Strzegom - Church of Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles, Strzegom
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

Strzegom - Church of Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles

Strzegom

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First mentions of a castellan’s fortified settlement in Strzegom date back to the year 1155. A commandry of the Order of Saint John existed here from the years 1202-1203, with the church of Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles located in the south-east part of the town. It is one of the largest temples in Lower Silesia. Its impressive size, stone walls, steep roof and the way it fits perfectly with the surrounding landscape allowed it to retain its monumental, towering presence despite the passage of centuries. The nave section of the church, including the vaulting of the aisles, was erected in years 1335-1370, replacing an older temple which originally stood on the same spot. In years 1370-1425, the peripheral walls of the transept, a chancel, a sacristy and a porch were built. In the 2nd half of the 15th century the main nave received its vaulting; it was only in 1522 that the pipe organ gallery was assembled. It is known that around 1390 the construction of the church was directed by Jakub from Świdnica.

The three-nave basilica was erected on a Latin cross floor plan, with a transept and a chancel, the latter terminating with a polygonal apse. The walls of the church are reinforced by buttresses. The façade is accentuated by two towers. The northern tower reaches the level of the gable-end wall, while the southern one was never fully completed. The stone façades of the church were enriched with sandstone architectural and sculptural detailing, including gargoyles, sculpted human heads, foliage and geometric decorations on the friezes running below the eaves. The entrances to the church are accentuated by lavishly sculpted portals. The ornamental gable of the western portal (14th century) contains images of Judgment Day with a statue of Christ as the judge of the world and the images of the Mother of God and St John the Evangelist. It is the sole example of figural decoration on the decorative gable surrounding the portal which survives in Silesia. A grand ensemble of reliefs and free-standing sculptures, arranged in two rows and forming a visual narrative which tells the story of the Conversion of St Paul on the way to Damascus, is incorporated into the tympanum. The singers’ portal found in the Viennese cathedral of St Stephen appears to have been the model on which this presentation was based, both in terms of its ideological expression and also, to some extent, in terms of form. A sculptural composition, divided into two distinct areas, also decorates the tympanum of the northern portal (15th century) which depicts the Coronation of the Mother of God and, in its lower section, the Coronation of Bathsheba by Salomon and of Esther by Ahasuerus. Inside the tympanum of the southern portal (c. 1400) one can admire the scene of the Death of the Virgin Mary.

The interior of the church features cross-rib vaulting (northern arm of the transept, aisles), stellar vaulting (chancel, souther arm of the transept, the crossing of naves, chapels) and lierne vaults inspired by the solutions applied by Peter Parler, supported by octagonal pillars. The ribs of the vault flow into the stone supports shaped as the figures of prophets, the wise and foolish maidens as well as floral motifs. In 1717, a fire destroyed the original interior fittings of the church, which included, among others, 29 Gothic and 11 Renaissance altars; the current fittings originate from a later period. The surviving fittings inside the chancel include the stone sacrament tower - a pinnacle-shaped structure in which the Eucharist was meant to be stored, made by Wolfgang of Vienna in the 16th century. Other notable features include the 16th-century stone baptismal font designed in the Late Gothic style, a pulpit sculpted in sandstone, designed in the Mannerist style and made in 1592 by Casper Berger from Legnica, fragments of wall paintings from the 14th and 16th centuries, numerous headstones and epitaph plaques from the 16th-18th centuries as well as altars from the 18th century. Inside the taller of the two towers of the church there are three medieval bells including the oldest church bell which remains in use today, dating back to 1318.

Around 1540, the church was taken over by the Evangelicals, while during the 17th century it became the property of the Catholic Church once again, only to be reclaimed by the Evangelical community some time later. From 1632 onwards, the church served both Catholics and Protestants, with the former holding their religious services in the chancel and the latter in the main section of the church. In 1631, the commandry of the Order of Malta was granted patronage over the church, which meant that, from that moment onwards, it would be up to them to decide who would serve as the parson. In 1658 the Carmelite Order took over the duties related to chaplaincy at the parish church; since 1810 it has performed the function of a municipal parish church.

Despite the prolonged construction process and the resulting amalgamation of a variety of stylistic influences in its architecture and decorations, the basilica in Strzegom exhibits a surprising degree of spatial, architectural and stylistic unity. The chuch is also the site of a vibrant cult of the Virgin Mary which harks back to the Middle Ages, focusing on the miraculous sculpture of the Mother of God.

General information

  • Type: ecclesiastical complex
  • Chronology: XIV - XIX w.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Plac Jana Pawła II 10, Strzegom
  • Location: Voivodeship dolnośląskie, district świdnicki, commune Strzegom - miasto
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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