Former Dominican church, currently serving as the parish church of St James, Racibórz
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Former Dominican church, currently serving as the parish church of St James



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 contemporary modifications related to its reconstruction following a fire, the structure is a well-preserved example of a former Dominican church in terms of layout, shape, and size. In addition, it is one of the three medieval churches surviving within the limits of the historic town walls in Racibórz.


Founded by the of the Piast dynasty somewhere around the mid-13th century, the Dominican monastery in Racibórz was part of a dense network of Silesian Dominican monasteries, whose number in this region was twice as high as the number of monasteries of this type built in the 13th and 14th century in other parts of Poland. The monastery complex with the church of St James 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.

The very first mentions of the church date back to the year 1258, which is said to have been either the date of consecration of the church or of the gift of land and funds for the construction of the monastery. The oldest surviving part of the existing church, i.e. the main body, is believed to have been erected somewhere around the mid-13th century, while the structure and exterior detailing of the chancel were most likely constructed in the year 1300 or thereabouts, at a time when the monastery was being reconstructed following the devastating fire which swept across the town.

The architecture of the now-vanished monastery is known mostly from 19th-century archival documents. The monastery was a typical complex consisting of two-storey buildings positioned north of the church, standing around a rectangular garth surrounded by cloisters. Until the moment of their demolition in the early 19th century, only the refectory and chapel of the monastery retained their medieval nature.

Designed according to the stringent, 13th-century conventual principles of the Dominican Order and modelled after the church of the Holy Cross in Wrocław, the original church had 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, most likely in the late 14th century or in the 15th century. The preserved remnants of architectural detailing dating back to the aforementioned period indicate that the Dominican church and the nearby parish church of the Blessed Virgin Mary share a common artistic provenance, with some researchers linking them to the masonry workshop which was also responsible for the construction of a group of churches accompanying mendicant monasteries in Silesia and Moravia (including Żary and Oświęcim). In 1574, the church suffered severe damage during another devastating fire which engulfed the town. However, it was only in the years 1637-1655 that a comprehensive reconstruction of the church took place, with the Gothic layout and character of the church becoming diluted in the process. In the course of alteration works, a three-nave layout was introduced in the eastern part of the main body, with the entire interior space being visibly lower due to the addition of a new barrel vault with lunettes. The northern bay of the nave now served as the tomb chapel of the Gaszyński family, its interior décor being the earliest known example of stucco decoration in Upper Silesia.

The interior attained its current layout and appearance in the third quarter of the 18th century, when the church was reconstructed following yet another fire. Barrel vaults with lunettes were added above the chancel and the western part of the nave, supported by engaged pillars adorned with decorative capitals incorporating foliate and auricular, shell-like motifs. The new side altarpieces were also crafted during that period, as was the main altarpiece which, unlike its side counterparts, has not survived to the present day. The façades of the church also underwent significant alterations, including, in particular, the western façade, which was redesigned in the Baroque style. The most notable changes this redesign entailed included the change in window shape as well as the addition of a tall gable with a volute-shaped coping.

In 1810, the monastery was abolished, with the monastery buildings themselves being torn down in 1823. The church has survived and would now serve as a filial church of the local Polish Catholic community.

The first conservation and restoration works commenced in the 19th century. The most significant among all these works has been the purist, Romanesque Revival redesign of the façade, accompanied by the replacement of the facing bricks on all façades. In 1945, the interior of the church has been destroyed; restoration works commenced in 1958, resulting in the addition of new painted decorations as well as stained glass windows.


The church is situated within the limits of the former city walls, on the eastern side of the market square and on the southern side of the Dominican square, in the immediate vicinity of the parish church of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The church, oriented towards the east, consists of a rectangular nave and a narrower, elongated, four-bay chancel with a semi-hexagonal termination. The compact body and chancel of the church are covered with a pair of gable roofs of identical height. A steeple with a bulbous cupola and roof lantern rises above the roof ridge. A stout turret with a pyramid hipped roof is positioned at the southern corner of the nave, where it meets a slightly taller chancel. A row of annexes - remnants of the now-defunct monastery - adjoins the northern side of the chancel, their current functions being that of a staircase, sacristy and storage room. An annex with a staircase leading up into the organ gallery adjoins the northern side of the nave, while a short porch, added at a later date, projects from the southern façade. All walls except the front façade are Gothic in character and feature a symmetrical arrangement of windows topped with pointed or round arches, flanked by single-stepped buttresses. The chancel windows feature a distinctive bipartite appearance resulting from the lowering of the vaulted ceiling which led to the original, Gothic window openings being partially bricked up. The upper sections of the windows retain their original stone tracery. The single-axial front façade, designed on the Romanesque Revival style and topped with a triangular gable, is covered with plaster - unlike all the other façades of the church - and adorned with brick architectural detailing, including corner buttresses and a stepped frieze. A small porch crowned with a triangular gable is positioned on the middle axis of the façade; above the porch rises a large window topped with a semi-circular arch and adorned with tracery. In addition, a small rose window can be seen just below the apex of the gable. The interior of the church was designed in the Baroque style. The chancel and the nave are separated by a semi-circular rood arch. The interior of the four-bay chancel features a vaulted ceiling of the barrel type, with lunettes, supported by composite pillars surmounted by a segmented entablature. The western part of the nave features a similar ceiling design, with the vaulted ceiling being supported by engaged pillars crowned with a segmented entablature as well as auricular decorations. The eastern part of the nave features a different arrangement, being divided into three single-bay sections - the nave and two side aisles - by two rows of pillars. The middle bay, opening up towards the chancel, features a groin vault, whereas the two side bays, separated from the middle nave by a row of arches, come equipped with vaulted ceiling of the barrel type, with lunettes. In the west part of the nave, there is a two-storey organ gallery resting on a pair of pillars. The interior of the Gaszyński family chapel, separated from the nave by a masonry balustrade, features a profusion of lavish, Baroque stucco decorations. The vaulted ceiling of the chapel is adorned with a plafond, a plasterwork coat of arms of the Gaszyński family as well as several cartouches supported by putti, adorned with astragal, acanthus and festoon motifs as well as bundles of fruit and ornamental swags. The window surrounds in the chapel are accentuated with decorative flourishes incorporating the portrayals of angels carrying the Arma Christi (Instruments of the Passion) as well as a Flagellation scene. The surviving original fixtures and fittings include two Late Baroque side altarpieces from the mid-18th century, located in the chancel and featuring sarcophagus-like altar stones as well as lavish decorations incorporating images of various saints, a 17th-century altarpiece in the Gaszyński family chapel - a Baroque effort made of black marble and incorporating an alabaster ensemble of sculptures depicting the Crucifixion scene (1659) - as well as a Baroque altarpiece in the southern chapel, incorporating the motif of the Tree of Jesse and associated with the works of Salomon Steinhof. Another notable feature are the two Rococo side altarpieces inside the nave, funded in 1744. Visitors may also admire other items, including a number of headstones; one of them, dating back to the mid-16th century, is adorned with the Gaszyński family crest. Another stone slab, originating from the 17th century, is embedded in the flooring of the nave.

The church is open to visitors directly before and after church service.

compiled by Agnieszka Olczyk, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 18-09-2014.


  • Architektura gotycka w Polsce, T. Mroczko, M. Arszyński (eds.), Warsaw 1995, part 2, pp. 197-198.
  • Architectural monument record sheet. Kościół podominikański p.w. św. Jakuba [w Raciborzu], prepared by M. Szyszkowska, 2005, 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.).
  • 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.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: poł. XIII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Rynek/Plac Dominikański , Racibórz
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district raciborski, commune Racibórz
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland


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