Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica, Jawor
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Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica

Jawor

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The entry on the World Heritage List of the Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica includes:

  • the Church of Peace under the invocation of the Holy Spirit in Jawor,
  • the Church of Peace under the invocation of the Holy Trinity in Świdnica.
 

The Evangelical Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica were built during the Counter-Reformation period in the mid-17th century in Silesia, which remained part of the Catholic Habsburg Empire at the time. Following the Peace of Westphalia, the rule known as “cuius regio, eius religio” (whose realm, his religion) came into force, which meant that Evangelical churches could only be erected in the Empire because of the support granted by the Lutheran king of Sweden. The Emperor allowed for the so-called Churches of Peace to be built in the capitals of the respective duchies - Głogów, Jawor and Świdnica, one per each town (the church in Głogów having later burned down). These churches, however, had to comply with numerous requirements. They had to be built in one year, at the cost and expense of the local Evangelical communes, using perishable materials such as wood and clay. The designs were not allowed to incorporate towers of any kind.

The need to ensure compliance with these conditions, combined with the desire to meet the needs of the large Protestant community, have resulted in the construction of the largest half-timbered religious buildings of the Baroque period. The designer of the churches, Albrecht von Säbisch, envisaged them as three-nave structures of an imposing size: approximately 40 metres in length and 20 metres in width, with the height of the main nave reaching approximately 15 metres. Each of these churches was large enough to accommodate a few thousand churchgoers (6 thousand in Jawor and 7.5 thousand in Świdnica). The construction of buildings of this size using traditional techniques and perishable materials remains an impressive engineering achievement.

Over the years, the interiors of the churches have been enhanced with valuable fittings in the form of galleries, wall paintings and decorations carved in wood. Nearly the entire surface of interior walls is covered with lavish wall paintings, including the distinctive cycles of paintings depicting Biblical and allegorical scenes with quotations from the Bible as well as depictions of the residences of the founders of the church. Other decorative motifs include coats of arms, epitaph plaques and craftsmen’s marks. These valuable decorations manage to combine Baroque forms and themes related to Protestant theology in a fascinating way, serving as an illustration of the social and material status of the members of Evangelical communities.

It is worth noting that the Churches of Peace have retained their original architectural form as well as their functions, continuing to serve the members of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession. The spatial relations between the churches themselves and the surrounding parish buildings and cemeteries have also survived intact.

The Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica were included on the World Heritage List in 2001 during the 25th session of the World Heritage Committee in Helsinki (dec. CONF 208 X.A).

Entry made on the basis of criteria III, IV and VI:

Criterion (III):

The Churches of Peace are outstanding testimony to an exceptional act of tolerance on the part of the Catholic Habsburg Emperor towards Protestant communities in Silesia in the period following the Thirty Years’ War in Europe.

Criterion (IV):

As a result of conditions imposed by the Emperor, the Churches of Peace required the builders to implement pioneering constructional and architectural solutions of a scale and complexity unknown before or since in wooden architecture. The success may be judged by their survival to the present day.

Criterion (VI):

The Churches of Peace bear exceptional witness to a particular political development in Europe in the 17th century of great spiritual power and commitment.

Visitor access Buildings are available to visitors.

Compiled on the basis of materials of the National Heritage Board of Poland 30-11-2015

General information

  • Type: cultural
  • Chronology: XVII w.
  • Form of protection: UNESCO
  • Address: Park Pokoju 2 (Jawor) plac Pokoju 6 (Świdnica), Jawor
  • Location: Voivodeship dolnośląskie, district jaworski, commune Jawor
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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