Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, originally maintained by the Order of Saint Clare and currently serving as the rectoral church of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, Bydgoszcz
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Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, originally maintained by the Order of Saint Clare and currently serving as the rectoral church of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin

Bydgoszcz

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The only former monastic church surviving in the Bydgoszcz city centre, its distinctive silhouette with tower instantly defining the vista at the junction of the Gdańska and Focha streets.

History

Back in 1448, the burghers of Bydgoszcz erected a hospital chapel of the Holy Ghost on the site of the existing church, in what was known as the Gdańskie Przedmieście (Gdańsk Suburb) district at the time, with the official consecration of the chapel taking place in 1449. In 1552, its technical condition was already considered catastrophic, however, and so the campaign for the construction of a new place of worship has begun. However, the construction itself only began in 1582, with the church reaching completion in 1590. It took even longer to equip the new church with all of its fixtures and fittings, the last of which were delivered and installed in 1602 - the year when a single-storey, brick sacristy adjoining the northern side of the church was also added. In 1614, the prioress of the Order of Saint Clare arrived in Bydgoszcz with the intention to establish a new convent here. In 1615, the foundation of the convent was confirmed by pope Paul V, with the construction of the monastic buildings commencing on the same year. The convent was completed a mere three years later. After the municipal council made a generous gift in the form of an additional plot of land in the Gdańskie Przedmieście district, the construction of a new nave of the church began in 1616, with the new structure being added to the western nave of the existing building. The original main entrance section was demolished and replaced with a Gothic rood arch separating the nave and the older section of the church, i.e. the chancel. The consecration ceremony of the extended church of the Holy Spirit took place on September 21, 1645. In 1646, a new chapel, designed for the priests, was added to the church, with funds for its construction being provided by the mayor of Bydgoszcz, Wojciech Łochowski; notable features of the new chapel was the highly decorative roof parapet designed in the Renaissance style as well as a crypt for the nuns. Due to the strategic location of the church and the convent ahead of the Gdańsk Gatehouse, in the 1640s, a multi-storey tower topped with a Baroque cupola was erected at the south-western corner of the nave. Following the dissolution of the convent in 1835, the Clarisse nuns were forced to move to Gniezno. In June 1848, an unusually fierce gale blew the cupola off the top of the tower; one year later, a low, eight-faced pyramid roof was constructed in its place. Following the secularisation of the church, the building was used for a variety of purposes. Initially it served as a storage facility with weighing scales; in June 1863, it was taken over by the Street and Latrine Cleaning Company, while in 1875 it became a fire station. In 1888, the Historical Society of the Noteć River District made the female choir gallery available for exhibition purposes. In 1890, the first visitors were able to witness the new historical exhibition organised there. Two years later, new ceiling crossbeams were installed inside the nave, while in 1901 the tower received its tower clock with two clock faces; the original, Baroque cupola was also reconstructed.

After Poland regained its independence, in 1920 the church began serving its original purpose once again. The church underwent full-scale renovation and conservation works in the years 1920-1922, led by the Poznań-based architect Stefan Cybichowski. The works performed included the removal of various additions made during the Prussian era, including the demolition of the annexes; the corner buttress at the north-western corner of the nave was reconstructed, while the late-19th century staircase was transformed into a small vestibule. The Renaissance roof parapet crowning the sacristy originally designed for the nuns was also restored to its former glory.

In 1922, a new portal designed by Stefan Cybichowski and executed by the stonemason Jakub Job was added to the front façade.

On December 3, 1922, the church was consecrated once again; sometime later, the building became known as the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the ceremony intended to celebrate the new invocation of the church being held on November 16, 1925.

A series of comprehensive conservation works was conducted in 1950, encompassing, among others, the renovation of the front façade gable; the roof tiles were also relaid during that period. The window design was altered slightly, while the walls of the façade were cleaned up and received a new finish. In 1954, the existing pipe organ, dating back to the 1920s, was replaced with a new, 12-stop instrument. In years 1953-1954, conservation works intended to preserve the polychromed nave ceiling were carried out; later on, a new staircase inside the tower, leading to the organ gallery, was installed. In 1955, additional preservation works were carried out on the 17th-century frescos discovered on the chancel arch wall. A number of bricked-up oculi in the northern and southern walls of the nave were likewise discovered during that period and were restored to their original condition two years later. During the same year, the 17th-century main altarpiece, which had been removed from the church and relocated to Sypniewo, was restored to its original place. A 17th-century wrought iron grillwork separating the chancel and the nave, originally forming part of the old parish church cemetery, was likewise brought back after a period of absence, as was another piece of grillwork which had originally graced the priests’ sacristy. In 1957, the chancel received new stained glass windows, designed by Zdzisław Kuligowski. In 1958, the post-war renovation efforts finally came to an end with a series of refurbishment and restoration works. Further works were performed in the mid-1960s, when the old cupola cladding was replaced with galvanised steel sheets, while new Stations of the Cross, made of maiolica (tin-glazed pottery), were installed in the nave. In the years 1987-1989, conservation works were carried out on the painted decorations which adorn the walls and ceiling, while in the early 1990s, the façades of the church were cleaned up and refinished. In 1991, conservation works on the main altarpiece began, with the chancel walls and vaulted ceiling receiving a new plaster finish in the original, historic colour scheme.

