Church ruins, Mielnik
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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The ruins of the church are one of the few surviving historical monuments in the Podlaskie region originating from the Gothic period. The history of the church begins in the very early days of Roman Catholicism in these territories, dating back to the era of Vytautas the Great. The subsequent events in its history - the wars of the mid-17th century, the transformation of the church into a tserkva during the period of attempted Russification of these lands - are typical of the entire borderlands region which had formed part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania back in the 15th century and which was then incorporated into Polish territory in 1569. For the above reasons, the ruins of the church in Mielnik retain a significant historical value.

History

In the year 1420, Vytautas, the grand duke of Lithuania, founded the Roman Catholic parish of Corpus Christi, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Nicholas in Mielnik. The church itself, however, must have already been in existence at that point, which leads one to conclude that it may have been erected shortly before the conversion of Lithuania to Christianity. In the mid-16th century, the church formed part of the so-called lower castle and was considered to be a fortified structure, with a crypt positioned beneath its brick walls. In the second half of the same century, the church underwent comprehensive alteration works and was consecrated once again in 1618. During the war against Sweden in 1657, the church and the nearby castle were burned down, its reconstruction taking place only in the early 18th century. In 1866, during the period of Russian persecution, the church was closed down and reopened in 1871 as an Orthodox place of worship. In 1915, the church was set on fire by the retreating Russian forces. After Poland regained independence, the church was returned to the Catholic community, with a reconstruction committee being formed shortly thereafter. However, when the construction of a new Catholic church was completed in 1920, the reconstruction plan was abandoned due to lack of funds. During the interwar period, the sacristy served as the chapel of St Anthony, which was then destroyed in 1941. The partial demolition of the walls of the church took place during the same period. In 2010, a series of archaeological surveys was carried out inside the ruins, confirming the 16th-century origins thereof; in addition to a number of intriguing tile designs recovered from the site, the archaeologists have also managed to identify the remnants of a 15th-century Gothic castle, buried beneath the remnants of the church. This confirms that the church initially was a part of a castle.

Description

The ruins of the church are located in the western part of the town of Mielnik, on the southern side of Brzeska street, west of Zamkowa street, at the bottom of an elevation known as the Castle Hill. The Late Gothic church was originally designed on a rectangular floor plan, with a rectangular sacristy on its southern side and a basement underneath. The church was made of brick and field stone. All that remains of the church today are the northern and eastern peripheral walls, parts of the front façade with its three window openings, a fragment of a portal adorned with a sandstone roll-moulding and one of the early 18th-century turrets which originally flanked the front façade gable. The corner pilasters that had once graced its corners are still clearly evident, with the second turret being preserved only in fragments. The surviving windows feature splayed reveals on both sides and are topped with semicircular arches.

The site is open to visitors.

compiled by Grzegorz Ryżewski, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Białystok, 27-10-2014.

Bibliography

  • Katalog Zabytków Sztuki w Polsce, vol. XII, Województwo białostockie, issue 1, Siemiatycze, Drohiczyn i okolice, compiled by Kałamajska-Saeed M., Warsaw 1996, pp. 34-35.
  • http://www.siemiatycze.com.pl/mielnik/1970-archeolodzy-w-mielniku-nowe-lady-dawnej-wietnoci.html
  • Michaluk D., Rezydencja hospodarska w Mielniku w XIV-XVI wielu, “Białostocczyzna”, no. 3, 1991, pp. 1-4.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1. poł. XVI w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Mielnik
  • Location: Voivodeship podlaskie, district siemiatycki, commune Mielnik
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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