Former Dominican church of the Holy Spirit, currently part of the Museum, Racibórz
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Former Dominican church of the Holy Spirit, currently part of the Museum

Racibórz

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One of the three preserved historical churches of the Dominican Order in the region, which are now the only material remnants of the Order’s activity in Upper Silesia from the 13th to the 19th century. Despite the alterations made to the church interior in the first half of the 20th century in the course of adaptation thereof as a museum exhibition space, the church remains a well-preserved example of a typical Dominican church both in terms of its silhouette and overall size, its distinctive features still readily identifiable. In addition, it is the most recent among the three medieval churches surviving within the limits of the historic town walls in Racibórz.

History

Established in 1306 at the initiative of Przemysław, a local priest, the convent of Dominican nuns in Racibórz formed part of a dense network of Silesian monastic centres of the Dominican Order. During the period in question, i.e. in the 13th century and the early 14th century, a total of 13 of these had been monasteries, compared to a mere two convents. The conventual complex with the church of the Holy Spirit was designed in accordance with the rules of the Dominican Order, standing within the limits of the town walls, in the vicinity of the erstwhile market square. Both the church and the now-defunct convent were erected in the years 1317-1335. Despite the intervening centuries, the church has survived to the present day with very few changes. Designed according to the stringent, 13th-century conventual principles of the Dominican Order, the church featured a rather austere appearance, its single-nave main body equipped with a flat ceiling; the church also featured an elongated, simple choir gallery and no tower. It was only at a later stage in the building’s existence that a tower was added on its southern side and was subsequently extended upwards in the 17th or 18th century. The preserved architectural detailing dating back to the period when the church was built is characteristic of the late, reductionist phase in Gothic architecture, indicating that the building had different artistic origins than the two other Gothic churches surviving in the town of Racibórz. The chapel of St Dominic, positioned on the northern side of the church, originates from more or less the same period as the church itself, having been constructed no later than in 1359; it was later extended in the centuries that followed and functioned as the mausoleum of the Racibórz dukes. It is important to note that, unlike the parish church and the church of the Dominican monks, this building did not suffer significant damage during the fires which swept across the town on numerous occasions. The architecture of the now-vanished convent is known mostly from 19th-century archival documents. The convent was a typical complex consisting of two-storey buildings positioned north of the church, around a rectangular garth surrounded by cloisters. The surviving wall paintings inside the chancel and the nave were executed somewhere around the year 1635. The porch adjoining the southern side of the church, demolished in 1937, had also been a 17th-century addition. The convent itself was abolished in 1810. In 1813, the church was handed over to the Evangelical community, resulting in the demolition of the convent buildings and the chapel of St Dominic, while the nave received new, wooden galleries, its interior now illuminated by added windows. In 1936, the church was adapted to serve as a museum, with both the nave and the chancel being subdivided vertically into separate storeys.

Description

The church is situated within the limits of the former own walls, in the western part of the historic part of town, on the northern side of what is now known as Plac Księżnej Ofki Piastówny (the square of duchess Ofka Piastówna). The church forms part of the street frontage, adjoined to both the east and the west by tenement houses from the late 19th/early 20th century. The church itself, oriented towards the east, is a brick structure consisting of a rectangular nave and a narrower, elongated two-bay chancel with a rectangular end section. The compact main body of the church and its chancel are covered with separate gable roofs. A tower topped with a cupola added at a later date is positioned in the south-western corner of the nave. The church is adjoined by a row of annexes which are all that remain of the now-vanished convent and which have subsequently been adapted to serve as museum exhibition space and a staircase. The individual façades of the church are designed in the Gothic style, enlivened by a symmetrical arrangement of windows topped with semi-circular and pointed arches, flanked by single-stepped buttresses. The tripartite design of some of the windows is the result of the introduction of side galleries in the 19th century, leading to the original, Gothic windows being partially bricked up. The western part of the façade is partially obscured by the tenement house added at the turn of the 20th century. The interior of the church has been substantially remodelled in the course of adaptation thereof as museum exhibition space in the early 20th century, with the entire space now being divided into two separate storeys. The chancel and the nave are separated by a chancel arch wall with a pointed-arch aperture. The two-bay chancel features a ribbed groin vault, its ribs converging on plain, circular keystones. The nave, on the other hand, features a wooden beamed ceiling concealed beneath a dropped ceiling. A tripartite, pointed-arch window with original stone tracery has been preserved in the upper section of the eastern chancel wall. The original fittings of the church have not survived. Fragments of Late Renaissance painted decorations from the 1st half of the 17th century - including the depiction of the Sending of the Holy Spirit on the eastern chancel wall and the Adoration of Blessed Euphemia on the western wall of the nave - have been discovered in the 1960s. The latter wall is also adorned with an embedded tomb slab commemorating the duke and his wife (a relic of a tomb chest from ca. 1500), positioned at the ground-floor level.

The historic monument is accessible to visitors. The building is currently a museum.

compiled by Agnieszka Olczyk, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 17-10-2014.

Bibliography

  • Czechowicz B., Fundacje artystyczne książąt raciborskich u schyłku średniowiecza, [in:] Sztuka Górnego Śląska na przecięciu dróg europejskich i regionalnych, E. Chojecka (ed.), Katowice 1999, pp. 11-32.
  • Architectural monument record sheet. The Dominican monastic church of the Holy Spirit, currently serving as a museum [in Racibórz], compiled by J. Sawiński, 2001, Archive of the National Heritage Board of Poland
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, Vol. VII, woj. opolskie, issue 13: powiat raciborski, T. Chrzanowski, M. Kornecki (eds.), pp. 46-47.
  • Kutzner M., Racibórz, Wrocław 1965.
  • Małachowicz E., Architektura zakonu dominikanów na Śląsku, [in:] Z dziejów sztuki śląskiej, Z. Świechowski (ed.), Warsaw 1978, pp. 93-148.
  • Zabytki Sztuki w Polsce. Śląsk, S. Brzezicki, C. Nielsen (eds.), Warsaw 2006, pp. 725.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1317-1335 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Gimnazjalna 1, Racibórz
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district raciborski, commune Racibórz
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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