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Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene - Zabytek.pl

Czarnków, Kościelna/Kościuszki

woj. wielkopolskie, pow. czarnkowsko-trzcianecki, gm. Czarnków-gmina miejska

An example of a Late Gothic municipal church.It was founded by the prominent Czarnkowski family.

The church has a side chapel which was designed as an ancestral tomb. The church is distinguished by its lavish interior fittings, including valuable examples of Renaissance sepulchral sculpture and two altar paintings from the 1st half of the 17th century, attributed to Herman Han, a renowned painter from Gdańsk.


The town of Czarnków can trace its origin back to the 10th century. Its history is linked to an early medieval stronghold (gord) which was located on an ancient route leading from Poznań to Pomerania, near a crossing point at the Noteć River. Written sources mention it for the first time in 1108. There was a settlement in the vicinity of the stronghold. The town of Czarnków itself developed some distance away from the stronghold, on the junction of the Pomeranian route and the route leading from Wieleń to Ujście and Nakło. Most probably, the town was granted municipal rights in the 1st half of the 14th century; the oldest mention indicating the municipal character of Czarnków comes from 1369. It was a private town: from the end of the 13th century to the mid-17th century, it was owned by the Czarnkowski family of the Nałęcz coat of arms; its later owners include the Grzymułtowski, Gembicki, Naramowski, Poniatowski, and Swiniarski families.

The first place of worship in Czarnków was a stronghold chapel which was probably erected in the 12th century. There was also a wooden church, mentioned in documents from 1298. A local parish was mentioned in 1406 and 1409. The brick church that has survived to this day was founded by the Czarnkowski family in the years 1570-1580 (although some researchers date it at the 15th century). The church was built on the south side of the market square, most likely replacing the aforementioned wooden church. The new church was dedicated in 1586. The date “1247” visible on the tower most likely pertains to the history of the earlier, wooden church.

In 1632, at the request of Katarzyna Czarnkowska née Leszczyńska and her son Franciszek Czarnkowski, the church in Czarnków was granted the status of a collegiate church by Adam Nowodworski, Bishop of Poznań. The church retained this title until 1821. Shortly afterwards, the Chapel of the Flagellation of Christ was built onto the chancel; it was consecrated in 1634. In 1709, the church was damaged in a fire. It was restored on the initiative of Krzysztof Antoni Szembek, Bishop of Włocławek, in the years 1724-1726. In c. 1757, the new owners of Czarnków — Mikołaj and Anna Swiniarski — founded the Chapel of St Anthony (also known as the Chapel of St John of Nepomuk), adjoining the nave. The next restoration works were carried out following a fire in 1768. In 1855, the tower was extended upwards, losing its Baroque features in favour of a Gothic Revival design. Major renovation works were carried out in the 1920s.


The church of St Mary Magdalene is situated in the centre of the town, on the south side of the market square. It is oriented towards the east. The Late Gothic church consists of a three-bay main body comprising a nave and two aisles and a two-bay chancel part terminating in a polygon; the two parts are of equal width. On the west side of the main body, there is a square tower with a porch at the ground floor level and with two side annexes (built in the 19th century). By the west bay of the chancel, there are two chapels: the Chapel of the Guardian Angels (commissioned by the Czarnkowski family) on the south side, built at the same time as the church itself, and the rectangular Chapel of the Flagellation of Christ on the north side, dating back to the 1st half of the 17th century. Below the chapels, there are vaulted crypts. Two-storeyed annexes adjoin the east bay of the chancel: the northern one houses a sacristy and a chapter house, and the southern one — a new sacristy. On the first floor of the annexes, there are matronea opening through arcades towards the music gallery. The Late Baroque Chapel of St Anthony, having a square floor plan, was built onto to the east bay of the main body of the church, on its north side. There is also a crypt below the chapel. On the south side, there is a small square porch, built in 1842 to replace an earlier, 17th-century structure (the side entrance was walled up in 1927). The body of the church and the corners of the chapels are reinforced with buttresses. The chancel and the nave part are covered with a common gable roof, with a dormer projecting out of the roof above the rear section of the chancel. The chapels by the chancel are covered with gable roofs; the Chapel of St Anthony has a three-pitched roof surmounted by a roof lantern. The entire structure is dominated by a tall, two-storeyed tower supported by three-stepped corner buttresses and topped with a Neo-Gothic spire.

