Parish Church of St Erasmus and St Pancras, Jelenia Góra
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Parish Church of St Erasmus and St Pancras

Jelenia Góra

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The town’s former main parish church. A Gothic church with a distinctive, three-nave basilica outline, the building has been the town’s landmark for centuries, towering above the surrounding landscape.

History

The existing church was erected on the site of its wooden predecessor which was lost to the blaze in 1303. The building was constructed in two distinct stages, with the chancel and peripheral walls of the main body erected in the years 1380-1400 or thereabouts, while the middle nave and the vaulted ceilings were added during the first thirty years of the 15th century. In 1549, the roof and the tower were lost to the blaze. By 1552, they have already been reconstructed, with the tower being extended upwards in the process. The southern chapel was added in the 16th century. The church remained in the hands of the local Evangelical community in the years 1524-1629; in 1662, it underwent a comprehensive restoration at the initiative of the Jesuit order who were brought into the town during that period and who took the church under their care in 1654. During the first half of the 18th century, the church interiors were redesigned in the Baroque style, while further conservation works were carried out in years 1878-80, 1934, 1963, 1979 and 1985.

Description

The building is located in the east part of the city centre. Designed in the Gothic style, it is a three-nave basilica church oriented towards the east, made of stone with some brick additions. The main body of the church consists of a four-bay main body, its walls reinforced with buttresses. Designed on a roughly square floor plan, the main body is adjoined by a four-bay chancel of the same length, ending with a semi-decagonal termination. A two-bay sacristy adjoins the northern side of the chancel, opening towards the interior of the church with a series of arched openings and featuring a stone balcony with an openwork balustrade, resting on a row of massive corbels. A two-bay chapel connected to the nave with an arched opening adjoins the southern part of the church, nesting in the corner where the main body and the chancel meet. A domed chapel from the Renaissance period is positioned alongside the third bay of the southern aisle. The tower, designed on a square floor plan, is positioned west of the main body of the church. High above its arcaded ground floor level, the upper section of the tower rises in the form of an octagonal shaft, crowned with a Baroque cupola with lantern (1736). The church features two staircase turrets - a polygonal turret in the corner between the main tower and the nave as well as a cylindrical structure positioned where the nave meets the chancel. The main portal, leading into the church through the ground floor section of the tower, consists of a series of lavishly profiled, nested arches forming an archivolt. The portal in the southern façade is likewise an archivolt portal, crowned with a wimperg. The portal is flanked with corbels surmounted by lavishly decorated pinnacles. The entrance door is topped with a shouldered flat arch supported by corbels in the form of sculpted faces of Samson and the lion, with a Crucifixion scene adorning the tympanum above the door. A Mannerist portal with sculpted herms can be found beneath the balcony projecting from the western façade which originally served as an exterior pulpit from where the priest would preach to the faithful. The windows come in a variety of sizes; most of them are topped with pointed arches and feature splayed surrounds as well as stone tracery. A number of epitaph plaques and headstones are embedded in the exterior walls of the church. Three open tomb chapels can be admired between the buttresses supporting the walls of the chancel: a single Mannerist chapel from 1609 as well as two Baroque chapels form the early 18th century. Two of these chapels are protected against unauthorised access by means Baroque grillwork. The interior features a tall nave and chancel as well as a pair of much lower side aisles. The lavishly profiled rood arch has a pointed outline, much like the arcades separating the aisles and the nave. The walls of the nave are partitioned with lesenes. The nave and the chancel feature vaulted ceilings of the lierne type, resting on short, semicircular shafts topped with mask-shaped supports. The side aisles, the sacristy, the chapels and the ground floor section of the tower all feature cross-ribbed vaults. The sumptuous church fittings are predominantly Baroque in style. The main altarpiece, dating back to the years 1713-18, is the work of the sculptor Thomas Weisfeldt and the woodcarver David Hielscher. This highly elaborate altarpiece features a colonnade which serves to accommodate the figures of fourteen saints. The southern aisle houses two altarpiece from 1713, dedicated to St Barbara and St Ignatius. Inside the northern aisle, visitors can admire the altarpiece of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1725) and the altarpiece of St Joseph (1753). Other notable features include the Renaissance pulpit from 1591, featuring a profusion of figural decorations and crowned with a canopy from the first quarter of the 18th century. The choir stalls in the southern aisle date back to 1567 as well as to the 18th century. The pipe organ casing rising above the organ gallery was constructed by Adam Horatius Carparini in 1706. A column dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, dating back to 1712 and designed by Thomas Weisfeldt, stands right in front of the church; next to the column, visitors can admire the sculpture of St John of Nepomuk (1709), reconstructed in 1812 and relocated to the churchyard from its original location - a bridge on the Młynówka river - in 1884. The author of the sculpture is Joseph Anton Lachel. South of the church stands the rectory, established in 1566 on the site of an earlier building; in 1672, the rectory was redesigned and extended to accommodate a Jesuit school. A vaulted passage towards Marii Konopnickiej street leads across the ground floor section of the building. A fragment of the former perimeter wall with wicket gate which had once surrounded the nearby cemetery can be seen on the northern side of the church.

The church interiors may be visited during church service. For more information, please contact the parish office.

compiled by Piotr Roczek, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Wrocław, 22-06-2015

Bibliography

  • Słownik Geografii Turystycznej Sudetów. Vol. 4 Kotlina Jeleniogórska, M. Staffa (ed.), Wrocław 1999, pp. 191-197.
  • Zabytki sztuki w Polsce. Śląsk, Warsaw 2006, pp. 352-354.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 2 poł. XIV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: pl. Kościelny , Jelenia Góra
  • Location: Voivodeship dolnośląskie, district Jelenia Góra, commune Jelenia Góra
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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