St Mary’s Church / Former Parish Church of the Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist, Chojna
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St Mary’s Church / Former Parish Church of the Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist

Chojna

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The St Mary’s Church is a late Gothic building and one of the most valuable religious buildings in Western Pomerania. The walls of the monumental building were erected in three stages from the third quarter of the 13th century to the end of the 15th century, and the shape of the eastern part of the building is associated with the activities of the workshop of Heinrich Brunsberg from Szczecin, who was an excellent builder. The building was destroyed in 1945, but it retained its original body and rich décor of the façades along with visible accumulation of stylish structures created during subsequent construction phases.

History

The earliest known source records indirectly confirming the existence of the church in Chojna provide information about parish priest Adam from Chojna (1274) and the grant of patronage over the church in Chojna (1282) by Margrave Otto IV and Conrad I to the Knights Templars from Rurka. In the Middle Ages, the church was built in three construction stages: 4th quarter of the 13 c. - early 14th c., late 14th c. and early 15th c., around the mid-15th c.

The construction of the first town church, which was built of stone cubes, began around 1270; in the late 13th century and early 14th century the construction was continued with the use of brick until around 1330. The form of that church remains unknown. Based on the preserved stone parts of the foundations and the ground floor, it has been established (M. Płotkowiak) that the church was built on a Greek-cross floor plan with a massive tower added to the west. The mysterious element in the structure of the church is its crypt featuring a hall layout, the walls of which were used to build a St Mary’s Chapel adjoining the southern wall of the nave body. The time of construction of the St Mary’s Chapel remains unknown. Archival documents from 1304 - 1333 provide information about interior fittings of the church and the foundation of the altar.

Works on the extension of the church began in 1390; the works involved building the chancel section to the east, which has survived to this day; the section has the form of a spacious three-aisle hall with a polygonal gallery and a ring of chapels This section of the church is attributed to Heinrich Brunsberg. The preserved walls feature surviving details characteristic of Heinrich Brunsberg: glazed shaped sections in the northern portal, finials, and rosettes. By November 1407, work on four eastern bays of the building was completed. An envoy of the Bishop of Cammin consecrated a choir and new altar of the Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist. The walls of the St Mary’s Chapel were incorporated into the hall body of the church. Its interior was divided by a gallery, covered with a stellar vault, and equipped with two new altars. Work on the extension of the eastern part of the church were completed in 1440. During many years of works on the extension of the body of the church, the original tower wad modified. A new four-storey brick tower was erected on the stone foundations of the old tower. The décor of the façade of the new tower was reminiscent of the partitions used for towers of the St Mary’s Church in Greifswald (ca. 1362) and St Nicholas' Church in Stralsund (ca. 1366).

The third stage of construction of the medieval church is dated to 1451-1459. During that period, the form of three western bays of the body was converted to the form reminiscent of the chancel section. At the same time, next to the south façade of the nave body, a sacristy and porch were built; they adjoined the St Mary’s Chapel to the west. The north façade of the body was pierced by two portals; the first known as “Porte Mortale/ Toten Tür” was located on the western bay and was intended for funeral ceremonies and the smaller one known as “Braut Tur” in the third bay to the west was used by brotherhoods. In 1479, a St Anne’s Chapel was built by the southern wall of the tower. It was covered with a tall shed roof reaching the cornice of the second storey of the tower.

The interior was equipped with lavish fittings. The most donations were made in the 15th century. In the late Middle Ages, the church had 20 altars. The ceilings of the nave and walls of the chapels were adorned with wall paintings. The windows were glazed with stained glass depicting saints, Last Judgement, scenes from the lives of St Alexius and Erasmus.