The church is made of brick. Its walls — with the exception of the tower — are covered with plaster. The roofs are covered with ceramic roof tiles; the tower roof is covered with sheet metal. In the sacristy, there is a flat ceiling with crown moulding; the other parts have brick vaults.

The façades of the main body, the chancel, and the chapels are covered with plaster and crowned with simple cornices. Most windows are headed by semi-circular arches. The façades of the chapels adjoining the chancel are topped with Early Baroque gables framed by volutes and divided by pilasters. The tower walls are faced with brick, framed by corner buttresses, and topped with a Gothic Revival arcaded frieze and turret-like pinnacles. The main entrance, topped with a semi-circular arch, is located on the west side of the tower.

The chancel is covered with a double barrel vault supported by arches and decorated with plasterwork ribs which accentuating the vault arrises; a semi-circular rood arch connects the chancel and the nave. The main nave still has the original stellar vault supported by volute-shaped cantilevers. The narrow aisles, covered with transverse barrel vaults, open up towards the nave in a series of semi-circular arches resting on piers. On the west side, there is a music gallery supported by three arches. Its balustrade is adorned with a sculpture depicting Archangel Michael fighting against Satan. The side chapels open up to the chancel through semi-circular arches. The chapel of the Guardian Angels has a groin vault with attached decorative ribs, whereas the chapel of the Flagellation of Christ has a groin-barrel vault, also decorated with attached ribs, arranged to form a star. There are crypts below the chapels. The former sacristy has a barrel vault with lunettes and the new sacristy has a flat ceiling with crown moulding. The matronaea open up towards the chancel through arches. The chapel of St Anthony opens up towards the nave through an arch framed by pilasters topped with vases. It is covered with a dome-shaped ceiling with a roof lantern.

Valuable elements of the interior include five Late Baroque architectural altars, as well as choir stalls, a pulpit, and a baptismal font in the Rococo style. Two altar paintings from c. 1630 deserve particular attention; they are believed to have been made in the workshop of Herman Han, a renowned Pomeranian painter. The painting in one of the side altars (in the south aisle) depicts an Arbor Virginis scene — the Virgin Mary sitting upon a lily flower, accompanied by St Anne and St Joachim. The painting in the chapel of the Czarnkowski family shows a guardian angel protecting a child. In the Czarnkowski family chapel, there is also the Renaissance marble tomb of Maciej Czarnkowski (who died in 1542) and his wife, Katarzyna Czarnkowska née Opalińska (who died in 1551). The two-tier tomb features sculptures of the deceased in repose. In the chapel, there is also the Early Baroque sarcophagus of Sędziwoj Czarnkowski (who died in 1627). It is made of tin and adorned with a sepulchral portrait of the deceased, reliefs depicting various scenes from his life, and sculptures of angels.

The church can be visited both from the outside and inside. More information on the parish and the Holy Mass schedule can be found online at: www.mariamagdalena.czarnkow.pl.

compiled by Krzysztof Jodłowski, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Poznan, 29-07-2014.


  • Bera J., Kaplica Czarnkowskich, „Spotkania z zabytkami” 1998, nr 9, s. 22-23.
  • Dubowski A., Zabytkowe kościoły Wielkopolski, Poznań 1956, s. 17-21.
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, t. 5, z. 2: Powiat czarnkowski, Warszawa 1966, s. 2-7.
  • Kohte J., Verzeichnis der Kunstdenkmaeler der Provinz Posen, Bd. IV, Berlin 1898, s. 178-80.
  • Maluśkiewicz P., Gotyckie kościoły Wielkopolski, Poznań 2008, s. 28-29.
  • Skuratowicz J., Renesansowe kaplice grobowe z XVI i 1 poł. XVII w. w Wielkopolsce, [w:] Rudkowski T. (red.), Studia nad renesansem w Wielkopolsce, Poznań 1970, s. 56.

Category: church

Architecture: gotycki

Building material:  ceglane

Protection: Register of monuments, Monuments records

Inspire id: PL.1.9.ZIPOZ.NID_N_30_BK.157169, PL.1.9.ZIPOZ.NID_E_30_BK.46207