Post-Dominican Parish Church of Mary Magdalene, Cieszyn
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Post-Dominican Parish Church of Mary Magdalene

Cieszyn

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One of the three preserved historical churches of the Dominican Order in the region, being the only material remnants of the Order’s activity in Upper Silesia from the 13th to the 19th century. Despite the contemporary modifications related to its reconstruction following a fire, the structure is a well-preserved example of a medieval Dominican church in terms of layout, shape, and size.

History

Founded by Piast dukes in 1289, the Cieszyn monastery was part of a dense network of Silesian Dominican monasteries, whose number in this region was twice as high as the number of monasteries of this type built in the 13th and 14th century in other Polish lands. In accordance with the rules of the Order, the monastery complex, whose integral part is the present Church of Mary Magdalene, was built within the city walls, nearby the contemporary market. The church, which has survived to this day, was built in c. 1300 on a cross-shaped plan consisting of one nave with a transept and an elongated chancel terminating in a semi-hexagon, originally without a tower, modelled on the Church of the Holy Cross in Wrocław. The church, intended to be used for the purposes of the monastery, also provided a burial site for the Piast dukes of Cieszyn. However, little is known about the monastery itself. Just as other, non-extant Silesian Dominican monasteries, it was a typical quadrangular structure with an inner garth and a cloister, situated to the south of the church. Over the next centuries, the church probably underwent certain alterations, which is indicated by the numerous portals from the 16th century or the Chapel of the Holy Cross founded in 1660 by Jan Fryderyk Larisch. The critical event for the appearance of the church was the huge fire of the city in 1789, in which a major part of the church was destroyed. A year later, the Cieszyn monastery was liquidated, which resulted in the dismantling of a larger part of the monastery and the transformation of the only remaining wing into a clergy house. On the initiative of Prince Albert of Saxony, Duke of Teschen, and Maria Christina, the church was reconstructed very soon according to a design by Józef Drachny. It was to become a parish church. All the surviving walls of the medieval church were used during the reconstruction. The church was rebuilt in a new, Baroque-classical form. The interior of the church was covered with new sail vaults on arches and pilasters were added to the walls. The newly-constructed west tower, whose pillars substantially shortened the interior of the nave, became the dominant feature of the structure. Moreover, the Chapel of St Melchior Grodziecki and Our Lady of Perpetual Help was built onto the south facade of the church. Around the mid-19th century, the so-called new sacristy was added to the chancel on the south side, and the flooring inside the church was replaced with the present two-coloured marble floor. In the years 1928-1934 and 1962-1967, the church underwent maintenance and restoration works. As part of the latter, Gothic wall sections and remains of traceries were revealed.

Description

The church is located in the southern part of the historic Cieszyn, within the city walls, by the present Św. Krzyża Square and Dominikański Square, which was built after the former monastery buildings were dismantled.

