Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene, Serniki
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Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene

Serniki

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Built in the second half of the 18th century, the church, envisaged by Jakub Fontana, a renowned Warsaw architect, represents a mature iteration of the Late Baroque central-plan church, designed on an elongated Greek cross floor plan with chapels in the corners between the arms and with galleries positioned directly above the chapels. Despite certain alterations being made to both its overall shape and its front façade (the upward extension of the tower) as well as its relatively small size, the church is considered to be one of Fontana’s finest efforts.

History

The first, wooden church was erected on the site somewhere around the year 1600; fifty years later, a brick and stone chapel was added to the existing structure. Following the devastating fire of 1736, what remained of the old church was replaced by the existing building in years 1758-1766. It was funded by the owner of the Serniki estate Eustachy Potocki and designed by Jakub Fontana, a well-known architect. The church was consecrated in 1779; in 1909 the tower was extended upwards, having been considered to be “too low and chunky” - a comment which might have applied to its cupola roof, although this is by no means certain. The church underwent restoration in years 1915, 1973-1974, 1980 and 2001-2003. The brick perimeter wall was constructed between the late 18th and early 19th century, while the four Gothic Revival shrines are a mid-19th century addition. The belfry, also designed in the Gothic Revival style, originates from the same period.

Description

The church, designed in the Late Baroque style, is a brick building surrounded by a cemetery circumscribed by a low perimeter wall; the entire complex is located in the vicinity of the local manor, near the Wieprz river bank, on the eastern side of the local road.

The church is oriented towards the east; its layout combining elements of central-plan and longitudinal designs. It is a wall-pillar church with a three-bay nave with a transept, its overall layout approximating that of a Greek cross, with the middle section of the crossing being rectangular in shape. Four small chapels with galleries above are positioned in the corners of the cruciform main structure. The single-bay chancel is slightly narrower than the nave, extending into an annex containing the sacristy, a small vestibule and the stairs leading up into the treasury. This layout is mirrored in the western part of the church, where the single bay of the pipe organ gallery is located within the avant-corps formed by the tower; the porch is located directly below the gallery. In the corners of the main body of the church there are four small staircases located at the extension of the chapels, leading into the first-floor galleries above; the eastern pair of staircases features small vestibules designed on a quarter-circle floor plan.

The interior is decorated with faux pilasters attached to the fronts and the sides of the pillars which are engaged with the walls, with concave pilasters being used in places where the walls meet. A cornice runs around the entire interior of the church, interrupted only by the brick altarpiece structures inside the chancel and the two chapels in the transept. The arches leading into each of the four chapels follow a convex outline, as do the parapets within the rectangular openings of the first-floor galleries overlooking the transept chapels. The outline of the pipe organ gallery is convex at the sides and concave in the middle. All galleries feature decorative balustrades. The vaulted ceilings are supported by structural arches, with groin vaults being used for the middle bay of the church, the chancel and the pipe organ gallery, whereas the arms of the transept and the chapels feature barrel vaults and sail vaults respectively. The arches supporting the ceilings are adorned with a Classicist interwoven pattern with rosettes. The altarpieces inside the chancel and both transept chapels are brick structures; these architectural altarpieces flanked by pairs of Doric columns feature segmented pediments at the top. The main altarpiece (...)(?)

The front façade follows a three-axial design with a broad, tall avant-corps in the middle, incorporating a distinctive tower topped with a four-sloped, bulbous cupola which was added at a later date; the cupola is crowned with a square-shaped roof lantern topped with a cross. The front façade itself is designed in the giant order, with Doric pilasters on pedestals framing the corners of the walls and the avant-corps and supporting a massive entablature above; the entablature itself is not restricted to the façade, as it is carried on around both the main body of the church and its chancel. The tower avant-corps takes the form of a massive, blind arcade of the wall-pillar type, with the main entablature being split by the central niche. The imposing arch itself is framed by faux pilasters supporting another, flat entablature crowned by a triangular pediment above. The main entrance, adorned by a surround with a triangular pediment, is positioned on the axis of the niche. A string course runs directly above the pediment. Above the string course there is a window designed to illuminate the pipe organ gallery, set inside a tall, arched niche in a decorative surround, featuring a cornice following a reverse ogee arch outline (resembling a segmental arch with side overhangs) as well as an oculus which provides illumination to the attic space above the nave. The side axes of the front façade feature pairs of stacked, narrow staircase windows; above them rises the pronounced entablature surmounted by volute-shaped fractables which flank the upper sections of the avant-corps side walls. The side façades of the main body of the church are accentuated by decorative panels and framing, each façade featuring a shallow avant-corps of the transept chapel. The walls of the chancel, the vestibules and the sacristy annexes feature no divisions whatsoever. The individual sections of the church feature gable roofs clad with sheet metal.

The bell tower is a brick structure, its walls covered with plaster. It is a single-storey structure designed on a square floor plan and featuring rusticated corners. The bell chamber openings are topped with pointed arches in rusticated surrounds, flanked by smaller, rhombus-shaped openings. The entire structure is covered with a gable roof, the individual gables taking the form of pediments.

The perimeter wall is made of brick and covered with plaster; an iron gate, flanked by two arched wicket gates topped with basket-handle arches, provides access into the church yard. Four brick shrines which face the cemetery grounds are embedded into the wall, their sides covered with plaster; pointed-arch openings permit a glance into the shrine interiors.

The church can be viewed from the outside all year round.

compiled by Roman Zwierzchowski, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Lublin, 5.12.2014.

Bibliography

  • Record sheet, Serniki - the parish church of St Mary Magdalene, compiled by Kopciowski Dariusz, Lublin 1991, Archive of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Warsaw, Archive of the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Lublin.
  • Katalog Zabytków sztuki w Polsce, Vol. VIII, dawne województwo lubelskie, R. Brykowski and E. Smulikowska (eds.), vol. 11, d. powiat lubartowski, compiled by R. Brykowski, Warsaw 1976
  • Ku przyszłości. Dzieje gminy Serniki, monografia historyczna, collective work: http://www.serniki.eurzad.eu/userfiles/files/dziejegminy.pdf

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1758-1766
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Serniki
  • Location: Voivodeship lubelskie, district lubartowski, commune Serniki
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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