Water well of St Otto, Pyrzyce
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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The water well was erected to commemorate one of the most significant events in the region’s history - the conversion of Pomerania to Christianity. The water well was built on the exact same spot where, according to long-established tradition, St Otto von Bamberg baptised the residents of Pyrzyce (known as Pyritz at the time) during his expedition of 1124. The architectural surround of the water spring was designed by a renowned German architect, Karl Friedrich Schinkel.

History

According to legend, the water spring located near the Pyritz hillfort became the site where the local residents were baptised en masse in 1124 by St Otto during his great expedition intended to spread the new faith all across the region. The very first mentions of the “Holy Spring” date back to 1574, where it was referred to in the chronicle written by Peter Chelopeus. Further references to the site were made in the years 1628 and 1640. During the 17th century, the water spring, protected by a wooden protective shed, was already famous for its alleged healing properties. In 1699, the area around the water spring was reorganised at the request of Frederick William, the elector of Brandenburg. In the year 1700, Victor de Poorte, the court architect serving the king of Prussia, designed a new pavilion with a dome supported by four pillars, which was most likely constructed after the year 1704. By the early 19th century, however, the spring, surrounded by four old lime trees, no longer featured any accompanying structures. At the request of the erstwhile administrator of the surrounding domain, the well was deepened and surrounded with beech hedges. In 1823, the first design for a new structure was drawn up by Karl Friedrich Schinkel at the request of the heir to the throne, Frederick William. In 1824, a ceremony marking the 700th anniversary of the baptism of Pomerania was held on the site, with the cornerstone for the construction of a new water well being laid. The well itself was constructed in the years 1824-1826, based on a second, simpler design by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, with the task of oversight of construction works being entrusted to the architect Matthias Ludwig Scabell. The granite cross was crafted in Berlin, with the heir to the throne himself taking credit for its design. In 1825, a park was established around the well, designed by Peter Lenné, the director of the royal gardens in Sanssouci. In the years 1826-1827, a Gothic Revival building of the school for boys was erected in the park, designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The school, originally founded by the so-called Otto Foundation (Ottostift) was then adapted to serve as a nursing home for the elderly from 1867 onwards. In 1902, a bust of St Otto, funded by emperor William II and designed by Walter Schott, was positioned next to the water well. After 1945, both the water well and the surrounding park suffered from years of neglect. Shortly after the war, the bust of St Otto was removed; in 1974, the German inscription on the water well was effaced, while the Ottostift building was demolished in 1978 or 1979. In 1988, the cross was damaged by a fallen tree during a violent thunderstorm. In 1994, the park and the water well were entrusted to the Roman Catholic parish of Our Lady of Sorrows in Pyrzyce. In 1998, the water well underwent restoration. The stone wall was dismantled, new foundations were constructed and then the stone fragments of the well were reassembled. The cross was repaired and the surrounding area was cleaned up and rearranged. In 2004, a new grille above the water well itself was installed.

Description

The water well is located south-east of the former hillfort of Pyrzyce (Pyritz), in a small park positioned at the corner of Warszawska and Staromiejska streets. The Classicist structure designed around the former water spring consists of a rectangular basin positioned transversely vis-à-vis the axis of the entire complex as well as a low perimeter wall designed on a square plan, with a semi-circular apse to the east. The walls of the basin are made of granite blocks, while the perimeter wall was constructed using granite setts. The western wall of the basin features a flight of five steps going all the way down to the dried-out water spring, with a Latin inscription on the eastern wall. The inscription proclaims: AD FONTEM VITAE HOC ADITU PROPERATE LAVANDI/ CONSTANTIS VITA ET IANUA XPS ERIT (a quote from an inscription found in the baptistery of Constantine the Great in Rome). Inside the apse there is an octagonal plinth supporting a granite Latin cross, its individual beams featuring an octagonal cross-section. The upper sections of the walls of the apse originally featured a German inscription which was then effaced in the 1970s, with traces of its presence still readily apparent. In the middle of each of the remaining sections of the western part of the perimeter wall, designed on a square plan, there is a small open passage; originally, each passage was protected by means of a decorative, metal wicket gate. Stone benches are positioned against the walls.

Unrestricted access to the site.

compiled by Maciej Słomiński, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Szczecin, 22-04-2015.

Bibliography

  • Hildisch J., Der Ottobrunnen in Pyritz, “Baltische Studien” NF Bd 85, Marburg 1999, pp. 98-122
  • “Katalog Zabytków Sztuki w Polsce”, new series, vol. XIII, woj. zachodniopomorskie issue 1, pow. pyrzycki. D. Bartosz, M. Słomiński (eds.), Warsaw 2013, pp. 184-185
  • Rymar E., Święta studnia w Pyrzycach, “Zeszyty Pyrzyckie” 5 (1972-1973), pp. 261-269
  • Rymar E., Święta studnia czyli Misyjne dzieło patrona Pyrzyc św. Ottona biskupa bamberskiego i pamięć o nim poprzez wieki, Pyrzyce 2006;
  • Rymar E., Pyrzyce i okolice poprzez wieki, Pyrzyce 2009, p.

General information

  • Type: small architecture forms
  • Chronology: 1 poł. XIX w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Staromiejska , Pyrzyce
  • Location: Voivodeship zachodniopomorskie, district pyrzycki, commune Pyrzyce - miasto
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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