Parish church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Oleszno
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Parish church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Oleszno

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An example of a local variant of Early Baroque ecclesiastical architecture in Poland, with numerous features of the Baroque design (strict symmetry, double barrel vaults, interior walls partitioned with pilasters, semi-circular apse at the end of the chancel, decorative gables) being superimposed onto a main body exhibiting numerous features of the Gothic style, as evidenced by the steep gable roofs and pronounced buttresses supporting the walls. For many years, the church has served as a local sanctuary, with the miraculous image of the Virgin Mary with Child being moved here from Chotów as early as 1685.

History

A chapel of some kind may have existed in Oleszno back in the 15th century, for documents dating back to 1411 contain mentions of a man named Bartłomiej (Bartholomew), described as the rector ecclesiae de Oleszno. The history of the church begins in 1624 or thereabouts, during the period when the owner of the village was Adam Szypowski, a canon of Cracow and Kielce; however, so little is known about these early days that much of what happened at that time is considered to lie in the domain of legend rather than actual history. The founder of the church allegedly started the construction of the church in Wola Oleszyńska as an act of atonement for murder; however, the construction of the church was soon interrupted following the canon’s untimely death. His successors later sold Oleszno to Mikołaj Szyszkowski of the Jastrzębiec coat of arms, who went on to become the bishop of Warmia soon afterwards. It is now believed that he purchased the village of Oleszno together with his brother, Marcin, who was the bishop of Cracow; it is Marcin who is believed to have wanted to use the existing foundations in Wola Oleszyńska as a base for a new Bernardine monastery. However, following the unfortunate suicide of one of the workers, he decided to build the monastery on the Karczówka hill near Kielce instead. The construction of the existing church was initiated somewhere around the year 1643 by Marcin Szyszkowski, the alderman (starosta) of Lelów and the nephew of the bishop of Cracow. It was only the successive owners of Oleszno – Mikołaj Podoski and his wife Teresa – who have completed the construction of the church and provided the necessary funds for its upkeep. The church was completed in the year 1680 or thereabouts, with the consecration ceremony taking place five years later, by which time both Mikołaj Podoski and his wife have died. The miraculous image of the Virgin Mary with Child was relocated to the newly erected church from Chotów. In 1732, the church was gutted by fire, with both the roof and the tower being lost to the blaze. After those catastrophic events, the erstwhile parish priest allegedly moved the miraculous painting back to Chotów, and it was only in 1765 that it was returned to the Oleszno church following a trial held on the basis of canon law. It was only in 1789 that a parish in Oleszno was formally established. Throughout the 19th century, the floor was replaced, as was the pipe organ. Towards the end of the 19th century – or perhaps in the early 20th century – a small southern porch was added to the nave, the tower received a new cupola in the years 1925-1926. Further renovation works were carried out in the 1960s and the 1990s. The bell tower accompanying the church was constructed in 1996.

The fate of the long-standing local parish priest, reverend Feliks Jaroński, an eminent theologian, philosopher and logician who went on to become a professor at the Cracow Academy, remained inextricably linked to the Oleszno church right until his demise in 1827, so that he was later commemorated with an epitaph plaque founded by one of his successors – reverend Romuald Wójcik, who also specialised in the history of the parish – which was placed inside the church.

Description

The brick and stone church consists of a rectangular, two-bay nave and a narrower, single-bay chancel ending with a semi-circular apse. The chancel is flanked by a chapel and sacristy, arranged symmetrically on both sides thereof. The western façade of the nave is preceded by a tower designed on a square floor plan, its two uppermost storeys being octagonal in shape. It is topped with an Italian-style cupola with a roof lantern which was added in the course of alteration works performed in the 20th century. The building was designed on a strictly symmetrical plan, with the exception of the southern porch which was added at a later date. Parts of the walls of the nave are reinforced with buttresses. The gable-end walls of the chapel, the chancel and the sacristy are topped with decorative gables partitioned by cornice segments into two distinct sections, with each section being flanked with pilasters and adorned with rows of blind windows topped with segmental or semi-circular arches. The gables are adorned with distinctive volute-shaped fractables and obelisks, much like the side sections of the front façade gable flanking the tower in the middle. The apse is topped with a distinctive half-dome with an ogee arch outline. The two uppermost storeys of the tower, designed on an octagonal plan, are adorned with blind windows and window openings, all of them topped with segmental arches. The interiors are graced with double barrel vaults still adorned by the remnants of 17th-century stucco decorations.

All of the four altarpieces inside the Oleszno church were designed in the Early Baroque style, with the main altarpiece, incorporating the miraculous image of the Virgin Mary with Child, being particularly notable due to its astonishingly beautiful and sumptuous sculptural decorations. The painting itself, relocated to Oleszno from the village of Chotów, is a copy of the image of the Virgin Mary from Jasna Góra, most likely created in the first half of the 17th century. Another feature that is definitely worthy of attention is the Baroque plaque from 1685, commemorating the consecration of the church and containing various notes on the building’s history, with some inscriptions being added in the 19th century. The commemorative plaque is embedded in the wall above the sacristy entrance.

The site is open to visitors. The church can be explored by prior telephone arrangement with the parish priest.

Compiled by Aleksandra Ziółkowska, 21-11-2015

Bibliography

  • Record sheet of monuments of architecture, Oleszno, kościół par. pw. Wniebowzięcia NMP, (Parish church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary), prepared by M. Gorzelak, 1997, Archive of the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Kielce.
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, vol. III, issue 12, Warsaw 1966.
  • Hadamik C., Zabytki powiatu włoszczowskiego, Kielce-Włoszczowa 2010.
  • Przybylski T., Zarys dziejów parafii Oleszno w diecezji kieleckiej, Oleszno 1985.
  • Stępkowski L., Nieudane miasto Oleszno (z dziejów Oleszna i okolicy) (in:) W sarmackim Krasocinie. Monografia historyczno-gospodarcza gminy Krasocin, E. Kosik, E. Madejski, R. Nadgowski (eds.), Kielce 1997.
  • Wiśniewski J., Historyczny opis kościołów, miast, zabytków i pamiątek w powiecie włoszczowskim, Marjówka Opocz. 1932.
  • Wójcik R., Historyczna wiadomość o parafii i kościele NMP w Olesznie, Warsaw 1899.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1380 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Kielecka 6, Oleszno
  • Location: Voivodeship świętokrzyskie, district włoszczowski, commune Krasocin
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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