki, was added to the southern wall of the chancel - it consists of a mausoleum with catacombs decorated with numerous sculptures of the Lasocki family. Probably in the end of the 16th century, another chapel - a chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary - was founded by Małgorzata Lasocka nee Warszycka and added from the east to the late-Gothic tomb chapel of the Lasocki family, with coffer decoration on the vault and interior inspired by the Sigismund's Chapel in the Wawel Cathedral. In 1619, a Baroque chapel of the Holy Cross, founded by Paweł Miedzianka, was added to the nave from the northern side. The church and chapels were fitted with works of art of Polish and Italian artists, brought from Cracow. On June 9th, 1621, the archbishop of Gniezno founded a chapel of the Rosary (also known as chapel of the Lasocki family) at the parish church in Brzeziny. After 1754, the chapel of the Holy Cross was renovated, and new floor was laid in the main nave of the church. In 1761 and 1766, windows in the nave and in the chapel of the Lasocki family were repaired. Around 1840 the church, which had not been renovated frequently enough, was almost ruined. In the mid-19th century it was closed because of serious damages to its structure. After reconstruction, the church was consecrated on October 30th, 1853. The building was modified and renovated many times in 1856 and 1934. During renovation works, the original Gothic vault was concealed by a flat beamed ceiling. In 1973, a throughout renovation and painting of the chapel of the Lasocki family were carried out, electric lighting was installed; in 1974, thorough renovation and maintenance works were conducted on the foundations under the sacristy, a central heating boiler room was installed as well as tiled floor in the sacristy; in 1981, ceramic roofing over the main nave was replaced with one made of zink-coated sheet metal; in 2012, works were undertaken to dry out the southern side of the church’s foundations by eliminating humidity, inter alia, in the tomb of the Lasocki family under the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary. The original stone and brick floor of the crypt was uncovered, repaired, and subjected to conservation works. Foundation walls were repaired and enforced, and Renaissance reliefs of the Lasocki family underwent conservation.

