Filial Church of St John the Baptist, Siewierz
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Filial Church of St John the Baptist

Siewierz

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One of the last surviving examples of churches erected alongside medieval hillforts between the second half of the 11th century and the second half of the 12th century, characterised by open-space interiors with additional galleries for the faithful. At the same time, it is also one of the oldest surviving ecclesiastical buildings in the country. Its historical, artistic, and scientific value lies in its well-preserved 12th-century form, including its original layout and silhouette, which has survived without any major changes being made.

History

The church, initially accompanying the nearby hillfort, was most likely erected in the early 12th century for the funds provided by Pior Włost Dunin of the Łabędź coat of arms, a well-known Silesian magnate and the count palatine of Duke Bolesław the Wrymouth. Its original form has changed little throughout the ages; it has been determined that back when the church was first built, the western part of the nave contained a gallery. In the second half of the 13th century, when the settlement was moved to the north and subsequently attained the status of a town, the function of the parish church was taken over by the church of St Matthew the Apostle. It is suspected that the original, beamed ceiling above the nave was replaced with a barrel vault in the 17th century, which also made it necessary to add external buttresses in order to strengthen the walls of the church. In the course of works performed in 1696, both gables of the church were extended upwards. The roof truss was replaced, while a new, Baroque steeple jutting from the roof ridge was added. The front façade of the church was now preceded by a porch. It is in this form that the church survived until the year 1945. In the early 19th century, pursuant to the ordinance of the Prussian king Frederick II, the churchyard was converted into a cemetery, relocated here from the site of the church of St Matthew located in the town centre. In the course of conservation works performed in the years 1947-1956, based on the design produced by Zygmunt Gawlik, the damaged barrel vault was reconstructed and various additions made in the early modern era were removed, including the 17th-century buttresses, the steeple and the front porch. In addition, remnants of medieval and Baroque painted decorations have been uncovered in the chancel apse.

Description

The church is situated at a considerable distance to the south from the chartered town of Siewierz, standing on the site of the former market settlement intersected by the national road no. 1, not far away from Czarna Przemsza. The church is surrounded by the parish cemetery, which still remains in active use today. The Romanesque edifice is oriented towards the east, its walls made of sandstone blocks. The building consists of a cuboid nave designed on a rectangular floor plan, covered by a tall gable roof, and a small apse on the eastern side. The entrance to the chapel, located on the western side, is accentuated by a stone portal topped with a semi-circular arch; a plain stone slab serving as the tympanum is positioned directly above the recessed doorway. The interior of the nave, covered by a barrel vault which was reconstructed in the 20th century, is illuminated by three Romanesque window openings featuring splayed reveals on both sides; the windows are positioned in the upper sections of the northern and southern walls. Remnants of a now-vanished stone gallery can be seen in the western part of the nave, including imprinted traces of a groin vault, pilasters adorning the walls as well as a single support projecting from the western wall. Three steps lead from the nave to the altar apse, separated by a rood arch and a slight offset accentuated with lesenes. The interior of the apse, covered with a hemispherical semi-dome accentuated by a profiled cornice at its base, is illuminated by a small Romanesque window with splayed reveals on both sides. The original masonry base of the altarpiece (the stipes) has survived intact inside the apse. Traces of painted decorations believed to date back to the 12th century and incorporating figural motifs with tawny contours (including the image of the Maiestas Domini and a line of saints) have been discovered on the walls of the apse, accompanied by remains of more recent figural paintings.

Limited access to the historical monument. The church is open on the day of St. John the Baptist as well as on the All Souls' Day.

compiled by Agnieszka Olczyk, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 13-11-2014.

Bibliography

  • Dzieje sztuki polskiej, T. I: Sztuka polska przedromańska i romańska do schyłku XIII wieku, red. M. Walicki, Warsaw 1971, pp. 680-681.
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, T. VI, woj. katowickie, issue 15: Powiat zawierciański, red. I. Rejduch-Samkowa, J. Samek, Warsaw 1962, pp. 55-56.
  • Kubisa A., 860 lat kościółka p.w. św. Jana Chrzciciela w Siewierzu, Siewierz 2004.
  • Świechowski Z., Architektura romańska w Polsce, Warsaw 2001, pp. 220-221.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: XII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Cmentarna , Siewierz
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district będziński, commune Siewierz - miasto
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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