The chapel of the Templars, Rurka
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The chapel of the Templars

Rurka

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This Romanesque chapel, built somewhere around the year 1250 (1244-1248), remains one of the oldest granite buildings in Western Pomerania. Its architecture is reminiscent of the brick and stone rural churches erected in Saxony and Altmark during the 13th century.

History

During the first few decades of the 13th century, the territories located along the boundary between Pomerania, the Lubusz region and Greater Poland - in the area between the Odra, Warta and Myśla rivers - were heavily penetrated by Catholic military orders (the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller), acting with the support of the local dukes who ruled the neighbouring lands at the time of the political fragmentation of Poland. In the years 1234 and 1235, Barnim I, the Duke of Pomerania donated 200 lans of land (the lan or łan being an old unit of field measurement used in Poland) to the Knights Templar along with the village of Dargomyśl, followed by the entire Banie region. During the early 1240s, the Templars began the construction of their commandry, located by the Rurzyca river. The archaeological and architectural surveys carried out on the site of the now-vanished complex in Rurka confirm that it had been designed as a castle combined with a grange, its primary function being to provide sustenance to the knights stationed in the area. The defensive value of the castle mostly stemmed from the presence of the surrounding marshes, for the fortifications around the castle itself were rather modest. The castle of the Knights Templar in Rurka was perched atop a hill with an elliptical base, surrounded by the waterlogged marshlands that stretched alongside the Rurzyca river. The main purpose of the commandry was to collect revenue for the Order. The free-standing chapel was situated at the southern edge of a yard filled by an irregularly arranged ensemble of structures.

The exact date of construction of the chapel is unknown. Owing to the general references made to its existence, it has been possible to make a tentative determination as to the date when the chapel came into being; it is now believed that it must have been erected between 1244, when the Knights Templar first settled here, and 1248, when Wilhelm, the bishop of Kamień, came to visit the site. It is now suspected that the objective of the bishop’s visit was to consecrate the newly erected chapel.

After the Order of the Knights Templar was abolished in 1312, pope Clement V ordered all its properties to be assigned to the Knights Hospitaller (the Order of Saint John). The members of the Order have taken up residence in the former Templar complex in Rurka in 1329. In the 1370s, Wilhelm Holsten, the commander of the Order of Saint John, became mired in a prolonged feud with the knightly family of von Wedel, ultimately resulting in an armed onslaught against the commandry in 1373 during which the entire complex was burned down, while the chapel was ransacked and desecrated. The dukes Swantibor (Świętobor) III and Bogusław VII allowed the Knights Hospitaller to abandon what was left of the commandry and to establish a new centre in Swobnica. The former commandry now became a manor farm which remained under the administration of the Order. The chapel was used for liturgical purposes until 1490, when a church was finally erected in the nearby village. Once the Order of St John was abolished in 1648, the entire site (along with the chapel) was taken over by the Brandenburg margraves based in the city of Schwedt. During the 18th century, the chapel was converted into a granary, its interior divided into two levels. During the 19th century, the entire estate changed owners on numerous occasions. In 1874, the former chapel was damaged by fire; later on, the chapel was adapted to serve as a distillery, with the southern wall, the gables, the upper section of the walls, the windows and doors all undergoing substantial alteration works. Inside, the building now featured reinforced concrete ceilings and pillars. A chimney now stood adjacent to the northern façade. The distillery remained in operation until 1945.

Once the war came to an end, the entire estate was nationalised and taken over by the local State Agricultural Holding (PGR). The chapel remained in use as a warehouse until 1973. In years 1995-2004 a series of specialist architectural studies was conducted, followed by the necessary conservation and construction works intended to secure the original substance of the building against further damage. Inside, in the western part of the main body, a wall made of stone blocks which had once formed the base for the gallery has been discovered. The building has been secured against unauthorised access but remains abandoned. The chapel is private property.

Description

The chapel forms part of the manor house and park complex located approximately 1 kilometre north of the village. A narrow, cobbled road leads towards the chapel across the park.

The chapel itself is located in a grassy open area. Erected on a bipartite plan, the chapel consists of a rectangular nave (10.86 x 8.80 metres) and a narrower, rectangular chancel (7.05 x 5.82 metres). The chancel is slightly lower than the nave; both sections of the structure are covered by modern gable roofs. The peripheral walls of the chapel rise above stone foundations constructed using a technique similar to the opus emplectum, its outer surface consisting of regular, dressed granite blocks and mass-made brick. A chamfered socle is positioned at the base of the structure. The walls retain their original structure up to the 20th layer above the wall base in the chancel and up to the 19th or 20th layer in the nave. Large missing sections of the southern stone wall were filled in with mass-made bricks. The western gable is made of brick and stone pebbles. The eastern gable is a modern half-timbered structure with brick infills. Three windows with splayed reveals, topped with semicircular arches, have survived in the walls of the chancel. In the northern wall of the nave, one can still see the traces of a bricked-up pointed-arch portal; inside the portal there is a much smaller entrance to the chapel, topped with a segmental arch. Remnants of bricked-up windows flanking the portal are also plain to see. A pair of windows topped with round arches have survived in the upper section of the northern wall. Large sections of the southern wall have been reconstructed in brick during the later phases of the building’s existence. An outline of a bricked-up oculus can still be seen in the upper section of the western wall. The interior is a single, open space with an exposed roof truss. A clearly visible outline of the former vaulted ceiling along with a pair of corner supports can be seen on the eastern wall of the chancel. A wall made of granite blocks which survives in the immediate vicinity of the western wall is believed to have once formed the base of the now-vanished gallery.

Private property. The building is not accessible to visitors.

compiled by Anna Walkiewicz, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Szczecin, 30-06-2015.

Bibliography

  • Jarzewicz J., Gotycka architektura Nowej Marchii. Budownictwo sakralne w okresie Askańczyków i Wittelsbachów, Poznań 2000r., p. 213 et seq.
  • Kalita-Skwirzyńska K., Rurka, woj. szczecińskie. Kościół templariuszy oraz zespół budynków podworskich. Historical and architectural documentation, Historical Monument Conservation Workshop (PP PKZ) - Szczecin Branch, 1976, typescript available in the archive of the Regional Monuments Inspector for the Zachodniopomorskie Province in Szczecin
  • Kalita-Skwirzyńska K., Kaplica templariuszy. Rurka, gm. Chojna, woj. zachodniopomorskie. Record sheet, 2004, available in the archive of the Regional Monuments Inspector for the Zachodniopomorskie Province in Szczecin
  • Lemcke H., Die Bau- und Kunstdenkmäler des Regierungsbezirks Stettin. Der Kreis Greifenhagen, Stettin 1902, p. 282.
  • Łaniecka M., Zespół folwarczny. Rurka, gm. Chojna, woj. szczecińskie. Record sheet, 1990, available in the archive of the Regional Monuments Inspector for the Zachodniopomorskie Province in Szczecin
  • Płotkowiak M., Kwilecki St., Problemy odbudowy kaplicy templariuszy w Rurce, in: W cieniu trzech katedr, part II. Materials from the session of a research conference, April 22, 1999, Szczecin 2001, pp. 59-68.
  • Radacki Z., Średniowieczne zamki Pomorza Zachodniego, PWN Warsaw 1976, p. 107 et. seq.
  • Świechowski Z., Architektura granitowa Pomorza Zachodniego w XIII wieku, Poznań 1950, p. 15

General information

  • Type: chapel
  • Chronology: 1. poł. XIII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Rurka
  • Location: Voivodeship zachodniopomorskie, district gryfiński, commune Chojna - obszar wiejski
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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