In the 16th and 17th century, the church’s architecture was not significantly changed. The introduction of the Reformation in the New March in 1536 resulted in the dissolution of the Order of Saint John, which served as the patron of St Mary’s Church. Former patrons were replaced with local landowners. In 1543, Heinrich Richter from Kostrzyn founded a new wooden dome atop the tower. The dome was destroyed by fires in 1628 and 1658. The walls of the St Anne’s Chapel were damaged in a fire in 1658. The damage was repaired until 1668. Around 1670, work on the renovation of the interior of the church began and was continued with interruptions until the end of the 17th century. During the work the medieval wall paintings were covered, and in 1686-1692 a new dome was installed atop the tower.

Between 1701 and 1714, Georg Mattanovi, Italian court carver working for the Margraves of Schwedt, made a Baroque ambo decorating the interior of the church until 1945. In 1733-1735, the church organs were replaced. During that period, door joinery was replaced. Around 1800, the portal in the northern façade known as “Braut Tur” underwent alterations.

Changes in the church’s architecture in the 19th century resulted from successive catastrophic damages to the tower. In 1817, the Baroque dome of the tower was destroyed in a fire caused by lightning. After a quick repair of the upper section of the tower, in 1839-1842 its upper storey was altered. The alterations included adding two new storeys, and the whole structure was covered with a simple hip roof. In 1843, the south-western corner collapsed and damaged the St Anne’s Chapel and the façades of the adjacent houses. The tower lay in ruins for 10 years. In 1854, the damaged walls were demolished and a portion of the ground floor and the eastern wall were left. During the works the walls of the St Anne’s Chapel were demolished. In 1859-1861, a new tower measuring 95 m in height was built according to a design by architects A. Soller and A. Stüler from Berlin. It was designed in the style of Gothic Revival and French Gothic cathedrals. The square-shaped shaft of the tower was topped with a conical openwork dome made of brick. At that time, the interior décor of the church was subjected to regothicisation. The process began in 1861 with the removal of a Baroque altar and installation of a new neo-Gothic altar. In 1881, the dome of the tower sustained further damages. A new dome was made of yellow clinker brick. In 1883-1884, the body of the church underwent restoration under the supervision of master builder Richter. The restoration involved filling in cracks in the brick face with new mouldings made according to the original design, replacing the profiles of window reveals. The preserved medieval stained glass windows were moved from the chancel windows to the windows of side galleries. In the interior new floors were installed, Baroque gallery was replaced with a new neo-Gothic one, walls were covered with red and yellow plaster, and the intrados of arcades and the walls of chapels in the basement and ceilings were covered with geometric ornaments and foliage in the Gothic Revival style. Two original Gothic paintings were left; these include the “Crucifixion” scene in the St Mary’s Chapel and depiction of the Madonna on the east wall of the sacristy. In 1919, both paintings underwent conservation done by Zeissig, German painter.

In the interwar period, a boiler house was installed on the ground floor level of the St Mary’s Chapel. In 1932-1933, construction and conservation works were carried out to reinforce the walls and dome of the tower. A reinforced concrete structure was installed inside the dome; the outer part was covered with wood and copper sheet metal. The church secured in this manner has survived until 1945.

During the battle in February 1945, the church was destroyed. The remains included peripheral walls to the level of the crowning cornice and peripheral walls of the tower with a brick dome. Five pillars next to the northern aisle with the intrados of arcades and a strip of walls above the arcades have survived in the interior of the body. The walls of side chapels with a part of ceilings have been also preserved. Clean-up works involving the removal of rubble were carried out in 1950. A solution for securing the building in the form of a permanent ruin was developed at that time. Between 1960 and 1962, historical and architectural documentation of the church along with an inventory of its walls was drawn up. Protective works were conducted in 1967-1969. During that period, the top section of the walls was secured, and some of the ceilings in the interior of chapels were reconstructed, and a breach in the southern façade was bricked up. Work was stopped due to lack of funds. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the idea was born to rebuild the monumental church, which united a great number of people, including residents of Chojna, historians, conservators and architects. Funds received from a Polish-German foundation, church fund, and the Commune Council in Chojna allowed to start the process of rebuilding the church. After years of reconstruction (1990 - 2012), the silhouette of the parish church complements the historical landscape of the town. The interior of the church is used occasionally as the site of ecumenical worship services.

