The parish church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of St Stanislaus the Bishop and Martyr, Narew
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The parish church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of St Stanislaus the Bishop and Martyr

Narew

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The church in Narew is one of the largest wooden ecclesiastical buildings in all of the Podlaskie province. The Baroque churches of its kind, distinguished by the presence of a pair of towers, were commonly erected in the 18th and 19th century in both Poland and Lithuania, their design - including, in particular, the appearance of their front façade - being reminiscent of the monumental architecture of the brick and stone churches of the period. The presence of two towers rising above the façades of these churches, erected in the eastern borderlands - a territory known for its multi-nationality and religious diversity - served as a conscious manifestation of Catholicism, while during the period of the Partitions of Poland it also became a sign of Polish tradition and national identity that was still strong in these territories despite the Russian oppression. It is suspected that the design for the church was produced by Jakub Fontana - a renowned architect who maintained many ties to these territories and who worked for the wealthy nobleman Jan Klemens Branicki, although this theory is yet to be confirmed. The fixtures and fittings of the church exhibit a mixture of the Baroque and Classicist styles, with the altarpieces and the sculptures adjoining the pillars being distinctive due to their lavish design and excellent artistic value and serving as tangible evidence of the trend for the increasingly decorative nature of Baroque art which began to manifest itself in the second half of the 18th century. The church also possesses an exceptional historical value due to Jakub Fontana’s presumed authorship of its design as well as due to the involvement of Ludwik Ignacy de Riaucour, the erstwhile parish priest who would then become the bishop of Brześć (Brest) and Łuck.

History

A Catholic church is known to have existed in Narew back in 1517. The local Catholic parish was founded soon afterwards, in 1528, by king Sigismund the Old and his wife, queen Bona Sforza, who also provided the parish with the necessary funds. The existing church was erected in the years 1738-1748 at the initiative of Ludwik Ignacy de Riaucour, the erstwhile parish priest who would then become the bishop of Brześć (Brest) and Łuck (1749-1777). It is suspected that the design may have been produced by the famous architect Jakub Fontana, who also designed the church in the nearby town of Suraż (which would make sense since Ludwik Ignacy de Riaucour was also the parish priest in Suraż at the time). During the 19th century, the church underwent restoration on several occasions. During the Polish-Soviet War of 1920, the church was damaged by enemy fire, while in 1944 it suffered further losses when the area was shelled by artillery. In 1958, comprehensive renovation works were conducted, with the structure of the towers being reinforced and missing or damaged sections of the roof truss were replaced, as was the roof cladding. In 1962, new painted decorations were executed inside the church by the painter Józef Łotowski.

Description

The building is situated in the north-eastern part of the village, on the western side of the national road no. 685 which leads across Narew, on the northern side of Kościelna street; it is surrounded by a cemetery circumscribed by a wall made partly of brick and partly of stone. The Baroque church is a three-nave basilica-type structure oriented towards the east, featuring a pair of towers rising above its western façade. The nave and the chancel have a common gable roof, while the side aisles are covered with mono-pitched roofs. The towers are topped with spires clad with sheet metal. A steeple can be seen jutting from the roof ridge above the chancel. The wooden church was built on a rectangular floor plan, with a slightly narrower chancel on the eastern side and a rectangular porch on the western side.

The wooden log structure, reinforced with vertical supports, rises above a foundation made of field stones bound by lime-cement mortar.

The windows of the main nave, positioned above the shed roofs of the side aisles, feature a highly distinctive shape of a horizontally positioned rectangle with a decorative outline. The main body of the church was designed on a rectangular plan, with the nave and the chancel being of equal width and height. The side aisles are narrower and lower than the nave, separated by three pairs of pillars reinforced with braces which give the entire arrangement the appearance of a pair of four-bay arcades. The chancel and the nave feature a wooden vaulted ceiling having an outline of a basket-handle arch; the side aisles feature flat ceilings with a rounded outer section. The chancel is separated from the rest of the interior by a rood arch with a profiled rood beam surmounted by a group of sculptures depicting the scene of the Crucifixion. The main nave and the chancel are encircled by a pronounced, profiled cornice above which rises a narrow gallery with an openwork balustrade made of wooden boards designed as a two-dimensional representation of turned balusters and featuring profiled, decorative posts and handrail. A lavishly profiled, mitred cornice is present in both the chancel, the main nave and the side aisles. A number of valuable items from the period between the 17th and the 19th century can still be admired inside the church.

The site is open to visitors.

compiled by Grzegorz Ryżewski, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Białystok, 16-10-2014.

Bibliography

  • Kotyńska Stetkiewicz J., Barokowy kościół w Narwi, “Biuletyn Konserwatorski Województwa Podlaskiego”, issue 11, 2005, pp. 96-110.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1738-1748
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Narew
  • Location: Voivodeship podlaskie, district hajnowski, commune Narew
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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