Mennonite cemetery, Szaleniec
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl
photo

A valuable example of a small Mennonite cemetery in Żuławy, with partly preserved gravestones. It is evidence of the presence of Dutch settlers in the Vistula delta over several centuries.

History

Around the mid- 16th century, members of the Menno Simons religious faction persecuted in the Netherlands, called Mennonites, began to arrive in Żuławy. The new settlers, thanks to the skills of developing areas of depressions and floodplains, brought from their homeland, influenced considerably the environment and the landscape of Żuławy. They settled by way of the inherited lease of land (emphyteutical concession) and had a separate rural self-government. At the beginning, they were allowed to use churches and existing cemeteries against a fee. Thanks to privileges, starting from the early 17th century, Mennonites were establishing their own cemeteries, and building churches and schools nearby.

Dutch settlers arrived in Szaleniec (German: Tchoerichthof), a medieval monastic and then royal grange, relatively late, as they leased the settlement from Bogusław Denhoff only in the 18th century. The cemetery in Szaleniec was probably established in the late 18th century, or at the turn of the 18th and 19th century (dating based on the age of trees and the preserved gravestones; there are no archival sources) and was used until the interwar period. The oldest preserved gravestone dates back to 1806, and the newest one to 1914. The cemetery had a wooden fence, from the side of the road there was a large gate with brick pillars. Its remains are visible in the photo from 1978.

Description

The Mennonite cemetery is located in a flat area on the eastern side of the main village road leading from Rozgart to Stare Pole, in the southern part of the village. It was built on a trapezium-like plan of an area of approx. 0.11 ha, bordering fields from the east and the north, and a country farm (homestead No. 6) from the south. The former composition of the cemetery is not clearly visible. Most probably, the cemetery has a modest layout: an alley from the east to the west divided it into two burial plots, a smaller southern one and a larger northern one (the course of the alley can be reconstructed based on the survived lime trees). Before, the cemetery had plantings along the west, north and east borders, and from the side of the road, on the axis of the alley, there was a brick gate. Currently, the cemetery is surrounded by metal mesh set on concrete foundations. The border plants, limes and ashes have survived only along the road. The cemetery is oriented towards the east. 26 surrounds of single, double and child’s gravestones, as well as between ten and twenty stelae made of sandstone have survived (most of the preserved gravestones are located in the north burial plot). Mennonites did not create a distinctive type of funerary sculpture. The preserved stelae are quite typical. They have a form of free-standing tombstones with dimensions of approx. 2 by 0.8 metres, placed directly on plinths, topped by tympana (triangular, closed with an arch or a wavy line). In the central part of each tombstone, there is a plaque with an inscription, on the external wall there is often an epitaph or a Bible verse. Ornaments are purely decorative (classical motifs, acanthus, meander, rosettes, foliate twig, garlands), or symbolical (crossed palm branches - victory over the death, a laurel wreath - a symbol of victory and glory, crossed oak branches - lasting in faith). On the gravestones in Szaleniec, there are sometimes precise dates of birth and death of the buried, e.g. on the oldest preserved gravestone, there is the following inscription: “Here rests in God Mr Herman Penner from neighbourhood of the village of Szaleniec, born on 5 March 1773, died on 16 November 1806. He lived 33 years, 8 months, and 11 days”.

The site is open to the public.

compiled by Teofila Lebiedź-Gruda, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Gdańsk, 28-10-2014.

Bibliography

  • Karta ewidencyjna cmentarza, Szaleniec, cmentarz pomennonicki, J. Hoffmann, 1984 r., w zbiorach OT NID w Gdańsku
  • Filipska E., Cmentarze menonitów, Żuławy i Dolina Wisły. Dokumentacja naukowo-historyczna, PP PKZ Toruń, 1978, w zbiorach OT NID w Gdańsku
  • Lipińska B., Żuławy Wiślane, ochrona i kształtowanie zabytkowego krajobrazu, Gdańsk 2011, s. 23, 108

General information

  • Type: Evangelical cemetery
  • Chronology: koniec XVIII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Szaleniec
  • Location: Voivodeship pomorskie, district malborski, commune Stare Pole
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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