Description

The church is situated in the centre of the town, south-east of the market square (now Konstytucji 3 Maja Square). The church is oriented. It was built in the late Gothic style, on an elongated rectangular plan (55.50 x 28 m), and is closed off on seven sides to the east. The nave body is divided into three aisles, features seven bays, with the eastern bay of the central nave in the shape of a trapezoid, surrounded by a gallery and a ring of chapels between the buttresses projecting inwards. The south façade is adjoined by a rectangular two-bay St Mary’s Chapel, sacristy and porch projecting from the face of the peripheral walls. A tower built on a square plan and measuring 10.59 x 10.59 m is located at a distance of approx. 40 cm from the west façade.

The church features a hall layout with an equal height of the nave, aisles and chapels (about 18 m). The chapels in the eastern sections have two storeys. The St Mary’s Chapel, sacristy and porch are lower than the main body. The interior of the church has two levels. The body of the nave is covered with a gable roof with an elongated south roof face above the walls of the St Mary’s Chapel, sacristy and porch. The roof truss features a mixed internal structure made of wooden rafters and steel trusses. The roof is covered with monk-and-nun tiles. The tower has four storeys and is topped with a pyramid dome covered with sheet metal.

The lower sections of the peripheral walls are built of granite ashlars, whereas the upper sections and the pillars and partition walls are made of Gothic bricks with varying dimensions, laid in Monk bond; and the architectural details of multicolour glazed brick. The pillars in the southern aisle and to the east (9 pillars) are made of cast concrete, placed on new concrete continuous footing. The top section of the walls was modified in 6 layers using new bricks and reinforced by reinforced concrete tie beam. The vaults have been preserved in the interior of two levels of side chapels (cross-rib vault), St Mary’s Chapel (cross-rib and stellar vaults), and sacristy (cross-rib vault), porch and porch located underneath the tower. The original ceramic floors have been preserved in the porch underneath the tower, chapels in the southern sections, and partially in the aisles. They are made of yellow and red square tiles and are arranged like a checkerboard. The chapels in the northern sections and partly in the north aisle feature the preserved brick floor. Two Gothic staircases are located within the wall of the St Mary’s Chapel. The interior of chapels feature the surviving stairs consisting of a few steps next to the passages at the level of galleries. The neo-Gothic walls of the tower were built of yellow machine-made brick.

The décor of the church façades is diverse. The peripheral walls of the sections to the east of the St Mary’s Chapel are divided by flat pilaster strips with three zones of decorations including Gothic ornamental gables and tracery. The space between the pilaster strips includes wide pointed-arch windows arranged in two levels; single windows are installed on the south façade, and double in the chapels adjoining the north façade. The horizontal division is ensured by a stone plinth topped with a ceramic cornice, cornice under the windows on the second storey, and crowning cornice with a tracery frieze. The widely splayed window reveals are profiled by glazed mouldings of reveals. The façades of the St Mary’s Chapel on the second storey were decorated similarly. The walls of the ground floor are smooth. The chapel is crowned by halves of triangular gables to the east and west. The partitions of the southern façade of the nave body are made up of windows, pilaster strips, and socle, string-course and crowning cornices. The uniform façade of the porch and sacristy features a pointed-arch portal, two blind windows and a window providing additional illumination for the sacristy. The façade was decorated with pilaster strips and string-course cornices with an ornamental gable. The division of the northern façade was designed similarly to that of the western sections of the southern façade. The western section of the third bay features a preserved portal topped with an ornamental gable and a rectangular panel filled with decorative tracery. The western façade of the nave body also incorporates a neo-Gothic tower; its side sections were pierced by blind windows and pointed-arch windows, the edges of the gable were fitted with neo-Gothic pinnacles.

