Cathedral Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Opole
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Cathedral Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Opole

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The cathedral church was built using early Gothic and Gothic forms is one of the most recognisable sites in the old town area of the city of Opole. Significantly altered in the 19th and 20th century, the building has preserved numerous components of the original décor.

History

The earliest mentions of the church of the Holy Cross in Opole date back to 1204, when a bishop of Wrocław handed over the relics of the Holy Cross. In 1227, the church was raised to the rank of collegiate church (collegiate chapter existed until 1810), and the construction of a larger church began around the middle of the 13th century. In 1295, the collegiate church was consecrated and the rank of parish church was re-established (the Church on the Hill (Na Górce) served as a parish church during the construction).

A new chancel and new sacristy were built around the half of the 15th century, and in the 15th and 16th century the main body was extended by the chapels of the Holy Trinity (currently the Piast Chapel), St. Hedwig and St. Anne. Over the years, works on the church and its fittings included constructing a large sacristy, replacing the roof cladding, adjusting the buttresses, redesigning the interior in the Baroque and Gothic Revival style. Recent significant works took place in the late 19th and early 20th century when the exterior façades were altered and the building was extended by adding towers, and in the 1960s when sgraffiti and stained glass windows in the chancel were made.

Description

The cathedral church was erected north of the built-up area of the Market Square, in the vicinity of the city fortifications. It is located in the middle of a trapezoid square surrounded by a masonry fence with an arcaded gate to the south. It is closed off by Książąt Opolskich Street to the east and Katedralna Street to the south.

The cathedral is oriented towards the east, erected as a three-aisle hall church with a chancel closed off on three sides and three-sided apses closing off the side aisles. The main body of the church is buttresses, consists of six bays with a non-separated chancel. To the west, there are two slender towers which are quadrangular on the ground floor and octagonal on the upper storeys. Two sacristies, the Piast chapel (to the south), and the chapel of St. Hedwig and St. Anne (to the north) were fitted in the spaces between the buttresses.

The church is made of brick and rests on a tall stone base course. Its façades are articulated vertically with buttresses and splayed plastered pointed-arch window openings. The horizontal articulation is provided by a frieze running along the top of the walls of the chapels and consisting of plastered arcaded blind windows. Cast iron and stone plaques with epitaphs are on the southern and eastern side of the façades.

The main body of the church is covered with a gable roof; the chancel and apses of the side aisles are covered with a common multi-faceted roof. The chapels and sacristies are topped with shed roofs, and the towers with bulbous cupolas with lanterns.

The west façade is triaxial. The main body surmounted by a triangular gable with pointed-arch blind windows and flanked by towers is located in the central axis. On the ground floor, there is a neo-Gothic vestibule with a pointed-arch portal. The corner of the towers are supported by tall triple-stepped buttresses. The decoration and articulation of the south and north façades are similar and were harmonised during renovation that took place in the late 19th and 20th century. On the ground floor of the southern tower, there is an arcaded niche holding a sculptural group depicting Christ in the Gethsemane (early 20th c.). The east façade is seven-axial with a symmetrical layout and richly profiled crowning cornice.

The central aisle is slightly wider than the side aisles and more strongly projecting to the east. It was separated from the side aisles by pointed-arch arcades, and the part of the chancel was accentuated by raising the floor. The main and side aisles are covered with stellar vaults. The west bay of the body of the church houses a choir gallery, and the ground floor of the northern tower is occupied by a baptistery.

The fittings of the church date back to various periods, starting from a Gothic baptismal font and the painting of Our Lady of Piekary, through the Late Gothic triptychs, Late Baroque main altar and side altars, to the Classicist pulpit (1805) and twentieth-century stained glass windows. In addition, the church features a group of epitaphs and stone tombstones, including the tombstone of Duke John the Good (1532).

The historic building is open to visitors.

compiled by Aleksandra Ziółkowska, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Opole, 12-11-2015.

Bibliography

  • Katalog Zabytków Sztuki w Polsce, vol. VII, Województwo opolskie, issue 11: Miasto Opole i powiat opolski, T. Chrzanowski, M. Kornecki (eds.), Warsaw 1968, pp. 3-13.
  • Karta ewidencyjna zabytku architektury- kościół katedralny pw. Świętego Krzyża w Opolu, prepared by Dariusz Stoces, PG, 2005, Archives of the Voivodeship Monuments Protection Office in Opole

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: ok. poł. XIII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Katedralna 2, Opole
  • Location: Voivodeship opolskie, district Opole, commune Opole
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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