The church is an oriented structure, basically made of brick and having the shape of a Latin cross. It consists of a short, rectangular nave with a projecting transept terminating in a semi-hexagon and an elongated, three-bay chancel, also terminated semi-hexagonally. The compact, vertical structure of the church is covered with gable roofs of a uniform roof ridge height. A row of varied, rectangular, one- and two-storeyed annexes covered with mono-pitched roofs, including two porches with an oratory on the first floor and a two-bay sacristy, adjoin the chancel on the south side. The nave is surrounded by rows of chapels and porches on the south and north sides. Situated on the north side are the square Chapel of the Holy Cross, topped with an octagonal dome with a lantern, and the two-bay Chapel of Melchior Grodziecki, covered with a mono-pitched roof. The two-bay Chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, covered with a mono-pitched roof, and a two-storeyed porch combined with a staircase are located on the south side of the nave. The dominant feature of the church structure is a tower with a porch, situated on the west side. Rectangular in shape, it is topped with a pyramidal roof. The walls are covered with plaster. All walls except the front facade are Gothic in character and decorated with symmetrically arranged, pointed-arched window openings, as well as buttresses and profiled crowning cornices. The classical front façade has three levels. The rusticated ground floor level contains the main portal accentuated by a rectangular frame topped with an entablature. Deep in the entrance passage, there is another portal, made of stone, profiled, and crowned with a pointed arch. It dates back to the 13th-14th century. The higher level, passing into a screen wall in the higher parts, is characterised by a triaxial division determined by Tuscan pilasters supporting an entablature, with a balcony framed by Ionic columns. Above, there is the uppermost level, framed by Ionic pilasters in the corners, topped with an entablature with a pronounced cornice. The façades of particular chapels and porches are only decorated with round-arched window openings and portals crowned with triangular tympanums. The façades of the 17th-century Chapel of the Holy Cross is characterised by frame divisions and a profiled crowning cornice. The interior of the church has a layout shaped in the Middle Ages and features a consistent, classical design introduced in the late 18th century. The chancel and the nave are separated by a semi-circular rood arch. The chancel features a conch with lunettes in the apse part and a sail vault on arches, passing into Tuscan pilasters on the walls, in the two-bay part. The transept has a similar ceiling, with the apses in both semitransepts covered by tripartite vaults. In the semitransepts, there are parts of the original, roll-shaped, granite engaged columns in the Gothic style. The nave has a groin vault. Its walls are divided symmetrically by means of composite order columns supporting those sections of the entablature on which the vault arches rest. In the western part of the nave, there is a two-storeyed, three-bay music gallery resting on pillars. The Chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the south porch have sail vaults on arches, the Chapel of St Melchior — a barrel vault with lunettes, the Chapel of the Holy Cross — with an octagonal dome, and the other rooms — with flat ceilings. There also remains of Gothic architectural details, including a stone, Early-Gothic, pointed-arched portal from the 13th/14th century, connecting the Chapel of St Melchior with the nave (visible on the chapel side), a Late-Gothic, 15th century portal with a trefoil arch, communicating the chancel with the sacristy, and a Renaissance portal from the 16th century with a profiled cornice, communicating the chancel with the sacristy. The two-coloured, marble flooring inside the church was most likely installed during the works carried out in the middle of the 19th century. The Late-Baroque and classical equipment and furnishings predominantly date back to the late 18th century and the 19th century, when the church underwent major alterations. The preserved elements include the Late-Baroque main altar from 1794, made by K. Schweigel, featuring columns, sculptures of Saints Peter and Paul, and a painting depicting Mary Magdalene washing her hands, as well as a late-classicism tabernacle from the 1st half of the 19th century. Nearby the rood arch, there is a Late-Baroque-classical pulpit with a sculpture of Moses and an angel on the sounding board, as well as a baptismal font located opposite, made in the same style, with a framed sculpture depicting the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River; both sculptures, made of stucco, are the works of F. Schubert and were completed in 1792. The most valuable element of the interior is the only surviving Gothic grave, with visible Parler influences, dated at c. 1380 and regarded as the grave of Casimir II, Przemysław Noszak or his son Przemek.

The church is open to visitors at all times except during the mass.

compiled by Agnieszka Olczyk, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 17-09-2014.

Bibliography

  • Karta ewidencyjna zabytku architektury. Kościół parafialny p.w. św. Marii Magdaleny [w Cieszynie], opr. T. Śledzikowski, 1998, Archiwum NID.
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, T. VI, woj. katowickie, z. 3: Miasto Cieszyn i powiat cieszyński, red. I. Rejduch-Samkowa, J. Samek.
  • Małachowicz E., Architektura zakonu dominikanów na Śląsku, [w:] Z dziejów sztuki śląskiej, red. Z. Świechowski, Warszawa 1978, s. 93-148.
  • 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: ok. 1300 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Plac Dominikański , Cieszyn
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district cieszyński, commune Cieszyn
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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