The walls of the tower stabilise the stepped corner buttresses with pinnacles. The western façade features a pointed-arch portal of the main entrance, topped with an ornamental gable and tondo depicting the head of Christ. The wall above the portal is pierced by a circular rosette opening. The ground floor section is terminated by a cornice with an arcaded frieze at the level of the cornice crowning the nave body. The upper sections feature statues of the twelve apostles placed in the pointed-arch arcades of the gallery on three façades of the tower. The wall of the tower above the gallery is pierced by a large pointed-arch window divided by brick bar tracery with decorative mullions on each side. A pronounced cornice with an arcaded frieze separated the upper storey with a terrace enclosed by a balustrade. Clock faces were installed on this storey, which forms the base of the pyramid dome.

Viewing of the interior is only possible by arrangement with the parish priest of the Parish of the Holy Trinity in Chojna.

compiled by Anna Walkiewicz, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Szczecin, 29.07.2015.

Bibliography

  • Arszyński M., Mroczko T. (redakcja), Architektura gotycka w Polsce. Katalog zabytków, Warszawa 1995, s. 46-47
  • Gruszecki A., Badania historyczno-architektoniczne kościoła NMP w Chojnie, Politechnika Warszawska Zakład Architektury Polskiej, 1962, m-pis w archiwum Narodowego Instytutu Dziedzictwa Oddział Terenowy w Szczecinie
  • Jarzewicz J., Gotycka architektura Nowej Marchii. Budownictwo sakralne w okresie Askańczyków i Wittelsbachów, Poznań 2000
  • Kalita-Skwirzyńska K., Kościół Mariacki. Chojna, karta ewidencyjna zabytków architektury i budownictwa, 1995, w archiwum Zachodniopomorskiego Wojewódzkiego Konserwatora Zabytków w Szczecinie
  • Kalita-Skwirzyńska K., Chojna, woj. szczecińskie. Ruina kościoła Mariackiego. Sprawozdanie z przebiegu prac przy odbudowie kościoła z l. 1992 - 1995, m-pis w archiwum Zachodniopomorskiego Wojewódzkiego Konserwatora Zabytków w Szczecinie
  • Kalita-Skwirzyńska K., Chojna. Kościół Mariacki. Dokumentacja historyczno-architektoniczna wykonana na zlecenie Biura Dokumentacji Zabytków w Szczecinie, Szczecin 1997, m-pis w archiwum Zachodniopomorskiego Wojewódzkiego Konserwatora Zabytków w Szczecinie
  • Kusztelski L., Kościół Mariacki w Chojnie, woj. szczecińskie, PP Pracownie Konserwacji Zabytków, Dział Dokumentacji Naukowej, Szczecin 1959, w archiwum Narodowego Instytutu Dziedzictwa Oddział Terenowy w Szczecinie.
  • Lukas E., Chojna, woj. szczecińskie. Studium historyczno-urbanistyczne do planu zagospodarowania przestrzennego miasta, PP Pracownie Konserwacji Zabytków, Dział Dokumentacji Historycznej, Szczecin 1964r., m-pis w archiwum Zachodniopomorskiego Wojewódzkiego Konserwatora Zabytków w Szczecinie.
  • Pilch J., Kowalski S., Leksykon zabytków architektury Pomorza Zachodniego i Ziemi Lubuskiej, Warszawa 2012, s. 35.
  • Płotkowiak M., Odbudowa kościoła NMP w Chojnie, [w:] W cieniu trzech katedr. Część II. Materiały z konferencji naukowej 22 kwietnia 1999r. zorganizowanej przez Stowarzyszenie Konserwatorów Zabytków Oddział w Szczecinie, Szczecin 2001, s. 69-79.
  • Voss G., Die Kunstdenkmäler der Kreis Königsberg / Neumark. Die Kunstdenkmäler des Kreis Königsberg, Berlin 1928.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 4. ćw. XIII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: pl. Konstytucji 3 Maja , Chojna
  • Location: Voivodeship zachodniopomorskie, district gryfiński, commune Chojna - miasto
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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