Parish church of St Stanislaus (church complex), Starochęciny
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Parish church of St Stanislaus (church complex)

Starochęciny

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The only building in the region which was either designed by Tylman van Gameren or intended as an imitation of his signature style. An exceptional example of a strictly symmetrical, Baroque spatial composition, enjoying the status of a regional landmark.

History

Erected in the years 1680-1690, the church was only completed in 1718; the funds for its construction were provided by Stefan Bidziński, the famous Chęciny alderman (starosta) who resided at the nearby manor house in Podzamcze. Despite the absence of any evidence in written sources, the design of the church is attributed to the workshop of Tylman van Gameren (1632-1706) from Utrecht, one of the most gifted architects of the Baroque period in Europe, who resided in Poland from ca. 1660-1661, creating designs for numerous buildings. This view is based on the striking similarity of the overall style of the church to a number of other centrally-planned churches which were proved beyond doubt to have been designed by the Dutch master himself, including, in particular, the Bernardine church in Czerniaków. As a filial church of the parish of St Lawrence in Chęciny, the church has never been particularly cared for by the successive aldermen; in 1789, the roofs above both of the bell towers were gone, while from 1794 onwards no church service was held at the church due to the poor technical condition of the building and the related hazards to its occupants. The situation has finally changed in 1838, when comprehensive renovation works were carried out, funded by the erstwhile Russian tenant of the Chęciny manor, general Paweł Storożenka (Pavel Storozhenka). It was also at that point that the sacristy was added to the existing church. However, according to the description provided by Michał Rawita-Witanowski, in the 1880s the church was in a dilapidated state once again. It was only in 1908 that the resplendent domed ceiling, adorned with both plasterwork and polychromed decorations, received due attention, with the missing sections of the ceiling paintings being replaced. Later on, extensive renovation works were carried out in 1961 and 1986; it was only during the latter year that the church of St Stanislaus became a parish church once again; before that, the medieval church in Stare Chęciny had enjoyed that status at one point, but was finally deprived of the parish church status somewhere around the year 1500. Later on, during the subsequent series of works carried out in the 1990s, the vaulted ceiling of the northern bell tower was adapted to serve as a funerary chapel.

Description

The church complex is situated in the middle of the village which consists of a line of buildings stretched along a single axis. The complex consists of the centrally positioned church as well as a pair of bell towers, the latter being symmetrically arranged so that their western façade form a single line with the western façade of the porch adjoining the church. The bell towers abut on the low perimeter wall surrounding the churchyard, designed on a heptagonal plan which likewise forms part of the well thought-out, deliberate spatial composition. All buildings are made of brick and stone. The church itself is a centrally-planned structure designed on the Greek cross floor plan, its middle shaft adjoined by four identical, rectangular bays. The monumental central section of the church is graced by a dome resting on a tholobate and pendentives, topped with a tall, cylindrical roof lantern crowned with a cupola. The four lower bays forming the arms of the cruciform plan are topped with plain, triangular pediments and covered with gable roofs. The chancel section is adjoined by low sacristy annexes. The façade detailing is simple and restrained, being limited to the architectural framing consisting of the wall base, the corner lesenes as well as the plain, mitred crowning cornice. The main entrance portal, made of massive stone blocks, is the sole decorative flourish which breaks the overall austerity of the design. In stark contrast with the simplicity of the exterior design, which eschews ornamental flourishes in favour of the monumental design language of its austere, clustered silhouette, the interior of the building features a surprising profusion of fine detailing, including the plasterwork and painted decorations which grace the domed ceiling as well as the tholobate and pendentives below. The middle section of the church is connected by arched apertures with the shallow arms containing the chancel, transept and porch. The chancel arcade is adorned with the sculptures of two angels brandishing a shield adorned with the Janina coat of arms of the founder of the church, Stefan Bidziński.

The two identical bell towers are adorned with corner lesenes similar to those present on the walls of the church; they feature simple, restrained entrance portals as well as tall, paired arched windows in the upper sections of the walls. Both structures are covered with low pyramid roofs. Along with the heptagonal perimeter wall and the church in the middle, they form a truly unique complex which has no true counterparts anywhere else in the Świętokrzyskie region, its primary design features being the striking simplicity of the austere buildings and the solemnity inherent in their strictly symmetrical layout.

The site is open to visitors. The interiors may be explored by prior arrangement with the parish priest.

Compiled by Aleksandra Ziółkowska, 01-12-2015

Bibliography

  • Record sheet of monuments of architecture, Starochęciny, zespół kościoła par. pw. św. Stanisława, Kościół, Dwie dzwonnice w zespole (Starochęciny, the complex of the parish church of St Stanislaus – the church and two bell towers), prepared by A. Adamczyk, 2000, Archive of the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Kielce.
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, vol. III, issue 4, Warsaw 1957.
  • Miłobędzki A., Architektura polska XVII wieku, part I, Warsaw 1980.
  • Mossakowski S., Tylman z Gameren (1632-1706), twórczość architektoniczna w Polsce, Warszawa-Monachium-Berlin 2012.
  • Rawita-Witanowski M., Dawny powiat chęciński, prepared by D. Kalina, Kielce 2001.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1680 - 1690
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Starochęciny 243
  • Location: Voivodeship świętokrzyskie, district kielecki, commune Chęciny - obszar wiejski
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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