Evangelical-Augsburg Church of Grace, the so-called Church of Jesus, Cieszyn
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Evangelical-Augsburg Church of Grace, the so-called Church of Jesus

Cieszyn

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The church, being one of the few historic Silesian Evangelical-Augsburg churches — the so-called churches of Grace, built after 1709 under the Treaty of Altranstädt — is a symbol of the 18th-century revival of Protestantism in Upper Silesia and in the Habsburg Monarchy. At the same time, it is the only of the four surviving churches of Grace which still functions as an Evangelical church, thus being a material testimony to the continuity of the cultural and historical identity of Cieszyn and the complex religious situation in the whole of Cieszyn Silesia. Additionally, the church is valuable from the artistic point of view due to its unaltered, original form, different from those of other churches of Grace, modelled on the Baroque-monumental mission churches adopted to the Evangelical liturgical requirements.

History

The presence of Protestantism in Cieszyn Silesia, established in the 16th century, was disrupted by the resolutions of the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, unfavourable to the Evangelical community and resulting in the introduction of Counter-Reformation measures by the Habsburgs. It was only in 1707 that Evangelical Protestants were granted the right to public worship under the Treaty of Altranstädt, in which Charles XII of Sweden made Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor, return approx. 120 churches and grant the permission for the construction of a number of new ones to the Silesian Evangelical Protestants. As a result, the Evangelical subjects of the emperor were granted the permission to build 6 so-called churches of Grace (erected ”by the grace of the Emperor”), located in Żagań, Kożuchów, Jelenia Góra, Kamienna Góra, Milicz, and Cieszyn. According to the order of the emperor, the church in Cieszyn was allowed to be built of durable materials, however, it was to be located outside the city walls, which was probably aimed at lowering the prestige of the Evangelical structure. In 1709, a makeshift wooden building was built in the present Kościelny Square, and the construction of a brick building was initiated in the following year. The building, constructed in the years 1710-1730 according to a design by Jan Jerzy Hausrücker of Opava, was to be the only Evangelical church in the whole territory of Upper Silesia, which was reflected not only in its character, but also in its size. The church structure, intended to hold approx. 8 thousand people, combining the shapes of Catholic churches of Bohemia, Moravia, and Austria, popularised by Jesuits, with Evangelical elements in the form of storeyed matronaea, was a novelty in comparison with the traditional local Evangelical architecture of the 16th century. In 1750, after the Evangelical Church was partially acknowledged in the Habsburg Monarchy by Empress Maria Theresa, a church tower was erected. In 1767, a new altar was funded, featuring a symbol of Divine Providence, sculptures of the Evangelists, and a depiction of the Last Supper. In 1785, the church received a Late-Baroque pulpit, a baptismal font, and organs.

After most of Silesia was taken over by Prussia, until Joseph II issued the Patent of Tolerance in 1781, the Cieszyn Church of Jesus together with the associated Evangelical school was the only legal Evangelical centre in Austrian Silesia, referred to as the mother-church. It influenced not only Protestantism in the territory of the Habsburg Monarchy (Hungary, the Balkans, Istria, and Lesser Poland), but also the resurgent Evangelical movements in the Prussian Upper Silesia.

Description

The Church of Jesus was located outside the contemporary city walls, on a hill situated to the east of the historic city, in the present Kościelny Square. In the nearest vicinity of the church, there are structures related functionally to the Evangelical Church, including the building of a former Evangelical school, an Evangelical gymnasium (secondary school), a seminary, and the pastors’ houses.

The church is non-oriented, made of brick, and Baroque in character. It is a three-nave, four-bay basilica with two additional outer naves, whose purpose is to communicate parts of the buildings, and a chancel terminating in a semi-circular apse on the south-east side, with adjoining baptismal and funeral chapels. The structure is covered by a gable roof and separate mono-pitched roofs over the side naves. The dominant feature is the imposing square tower on the front, crowned with a Baroque bulbous four-pitched roof with a lantern. The triaxial facade, being a curtain wall, divided by pilasters and entablatures, is topped with a volute-shaped gable and a tower with pilasters at the corners. On its central axis, a number of steps lead to the main portal, Baroque in character, round-arched and framed by Tuscan pilasters supporting a triangular pediment. The side façades and the apse are decorated with frame divisions and round-arched window openings, arranged into three and four arrays.

The interiors of the main nave and the chancel are not separated; they are covered by a barrel vault with lunettes and arches. The low side naves, opening to the main nave, are separated by piers and surmounted by three levels of arcade-like matronaea. The subtle Baroque interior decoration is linear in character. The walls of the nave and the chancel are divided by double composite pilasters going through the crowning cornice and passing into the vault arches. In the west part of the nave, there is a two-storeyed music choir resting on columns. The only equipment is a Baroque altar from 1766 standing in the chancel, featuring columns in the giant order, sculptures of the Evangelists, and depictions of the Last Supper, a Late-Baroque pulpit, and a Baroque-classical baptismal font from 1785.

The church is open to visitors directly before and after services. It is also possible to visit the Museum of Protestantism, located in the northern gallery of the church.

compiled by Agnieszka Olczyk, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 22-09-2014.

Bibliography

  • Chojecka E., Sztuka protestancka na Górnym Śląsku, w: Oblicza sztuki protestanckiej na Górnym Śląsku, red. E. Chojecka, Katowice 1993, s. 7-11.
  • Harasimowicz J., Słowo widzialne. Luteranizm górnośląski w zwierciadle sztuki, w: Oblicza sztuki protestanckiej na Górnym Śląsku, red. E. Chojecka, Katowice 1993, s. 12-22.
  • Karta ewidencyjna zabytku architektury. Ewangelicki kościół Jezusowy pw. Łaski Bożej [w Cieszynie], opr. M. Godek, 1997, Archiwum NID.
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, T. VI, woj. katowickie, z. 3: Miasto Cieszyn i powiat cieszyński, red. I. Rejduch-Samkowa, J. Samek.
  • Sosna W., Szlakiem pamiątek ewangelików cieszyńskich, Cieszyn 2009.
  • Spyra J., Via sacra. Kościoły i klasztory w Cieszynie i Czeskim Cieszynie, Cieszyn 2008.
  • Zabytki Sztuki w Polsce. Śląsk, red. S. Brzezicki, C. Nielsen, Warszawa 2006.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1710-1730
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Plac Kościelny , Cieszyn
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district cieszyński, commune Cieszyn
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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