Nysa - Church od SS James the Elder and Agnes the Virgin Martyr, Nysa
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Nysa - Church od SS James the Elder and Agnes the Virgin Martyr

Nysa

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On the eastern edge of Lake Głebinowskie lies Nysa, capital of a former duchy established in the 13th century by Henry Probus. In the 16th century it was a centre of cultural life in Silesia, Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki and John III Sobieski being among those who attended Nysa’s Jesuit college, founded in 1624. The bishop’s castle was built before the town took shape, and was separated from it by a moat. Although the castle does not survive its existence is attested by numerous artistic representations and by its extant remains. At the turn of the 14th century Nysa was provided with a new line of walls, whilst in the post-medieval period bastioned fortifications were added, making it one of the mightiest fortresses in Silesia’s Opole region. A fire ravaged the city in 1524, destroying the castle. Among Nysa’s finest historic monuments is the formerly Jesuit Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. An example of mature Baroque architecture, it was built in 1688-1692 by J. B. Quadro at the behest of Bishop Charles Ferdinand Vasa; it adjoins a group of monastic buildings, the Carolinum College (1669-1673) and grammar school (1722-1725). The seminary church of SS Peter and Paul built in 1720-1727 by M. Klein and F. A. Hammerschmidt, and the monastery of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, designed by M. Klein and raised in 1708-1713 are also noteworthy.

Taking undoubted precedence, both in terms of its scale and significance is the late Gothic Church of SS James the Elder, Apostle, and Agnes the Virgin Martyr, one of the most remarkable late Gothic hall churches in Central Europe. The architectural and structural solutions employed here are analogous to those used by the German builders of the Parler family famed for their work in Bohemia and southern Germany. It was the first large building (after St Vitus’ Cathedral in Prague) to be roofed with net vaults.

The church was in the special care of the prince bishops of Wrocław - sovereigns of the duchy - and of the most eminent local families. Its imposing form, splendid furnishings and the quality of its sepulchral stonework reflected its exceptional status. Built at the end of the 14th century, this monumental, three-aisled hall features nine bays and measures 69 m long with a height of up to 76 m (the roof alone is 27 m high). The present-day building was raised in 1424-1430 by Piotr of Ząbkowice. He introduced an ambit and installed net vaulting over the nave, and ribbed vaults over the ambit. Outside he added a series of buttresses around the church with chapels in the spaces between them. The church’s valuable fixtures add to its outstanding artistic eminence. Second only to Wrocław Cathedral, as the largest burial place of the bishops of Wrocław it represents a treasure trove of sepulchral sculpture, housing tombstones and epitaph plaques commemorating high-ranking ecclesiasts and the town’s elite citizens. The Gothic triptych above the main altar is a striking feature of the interior, whilst the highlights of the christening chapel are its Renaissance altar and Gothic stone baptismal font. Construction work on the belfry adjacent to the church began in 1474, but was cut short in the 16th century and never completed. At the end of the 19th century the church underwent some detrimental alterations aimed at restoring its Gothic appearance. As part of this work the design of the vaults was changed, the walls were covered with Neo-Gothic polychrome paintings and a richly carved stone entry porch was added. Artillery fire during World War II resulted in the roof burning down and part of the western gable collapsing. A major reconstruction effort began in the 1950s.

The church was originally surrounded by tightly packed house frontages but, sadly, this urban context has been lost. Eighty percent of the town’s historic fabric has been obliterated and the residential blocks of flats built here in the 1960s have produced a soulless landscape.

General information

  • Type: ecclesiastical complex
  • Chronology: 1. poł. XV - XVIII w.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Plac Katedralny 1, Nysa
  • Location: Voivodeship opolskie, district nyski, commune Nysa - miasto
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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