In 1951, the church attained the status of a rectoral church, while in 1972 it became an academic church by decree of the primate of Poland, Stefan Wyszyński. From 1983 onwards, the church was no longer a filial church of the great parish church in Bydgoszcz. From November 13, 1993, the Capuchin friars from the Warsaw province began their religious ministry at the church.

Description

The church is a single-nave structure, oriented towards the east, its chancel featuring a semi-hexagonal end section; the body of the church is adjoined by the sacristy, the chapel and the tower. The church exhibits features of both the Gothic and Renaissance styles, with certain Baroque influences also being present. A sacristy (originally designed for the nuns) adjoins the northern side of the chancel, while the chapel of Wojciech Łochowski (originally conceived as a sacristy for the priests and graced by a Renaissance roof parapet) is located on the southern side. The oldest walls of the church, dating back to 1582, form part of the northern part of the chancel.

The western gable features a convexo-concave silhouette, its surface adorned by blind windows with a plaster finish. The decorative coping of the gable is graced by volutes, obelisks and sphere-shaped finials. The overall silhouette of the building is instantly defined by the tower positioned at the north-western corner of the main body. The cylindrical tower with an octagonal upper section is topped with a cupola surmounted by a roof lantern. The individual sections of the church - with the exception of the chapel of Wojciech Łochowski - are covered with gable roofs.

The chancel features a barrel vault with lunettes, adorned with a network of ribs which makes the resulting design reminiscent of cross-rib vaulting, albeit with ribs which serve no structural purpose and are used exclusively as a decorative flourish. In the chancel, in addition to windows topped with semi-circular arches which are present in all of the building’s façades, there is also a number of oculi - a typical feature of early 17th-century churches, designed in the Renaissance style.

The interior of the nave features a flat ceiling adorned with painting decorations, dating back to the mid-17th century and consisting of 112 coffers, each of them incorporating decorative rosettes or symbolic motifs. The rosettes are present in 103 coffers in total. The organ gallery, which had originally served as the conventual choir gallery, is a two-bay brick structure supported by two pairs of monumental columns. The section below the gallery is connected to the nave by three semi-circular arches. Outside, the walls of the church are supported by single-stepped buttresses as well as one two-stepped buttress positioned alongside the northern side of the nave. The side walls feature a pronounced socle, projecting slightly beyond the outline of the façade. Both the windows and oculi are framed with plaster surrounds. The gable between the nave and the gable has a flamboyant outline, partitioned with cornices into three sections of unequal height and further accentuated with pinnacles adorned with small pilasters.

Inside, the church features numerous valuable fixtures and fittings, such as the main altarpiece from 1636, designed in the Mannerist style and featuring lavish strapwork and auricular decorations which serve as the backdrop for the painting entitled “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, created by Jerzy Hoppen, a painter based in Toruń (ca. 1955) as well as a second painting depicting St Stanislaus Kostka, created by Leon Wyczółkowski. Other notable features of the interior include the painted decorations from the period between the mid-17th century and the 18th century, a Rococo pulpit from the second half of the 18th century, a Mannerist relief in alabaster (1595), Baroque grillwork (17th-18th century) positioned inside the rood arch between the nave and the chancel as well as several brass candle chandeliers from the Gothic and Baroque period.

The church is accessible to visitors.

compiled by Krzysztof Bartowski, Historical Monument and National Heritage Documentation and Popularisation Department of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Cultural Centre in Bydgoszcz, 10-12-2014 - 18-12-2014.

Bibliography

  • Łoziński J.Z, Adam Miłobędzki A., Atlas zabytków architektury w Polsce. Warsaw 1967
  • Arszyński M, Rejmanowski M., Zabytki architektury i budownictwa w Polsce, issue 2: Województwo bydgoskie, Warsaw 1972,
  • Zabytki architektury województwa bydgoskiego, collective work, Bydgoszcz 1974,
  • Chrzanowski T., Kornecki M., Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, vol. 11, Województwo bydgoskie. Warsaw 1977
  • Parucka K., Raczyńska-Mąkowska, Katalog zabytków województwa Bydgoskiego. Bydgoszcz 1997, pp. 8-9
  • Ulica Gdańska w Bydgoszczy. Przewodnik historyczny (collective work), Bydgoszcz 2003, pp. 65-66
  • Katalog Zabytków Sztuki w Polsce, vol. 11, Dawne województwo bydgoskie, Warsaw 1977,

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1582-1590 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Gdańska 2, Bydgoszcz
  • Location: Voivodeship kujawsko-pomorskie, district Bydgoszcz, commune Bydgoszcz
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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