The church of St Mary Magdalene and St Nicholas the Bishop, Chełmce
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The church of St Mary Magdalene and St Nicholas the Bishop

Chełmce

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The church, perched atop a lonely hill, bespeaks simplicity and refinement in both its overall silhouette and proportions and features beautiful examples of plasterwork decoration on the vaulted ceilings of its nave, chancel and chapels.

History

The first church to be built in Chełmce was erected by Piotr Dunin of the Łabędź coat of arms before the year 1440. This church, reportedly made of ashlar blocks, was then mentioned in 1521 by primate Jan Łaski in his record of the properties of the Gniezno archdiocese. The church was lost to the blaze in 1620; later on, in 1665 – after almost half a century has passed – a new, stone parish church was erected for the funds provided by Jan Tarło of the Topór (Axe) coat of arms, the voivode of Lublin and the erstwhile owner of the Chełmce manor. Twenty years later, the church was finally consecrated. The founder of the new church has taken steps to preserve the memory of his achievements, for the heraldic cartouches incorporating the Topór coat of arms can be found both above the rood arch and on the vaulted ceiling of the chapel of St Nicholas. Towards the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century, the wood shingle cladding of the roof was gradually replaced with galvanised steel sheets. In 1925, the building underwent a comprehensive restoration, with the interiors receiving a new set of painted decorations. The works in question were performed at the initiative of reverend Tadeusz Szubstarski, the erstwhile parish priest. A number of renovation and conservation works were performed after World War II came to an end. In the 1970s, a new organ gallery was constructed, its structure clad with wood panels; however, the original, Baroque balustrade has been preserved intact. In 2002, a new sacristy was added on the southern side of the church, being the only modern annex to accompany the building. Three years later, the window joinery was replaced and the interior layout of the chancel was remodelled.

Description

The stone church is perched atop a lonely hill known as Góra Plebańska (the Parish Hill), situated in the southern part of the village. This location alone makes the church one of the most distinctive landmarks in the area around the city of Kielce, easily discernible even from afar; the hill itself provides a breathtaking view of the surrounding area, including the western part of the Świętokrzyskie mountains. The church itself is oriented towards the east and consists of a three-bay nave and a three-bay chancel, adjoined by a pair of nearly identical chapels of St George and St Nicholas, both of which feature crypts underneath the floor. A monumental tower adjoins the central section of the western façade, featuring a quadrangular lower part and an octagonal top section, crowned by a three-tier cupola ending with a spire. The façades of the church share a common entablature and feature simple, restrained decorations in the form of lesenes framing the walls of the chancel and the chapels. Despite the fact that the church was designed in the Early Baroque style, the nave walls were reinforced with buttresses – a relic of the Gothic era in church architecture. The interior of the church continues to make a great impression, including, in particular, its vaulted ceilings, representing both the double barrel and the barrel type, the latter resting on structural arches. The ceilings are adorned with plasterwork framing evidently influenced by the Late Renaissance style as well as various ornamental motifs such as sea shells or putto heads which are typical of the Baroque period. Other notable features include the two Baroque portal from the second half of the 17th century, made of massive stone blocks, as well as the various fixtures and fittings from the same period, including the pipe organ and organ gallery balustrade, the latter being adorned with the images of Christ and the Twelve Apostles. The painting which graces the main altarpiece, depicting the Crucifixion scene with a kneeling Mary Magdalene in the foreground, originates from the Franciscan Monastery in Chęciny.

The church complex also encompasses the churchyard within the boundaries of the brick perimeter wall.

The site is open to visitors. The interiors may be explored by prior arrangement with the parish priest.

Compiled by Aleksandra Ziółkowska, 25-11-2015

Bibliography

  • Record sheet of monuments of architecture, Chełmce, Zespół kościoła, Kościół par. pw. św. Marii Magdaleny i św. Mikołaja Biskupa (Chełmce, church complex, parish church of St Mary Magdalene and St Nicholas the Bishop), prepared by A. Adamczyk, 2000, Archive of the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Kielce.
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, vol. III, issue 4, Warsaw 1957.
  • Wiśniewski J., Dekanat konecki, Radom 1913.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1665 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Chełmce 165
  • Location: Voivodeship świętokrzyskie, district kielecki, commune Strawczyn
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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