Church of the Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary, Skrzatusz
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Church of the Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary

Skrzatusz

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Skrzatusz is a well-known Marian sanctuary located in the northern part of Greater Poland (the diocese Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sorrows). The Baroque church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was erected in years 1687-94 as a sign of gratitude for the victorious battle of Vienna. It constitutes an interesting example of a single-nave church following an aisleless layout, strongly reminiscent of Jesuit architecture (including the first design for a Jesuit church in Poznań). The interior of the church contains original Baroque fittings.

History

Skrzatusz used to be a village which formed part of the Wałcz eldership (starostwo). During the Middle Ages, it was one of the most important centres of the Krajna region. In 1538, Piotr Wolf, a crown estate leaseholder of Wałcz and Drahim, conferred a privilege upon the residents of Skrzatusz which provided that their rights would now be equal to those of the residents of Wałcz. This has probably also been the reason why a wooden parish church was erected there. The temple must have been in existence during the 16th century, for we know that in 1572 Stanisław Szedziński, the suffragan of Poznań, consecrated the church. In 1575, the Protestants desecrated the church in the nearby village of Mielęcin near Tuczno. Numerous items have been stolen from the site, including a wooden Pietà sculpture which was then ballasted with stones and thrown into the lake. This was not its end, however, for shortly thereafter the sculpture was saved and was later moved to the church in Skrzatusz. From 1660 onwards, this image of the Virgin Mary was considered to possess miraculous qualities.

In 1680, the sanctuary in Skrzatusz was visited by king John III Sobieski, who asked the Virgin Mary for victory in the impending clash with the Turks; at that point he also ordered the district governor of Nowe Miasto and province governor of Greater Poland, Wojciech Konstanty Breza, to erect a new, brick and stone church there. The church was erected in years 1687-94 as a sign of gratitude for the victory in the battle of Vienna. In 1698, the ceiling of the church received its painted decorations. In 1701, Hieronim Wierzbowski, the suffragan of Poznań, consecrated the church, which grew to become a well-known pilgrimage destination. The church was restored on numerous occasions during the 19th century and in the early 20th century (years 1859, 1870 - renovation of the front façade, years 1878, 1909 - repairs intended to eliminate the cracks in the ceiling and walls).

After World War II came to an end, the sanctuary came under the care of the Salesian Society. Further renovation works took place in the years 1979-80, while the miraculous image of the Virgin Mary underwent restoration in 2986. In 2001, the Salesian Society ended its presence in Skrzatusz. A further series of restoration works has recently been completed. Today, Skrzatusz remains the primary Marian sanctuary of the Koszalin-Kołobrzeg diocese.

Description

The parish church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is located on the north-eastern edge of the village, on small, artificial hillock. The former cemetery site surrounding the church, now overgrown with trees and other vegetation, is circumscribed by a stone wall incorporating a tripartite gate flanked by brick posts positioned towards the west. The church, designed in the Baroque style, is a single-nave, aisleless, five-bay structure. The nave was designed on a floor plan shaped as an elongated rectangle, with the chancel section located to the east featuring a polygonal termination, even though its interior wall is semicircular in shape. A small sacristy with a semi-hexagonal termination adjoins the chancel towards the north. The uniform, simple body of the nave, enriched by the polygonal termination of the chancel, is covered with a gable roof, while the eastern end section and the significantly lower sacristy feature multi-faceted roofs.

The church is a brick building with plaster-covered walls. The roofs are covered with ceramic roof tiles forming a double “lace” pattern. The interior features a faux wooden barrel vault.

The vertical divisions of the walls of the church serve to emphasise the verticality of its structure. The eastern termination as well as the side façades are divided with lesenes and topped with an entablature. The windows, piercing the walls at two levels, are positioned between the lesenes. The windows in the lower section are oval in shape, while the ones in the upper section are topped with elliptical arches. The entrances, topped with segmental arches and framed by simple, austere portals are positioned axially on the side façades. The design of the three-axial, two-storey front façade, crowned with a decorative gable, shows tendencies towards the harmonisation of vertical and horizontal divisions. The façade is divided with lesenes, which are further accentuated by the superimposed, monumental engaged columns. The columns themselves flank a series of niches, both rectangular and topped with segmental or elliptical arches, some of them also featuring segmental pediments. In addition, three lines of mitred entablatures, projecting forwards as they pass above the engaged columns, divide the façade horizontally. The main entrance is positioned on the central axis of the building, framed by a pair of pilasters and a section of entablature. Above the entablature there is a niche, framed with pilasters which support a triangular pediment. Inside the niche stands a wooden figure of the Virgin Mary Immaculate. The sculpted images of the four Doctors of the Church - St Gregory, St Jerome, St Ambrose and St Augustine - are positioned inside niches set into the walls on the side axes of the façade.

Inside, the walls of the nave are divided with lesenes and the adjoining fluted columns with composite capitals, surmounted by sculptures of the Twelve Apostles. Above the entablature which crowns the walls of the nave there is a gallery with a wooden balustrade. Shallow arcaded niches are positioned between the lesenes and the adjoining engaged columns, making the nave appear broader than it actually is. The ceiling of the church is adorned with paintings dating back to the late 17th century, their main theme being various scenes related to the life of the Virgin Mary, the portrayal of Christ as the Judge as well as of Christ Crucified, the symbols of Faith and the Sacraments and the calls of the Litany of Loreto. In addition, the walls of the chancel are decorated with a series of scenes from the history of the miraculous figure of the Virgin Mary. The western bay of the church houses a wooden pipe organ gallery, accessed by means of spiral stairs located in the south-western corner.

The uniform fixtures and fittings of the church, designed in the Baroque style, dates back to the late 17th and 18th century and includes a complex of altarpieces, the pulpit, the pipe organ casing as well as pews and confessionals. The main altarpiece is particularly interesting, having been modelled on St Adalbert’s baldachin (ciborium) located in the Gniezno cathedral. Underneath the altarpiece canopy stands the Gothic figure of Our Lady of Sorrows, dating back to the first quarter of the 15th century and believed to possess miraculous qualities.

The church is accessible to visitors. More information on the sanctuary and the church service schedule is available at skrzatusz.koszalin.opoka.org.pl

compiled by Krzysztof Jodłowski, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Poznan, 29-10-2014.

Bibliography

  • Barokowe kościoły Wielkopolski, koncepcja, teksty i wybór ilustracji P. Maluśkiewicz, Poznań 2006, s. 272-77.
  • Friedrich A., Historye cudownych obrazów Najświętszej Marii Panny w Polsce, t. 1, Kraków 1903, s. 176-81.
  • Heise J., Bau- Und Kunstdenkmaeler der Provinz Westpreussen, Bd. I, Gdańsk 1884-87, s. 446-49.
  • Miłobędzki A., Architektura polska XVII w., Warszawa 1980, s. 414.
  • Nowacki J., Dzieje archidiecezji poznańskiej, t. II : Archidiecezja poznańska w granicach historycznych i jej ustrój, Poznań 1964, s. 387-88.
  • Sielicki J., Architektura kościoła w Skrzatuszu, Poznań 1976 [mpis Biblioteki Instytutu Historii Sztuki UAM].

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1687-1694
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Skrzatusz 31
  • Location: Voivodeship wielkopolskie, district pilski, commune Szydłowo
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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