Parish church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Michael the Archangel, Haczów
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Parish church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Michael the Archangel

Haczów

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The church is one of the oldest and largest wooden Gothic churches built by use of a log structure in Europe. The temple is distinctive for a uniquely monumental body, characteristic architectural form and perfection of structural solutions. Apart from its architectural value, lavishly painted décor of the interior with an interesting iconographic and ideological programme and high artistic quality, including unique Gothic wall painting from around 1494, adds to the temple’s significance. The temple is an outstanding example of Medieval wooden sacred architecture of the Lesser Poland. The inscription of the church (as one of the six wooden churches of southern Lesser Poland) to the UNESCO World Heritage List has confirmed the recognition of its value on the global scale.

History

The dating of the church cannot be established unambiguously on the basis of scientific literature. At first, it was thought that the feature came from the 17th century and was erected shortly after the Tatar invasion of 1624. However, the discovery of a late-medieval wall painting in the temple’s interior pointed to the late 15th century as the construction date of the structure. Some researchers have also put forward hypotheses placing the establishment of the church in the fourth quarter of the 14th century. Currently, the results of dendrochronological studies allow us quite precisely to set the beginning of the temple’s construction at the turn of 1450s and 1460s. The church was probably founded by King Casimir IV Jagiellon. In 1494 the ceiling and walls of the church were decorated with monumental wall painting (which survived to our times to a great extent). In the first half of the 17th century the church underwent expansion: a bell tower of a starling type and a steeple turret were erected, archways (the so-called cloister-type walkways) circumscribing the church were added and round window openings were cut out in the nave. During the 2nd half of the 18th century the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows and a small treasury were added to the nave in the north and the sacristy was probably enlarged. At that time, the 15th century wall painting was covered by means of whitening the walls and the new fittings of the temple were founded. In 1864 another full-scale renovation of the temple and modernisation of the interior were carried out, among others, new ceilings with crown moulding were installed in the nave and the chancel, upper logs were supported by wooden pillar-piers, wood shingles and weatherboarding were replaced. Probably in the late 19th century the interior was decorated with wall painting in the eclectic style (figurative on the ceiling and illusionist-ornamental on the walls). In the 19th and 20th century the church underwent several renovations. Nevertheless, they did not lead to considerable changes in the appearance of the structure. The church’s roof, damaged during the acts of war in 1914, was repaired in 1915. After the erection of a new masonry church in the immediate vicinity (completed in 1944), the wooden temple was abandoned. The threat of gradual degradation of unused church was driven away owing to the discovery of Gothic paintings on the ceiling in 1955 and ensuing interest therein shown by monument inspectors. Research carried out during renovation and preservation works (concerning architecture and interior décor) led to significant theoretical and methodological revaluation concerning studies of wooden sacred architecture of the Gothic era. After the completion of renovation and preservation works, lasting with interruptions until the late 1950s, the church was consecrated again in 2000.

Description

The church is situated in the historical centre of the village, not far away from the Krosno-Sanok route. It stands on a tall escarpment, on the west bank of the Wisłok river. It neighbours in the west on the 20th-century masonry parish church. The church is oriented, surrounded by a wooden fence covered with wood shingles (erected in the 1980s. The church area also includes a historic, wooden granary of the rectory. The church consists of a chancel set on an elongated rectangular floor plan, terminating in a semi-hexagon in the east, with a sacristy abutting on the church in the north, and a wider nave corpus erected on a floor plan approximating that of a square. The 18th-century Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, erected on a rectangular floor plan, and a treasury located between the sacristy and the abovementioned chapel, adjoin the nave in the north. A tower (from the 17th century), erected on a near-square floor plan, adjoins the nave in the west. Tripartite body of the church consists of a chancel and a nave corpus, equal in height, covered with a single-ridge, gable roof (three-sloped in the east), and a tower. The ridge is surmounted by a octagonal steeple turret crowned with an onion-shaped cupola with a lantern. Parts of the nave above upper logs are covered with mono-pitched roofs. The tower has strongly sloping walls, a starling with weatherboarded vertical walls including a decorative lace at the bottom, and is covered with a tented roof crowned with a lantern with an onion-shaped cupola. The church and tower are circumscribed by a cloister-type walkway added in the 17th century, covered with a shed roof resting on wooden pillars. The structure was erected by applying a log structure on a stone foundation. The original truss-log-bracket covering of the structure has survived. The walls are reinforced with vertical supports and clad with wood shingles. The newer bell tower, erected in the post-and-frame structure, is clad on the walls with wood shingles as well, while the starling has vertical weatherboarding. The roofs are covered with wood shingles, while the tower’s cupola and steeple turrets are clad with copper sheet. The chancel as well as north and south walls of the nave are circumscribed (below the roof eaves) by a crowning cornice resting on profiled and chamfered brackets, out of which four (in the southern chancel wall) have a form of human masks. The roof truss is of a king post type with longitudinal bracing, while its structural elements contain medieval carpentry assembly marks. A door opening terminating in a pointed arch, with a boarded door covered with decorative Gothic blacksmithing fittings, has survived in the southern wall of the nave. The interior of the church is covered with a flat ceiling; the ceiling contains upper logs resting on pillars in the nave and crown moulding in the chancel. The rood wall has a rectangular pattern. The musical gallery is supported by two posts. The interior is embellished with wall painting. The so-called Zacchaeus consecration crucifixes, most probably coming from around mid- 15th century and fragmentarily preserved, are the oldest elements of the decor. The nave and chancel walls are embellished with Gothic figurative and ornamental wall painting of 1494. (Initially, Gothic paintings were also found on the church ceiling). Only 11 ceiling boards with fragments of medieval paintings have survived until now. In 2000 these boards were placed on the ceiling and complemented with contemporary wall painting). The northern wall of the chancel presents a multi-panel Passion of Christ cycle, composed in a zonal arrangement, while the southern wall includes, among others, scenes of St Stanislus murder, coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and an image of St Michael the Archangel. The nave contains representations of saints (among them a monumental figure of St Christopher), scenes from the Gnesis, etc. On the presbytery ceiling and, partially, on the nave walls, there is a 19th-century wall painting which refers to the Baroque tradition of illusionistic decoration (preserved in fragments documenting stylistic transformations inside the church), while the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows includes wall paintings of the Rococo architectural decoration type. Currently, numerous parts of historic fittings are exposed in the church, among others, a Late Gothic sculpture of Mother of God with the Child from around 1540-1550, side altars, pulpit, pipe organ casing (from the 18th century), stone baptismal font with a wooden Baroque cover from the 16th century, altar of Merciful Christ from the late 17th century and a copy of Gothic Pieta (the original dating back to around 1400 is located in the masonry church) in the side chapel.

The building is available all year round; interior tours upon prior telephone appointment.

compiled by Anna Fortuna-Marek, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Rzeszów, 16-09-2015.

Bibliography

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General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: l. 50/60 XV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Haczów
  • Location: Voivodeship podkarpackie, district brzozowski, commune Haczów
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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