Description

The church is located in the oldest, western part of the town, on a small hill on the northern side of T. Kościuszki Street. The church cemetery is fenced with a wall buttressed from the south and west, and - partially - from the east. To the north east from the church, there is a free-standing bell tower from around 1930. The church yard is accessible through gates from east and west. The building is oriented, originally Gothic in style, and currently - after numerous modifications - it harmoniously combines Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque elements. It is a single-nave church with a narrower and lower chancel equal in length to the nave. The nave and chancel, built on a rectangular floor plan, are adjoined from the north by a two-storey sacristy on a rectangular floor plan, with a square room added from the west - both interiors are preceded by a vestibule from the east. From the sacristy, first floor can be reached by stairs. Four rooms in an enfilade layout can be found there, including library and treasury. Next to the nave, on the northern side, a rectangular chapel of the Holy Cross is added, adjoining the room located to the west from the sacristy. From the south, the chancel is adjoined by the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, built on a square floor plan, and the tomb chapel of the Lasocki family adjacent to it from the west, preceded from the west by a porch built on an irregular floor plan. The nave and chancel feature gable roofs, and the sacristy, chapel of the Holy Cross, porches, and vestibule - shed roofs, and the rooms to the south from the chapel are covered with a cupola with a lantern are topped with a gable roof. The church is made of brick and limestone and sand mortar, and plastered. In the nave, chancel, chapel of the Holy Cross, and the room over the sacristy, there are 19-century wooden beamed ceilings. The sacristy and southern porch are covered with a barrel vault, with irregularly distributed lunettes. The chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, is topped with a cupola on a tholobate, and over the tomb chapel of the Lasocki family, there is a stellar vault with ribs. The vestibule, crypt, and room next to the sacristy are covered with barrel vaults with lunettes. The roof truss is wooden, with purlins, partially joined with nails, partially with screws, combined of two parts, with the western part elevated. The roof is covered with sheet metal. Planked floors are present in the nave and chancel, ceramic in the chapel of the Holy Cross, sacristy, and vestibule, and ceramic and stone floors in the crypt. On the first floor level, over the sacristy, there are wooden planked floors. The main body and annexes of the church, except for the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, are buttressed. The western façade of the nave and eastern wall of the chancel feature a plinth and are topped with high, triangular stepped gables with pinnacles partitioned by blind windows with semi-circular top sections. In the eastern wall of the chancel, there are two niches with semi-circular top sections, contoured with plaster and featuring 16-century sculptures of St Peter and St Paul, and two small semi-circular windows. A similar window can be found in the western gable. The northern façade of the nave and the chancel is obscured by the chapel of the Holy Cross and the sacristy. The northern façade of the chapel has two axes and is topped with a profiled cornice, with segment-headed windows. The wall of the western chapel has a semi-circular blind window in the top section. The northern façade of the sacristy has five axes and small, rectangular windows, and features a profiled crowning cornice. In the western part of the northern façade of the nave, there is a crowning cornice. Part of the northern façade of the chancel follows a single-axis design, with a segment-headed window, topped with a narrow cornice. The eastern façade of the vestibule from the sacristy side follows a two-axis design. The southern façade of the chancel in the part not obscured by the chapel and annex has two axes, with windows with segmented lintels, and is topped with a profiled cornice. The chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary rests on a plinth, with three doubled pilasters in the corners, and is covered by a cupola on a tholobate, with a lantern. In the eastern wall, there is a niche with profiled crowning cornice, with a semi-circular top section and profiled surround, framed additionally by a larger surround made of pilasters passing into pinnacles joined in the upper section with a broken-line cornice. The southern wall features a profiled crowning cornice and a window with a segmented upper section on the axis, topped with a lavishly partitioned cornice similar to decorations of the blind window in the eastern wall. Beneath the window, there is a Renaissance foundation plaque of Stanisław Lasocki with coats of arms Dołęga and Leliwa, from the 2nd half of the 16th century. The cupola tholobate is partitioned by pilasters and conch niches topped with a cornice. The lantern is hexagonal, with lavishly profiled crowning and plinth cornice, enclosed by pilasters with geometrical capital decoration. In the southern wall of the annex, topped with a cornice, there is a segment-headed window, and a narrow rectangular window in the porch. There is an entrance in the western wall of the porch. The western part of the southern façade of the nave follows a four-axis design, with a plinth and profiled crowning cornice, and segment-headed windows. The interior of the nave and chancel without decoration. In the western part of the nave, there is a wooden choir supported on three arcades resting on four pillars. From the choir one can access a small room. The rood arch is semi-circular, with wooden surround at the bottom resembling fluted engaged columns with capitals. In the northern wall of the chancel, there is a rectangular Renaissance portal made of a couple of sandstone blocks, adorned with stylised plant ornaments. The chapel of the Holy Cross and the room adjacent to the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary open to the nave’s and chancel’s interior with a wide semi-circular arcades, of which the second ones feature a surround resembling the rood arch surround. Walls of the chapel of the Holy Cross are covered with a 20-century painting with geometrical and plant motifs. In the western wall, Renaissance tombstones of Stanisław Licoski and his wife Zofia nee Szydłowiecka are embedded, made by Bernardino Zanobi de Giannotis. The Renaissance gravestone of Urszula Leżenska, made in years 1560-1563 by Jan Michałowicz from Urzędów, is worth particular attention. One can find here also three other epitaphs from the 18th and 19th century and a convex cartouche from mid-17th century. The room next to the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary is without wall decoration, with a descent to the crypt. The crypt where in 1600 year the mausoleum of the Lisocki was established, is comprised of two rooms. In the first one, there are two large graves of the Lasocki family, with seven sandstone Renaissance relief portraits of women and men of the Lasocki family - the four first owners of the town and their wives, in medallions from 16th and 17th century, and one Classical woman bust. The chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary features Renaissance architectural decoration from the 1st half of the 17th century. The northern and southern walls are partitioned by niches - shallow on the first floor level, and deep on the second floor - with segmental arches in the top sections. In the southern wall, there is a window with a segmented lintel, framed by two pilasters. In the corners, there are squinches with strapwork. Between the wall and the tholobate, there is a wide profiled cornice. The cupola’s structure is divided into faux coffers filled with stucco plant decoration and winged putto heads. In one of the coffers, there is a shield with Dołęga coat of arms. Lavish fittings of the church include: late-Renaissance altar of the 1st half of the 17th century, Baroque pipe organs from the 2nd half of the 17th century, originating from Nowy Sącz, a Rococo confessional from the 2nd half of the 18th century, two Gothic baptismal fonts, a late-Gothic sculpture of Christ in Gethsemane (from approx. 1500), a Renaissance sandstone plaque with Crucifixion relief from 16th-17th century, painting of Christ on the Cross with the Virgin Mary and St John from the 1st half of the 18th century, a crucifix from the 17th century, a silver cross-shaped reliquary with the coat of arms Brzeziny and date “1628”, an monstrance from the 1st half of the 17th century, a Baroque chalice from the 17th century, and a bell from 1641.

The historic monument is accessible. It can be visited by prior telephone arrangement.

compiled by Jolanta Welc-Jędrzejewska, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Łódź, 16-09-2014.

Bibliography

  • Badziak K. (red.), Brzeziny. Dzieje miasta do 1995 roku, Łódź-Warszawa 1997.
  • Bergman E., Studium historyczno-urbanistyczne miasta Brzeziny, Warszawa 1983.
  • Karta ewidencyjna, Kościół par. pw. Podwyższenia św. Krzyża, oprac. J. Giżejewska, Warszawa 1983, Archiwum Ośrodka Badan i Dokumentacji Zabytków w Warszawie.
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, t. 2: Województwo łódzkie, Warszawa 1954.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1 poł. XIV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Tadeusza Kościuszki 48, Brzeziny
  • Location: Voivodeship łódzkie, district brzeziński, commune Brzeziny (gm. miejska)
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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