Parish Church of St Nicholas, Elbląg
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Parish Church of St Nicholas

Elbląg

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A typical example of a Gothic hall church from the Warmia region, erected beyond the historic borders of Warmia. Interior fittings include the most exquisite examples of Medieval sculpture found in the territories of the former State of the Teutonic Order.

History

The construction of the temple started in the mid-13th century. Initially it was a three-nave hall church with a chancel. After 1335, the further extension of the church took place; the works performed included the widening and raising of the organ gallery, the extension of aisles, the redesign of the eastern wall (which would now be adorned by blind windows and decorative strips of glazed brick) as well as the upward extension of the middle nave. Following the redesign, the church exhibited a basilica layout. In the mid-14th century, a Marian chapel was built, abutting the northern side of the chancel. Works on the construction of the body and the tower ended in 1378, as evidenced by the handover of the local brickyard. Soon afterwards, the church was redesigned once again: the aisles were extended upwards, the spaces between the buttresses were bricked up and converted into enclosed spaces housing the chapels, with the walls above the chapels also being extended upwards. Around 1400, a gallery was built above the sacristy in order to accommodate a library. Due to the appearance of numerous cracks that became evident as early as the 14th century, the tower was reinforced through the addition of smaller side towers, thereby forming a massive tower structure. At that time, the church had a pseudo-basilica layout. This stage of works ended around 1428. During the final quarter of the 15th century, the walls of the aisles were extended upwards to height of the main nave, which meant that the church now featured a hall layout instead of a basilica one. At the beginning of the 16th century, an additional gallery was erected above the Marian chapel. At the turn of the 16th and 17th century, the central tower received a dome with two galleries. In 1777, a fire swept through the church, destroying the towers, the roof structure and the vaulted ceilings in all the naves. During the reconstruction, the walls of the main body were lowered by approx. 7 metres, the towers were demolished and the entire building was covered with a gable roof. In 1906-1907, the central tower was rebuilt according to a design created by an architect known as Neuheus. The dome of the new tower was reminiscent of the design of its predecessor. In 1945, a fire gutted the building once again, leading to the collapse of the roof and the vaulting. The interiors of the church were also consumed by the blaze. Although partially damaged, the tower has survived along with the steel structure of its roof. A reinforced concrete ceiling topped with a three-ridge roof was built to protect the church from the elements, its construction ending in 1958. In 1963 walls of the tower were repaired and strengthened; the dome was also reconstructed. At the end of the 1960s, the first modern stained glass windows were installed, designed by Zdzisław Kulikowski from Toruń. In the 1990s, the cladding of the dome was changed, while by December 2014 walls of all facades and the tower had undergone a thorough maintenance; the tower was also adapted for sightseeing purposes.

Description

The church, situated in the south-western part of the Old Town, is a brick hall church designed in the Gothic style, featuring a three-nave, seven-bay interior layout with no discernible chancel, featuring a monumental tower built on a square floor plan, positioned in the western section of the building. The entire building is covered by a gable roof with three roof ridges, following the arrangement of the naves. The interior is divided by octagonal pillars positioned between the naves and supporting the reinforced concrete vault. On both sides of the aisles, there are rows of chapels positioned between buttresses. A Marian chapel adjoins the ground floor level of the church, featuring a stellar vault. A gallery with a vault the design of which incorporates elements of both the stellar and the lierne vaulting patterns is positioned above the chapel. The supporting ribs of the vault terminate with sculpted masks. The ground floor rooms in the southern part of the building as well as the rooms above the gallery feature stellar vaults. The southern porch features an asymmetrical vault. The eastern facade is reinforced by buttresses, the leftmost and rightmost buttress being positioned diagonally. The triangular gables of the naves are divided by pilaster strips. The dual portal of the northern entrance is divided by stone columns and half-columns supporting profiled archivolts and decorated with glazed bricks, strips of terra cotta tiles with figural motifs, blind traceries and decorative gables. The dual portal in the south features a profiled frame made of glazed bricks in a variety of colours, with archivolts framed with quatrefoil-shaped moldings. The body of the tower is accentuated by five elongated blind windows on each facade; the tower is topped with triangular gables divided by pilaster strips and crowned with a Renaissance Revival dome. The surviving original fittings include a unique, bronze baptismal font cast by Bernhuser in 1387, a monumental figure of St Nicholas and Crucifixion Group (partially reconstructed) funded by Nicholas Wulzak, a parish priest, originating from the beginning of the 15th century, figures of 12 apostles from around 1420 set alongside the pillars of the main nave, a Late Gothic altar of the Maltsters and Late Gothic altars relocated from other churches in Elbląg: Adoration of the Magi from the now-defunct church in New Town, the main altar, the Altar of Shoemaker’s Apprentices and the Altar of Vistula Ferrymen, the latter two originating from the former Dominican church. The ambo from 1588, featuring lavish carved decorations, also originates from that church. The monumental Mannerist epitaph plaque of mayor Valentin v. Bodecker (ca. 1585) is the only one of the once-numerous epitaph plaques that survived until the present day; its design is attributed to Willem van den Blocke.

Accessible structure. The church may be visited during daytime.

Compiled by Maurycy Domino, 4.12.2014.

 

Bibliography

  • Dzieje sztuki polskiej, tom drugi: Architektura gotycka w Polsce, pod red. Teresy Mroczko i Mariana Arszyńskiego: t. II Katalog Zabytków, pod red. Andrzeja Włodarka, Warszawa 1995, p. 61-62.
  • Domino M., Architektura początku XX w. w Elblągu, „Renowacje i Zabytki”, 2014, no. 3, p. 83.
  • Hauke K., Stobbe H., Die Baugeschichte und die Baudenkmäler der Stadt Elbing,
  • Stuttgartt 1964. p. 206 - 215.
  • Mamuszka F., Elbląg i okolice, Gdańsk 1978, p. 78-84.
  • Milewska D., Kościół św. Mikołaja w Elblągu od XIII do XVI wieku, „Rocznik Elbląski”
  • 1973, p. 34-54.
  • Rynkiewicz-Domino W., Budownictwo, architektura i kultura artystyczna [w:] Historia Elbląga, pod red. Andrzeja Grotha, t. II, cz. 1, Gdańsk 1996, p. 236-237.
  • Sierzputowski W., Stan i odbudowa zabytków Elbląga w latach 1945 - 1960
  •  „Rocznik Elbląski“  t. I, 1961, p. 137 -141.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1240
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Stary Rynek/Mostowa , Elbląg
  • Location: Voivodeship warmińsko-mazurskie, district Elbląg, commune Elbląg
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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