Stargard Szczeciński - Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary Queen of the World and Medieval City Walls, Stargard
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Stargard Szczeciński - Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary Queen of the World and Medieval City Walls

Stargard

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Stargard was once an important point at the crossroads of several trade routes, the earliest settlements noted here dating from the 8th and 9th centuries. For centuries it competed with Szczecin for supremacy over Western Pomerania (Pomorze Zachodnie). Barnim I, Duke of Pomerania, granted Stargard a town charter under Magdeburg Law in 1243. A member of the Hanseatic League, the town had its heyday in the late Middle Ages, and it was during this period that most of its architectural works were undertaken. At the town’s core was the Lower Town (Miasto Dolne), located on an island in the River Ina. The Upper Town (Miasto Górne) came into being later. The last Griffin ruler of Pomerania, Bogusław XIV, died without issue in 1637, leading to conflict between George William, elector of Brandenburg, and Pomerania’s Swedish occupiers. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) resulted in Brandenburg occupying part of Pomerania, from Stargard and Kamień to Słupsk. The elector took over these territories in 1653, establishing a capital at Stargard; however, a ravaged Pomerania never regained its former glory. During the Second World War Stargard suffered vast and irreparable material losses, being virtually razed to the ground. Some of its distinctive buildings were reconstructed after the war.

Fortunately, the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary Queen of the World survived the war, as did the city walls - both representing some of the greatest achievements of Gothic art on the Baltic Coast. In the context of European heritage, St Mary’s is one of the finest examples of a Hanseatic city church, rendering French Gothic traditions in brick. Its construction began in 1292 and was completed in the late 15th century. By 1388 work was being carried out under the direction of the master builder and architect Hinrich Brunsberg. Using his designs a new chancel with ambulatory, a ring of chapels, a gallery, a Marian chapel and two towers were built. Ultimately, the church took the form of a basilica with a huge tower. The building impresses with its dimensions (length - 77.6 m; width excluding St Mary’s Chapel - 37.2 m; height - 39.5 m; height of north tower - 53 m; height of nave - 30.2 m, width of nave - 10.4 m), the mastery of its structural design and the finesse of its architectural details (elaborate tracery and glazed elements - 650 varieties of shaped brick were used). A tall, blind lancet window filled with vertical and circular fields was added to the façade. Known as a Stargard blind window, it was readily copied in other parts of Western Pomerania, as well as Meklemburg and Denmark. In the 16th century St Mary’s was converted into an Evangelical church, resulting in alterations to its lavish décor. In 1635 the church was partially consumed by fire. The Gothic vaults were rebuilt and the interior was refurbished in Baroque style. Conservation work was carried out in the 19th century by Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Heinrich Deneke. The damages inflicted by World War II were relatively minor. In 1959 the building was returned to the Catholic Church. A group of three townhouses, known as the rectory, survives in the church’s immediate vicinity.

Stargard boasted the region’s most formidable late medieval fortifications (alongside Stralsundt, Szczecin and Pyrzyce), not greatly inferior to those of of Cracow and Poznań. The full circuit of Stargard’s city walls measured 2260 m, their height approaching 8 m. The fortifications were first raised in the 13th century; work was carried out in stages, and they attained their eventual form in the 16th century. Erratic stones and fired bricks were used in the walls’ construction. In the 18th and 19th centuries part of the fortifications (the foregate, earthworks and water defences) were demolished, the moats were filled in, and the resultant areas were levelled and made into green spaces. A section of c. 950 m of the wall survives, as do three of its four gates: the Pyrzycka, Wałowa and Młyńska Gates (the last of these being a unique twin-towered water gate on the Ina Canal). Four regular towers also remain (the Morze Czerwone, Białogłówka, Jeńców and Tkaczy Towers), along with two more heavily fortified towers.

General information

  • Type: ecclesiastical complex
  • Chronology: koniec XIII - XVI w.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Stargard
  • Location: Voivodeship zachodniopomorskie, district stargardzki, commune Stargard (gm. miejska)
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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