Evangelical garrison church, currently serving as the Roman Catholic parish church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Szczecin
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Evangelical garrison church, currently serving as the Roman Catholic parish church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Szczecin

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The church remains an important local landmark which defines the spatial layout of the Szczecin city centre. It is also an interesting example of early modernism in architecture - a creative reinterpretation of various historical design motifs. In addition, the church is also significant from a purely technical point of view due to its reinforced concrete structure - a technique which was considered highly innovative during the second decade of the 20th century.

History

The church was erected in the years 1913-1916 for the soldiers stationed in the Szczecin garrison. An Evangelical community encompassing the local garrison had existed in Szczecin from the 18th century. The church service was initially held at the castle chapel, moving to the Gothic church of St John during the 19th century. When the church was closed down towards the end of the century, the services were held in various temporary locations. The decision to erect a new church on what was then known as the Hohenzollern Square, directly opposite the Bugenhagen church, was taken by the garrison commandant, general von Heeringen, who would later go on to become the minister of war. Before the construction of the new church began, the area in question formed part of the new military cemetery.

The design for the church was prepared by Bernhard Stahl, the municipal construction counsellor, in 1912. The cornerstone was laid on October 19, 1913, with the construction works themselves being entrusted to the company named Comet with registered offices in Berlin and Poznań, which also employed the services of its Szczecin branch office for the purpose of completing the assignment. The construction process was interrupted by the onset of World War I, only to be resumed in 1916, by which time the peripheral walls had already been completed. The attention of the builders now turned towards the task of the installation of interior fixtures and fittings, which was completed in the following year. The church was consecrated in 1919. The new church was one of the first to be erected in the erstwhile German territories that was based entirely on a reinforced concrete structure. Its design was modelled after the garrison church in Ulm, envisaged by Theodor Fischer in the years 1906-1910, loosely referencing both Late Gothic and Baroque architectural forms. In the course of construction, the idea for the tower to be decorated with 16 figures of angels in bas-relief was ultimately abandoned.

After World War II came to an end, the building was taken over by the Society of Christ Fathers and consecrated on June 29, 1945, its interior now adapted to the needs of the Catholic liturgy. A Gothic Revival altarpiece relocated from the church of St John the Baptist was installed inside the chancel. In 1950, the painter Władysław Drapiewski along with his associates created a polychromy depicting the scenes from the Book of Revelations as well as various saints of Polish descent. In 1973, the original fixtures and fittings, i.e. the altarpiece and the pulpit, were removed from the church; the painted decorations were likewise gone, replaced by a new, painted portrayal of the Last Supper and Christ Pantocrator, accompanied - as before - by a group of Polish saints. In 1984 or thereabouts, the interior underwent another series of renovation works, with the previous altarpiece retable incorporating the scene of the Last Supper being restored to its former location. The corresponding scene in the wall-painting was removed, with the entire polychromy undergoing renovation coupled with a change in its original colour scheme. After the year 2000, a northern annex was added, containing a Catholic book store on the ground floor level as well as a first-floor congregation hall (designed by the architect Maciej Płotkowiak).

Description

The church is located in the city centre, forming of the northern frontage of the square known as Plac Zwycięstwa (Victory Square), between the Św. Wojciecha and Więckowskiego streets, located east and west of the church respectively. North of the church lies the former military cemetery, currently serving as a local green area known as the Anders Park. The front façade of the church faces the south, towards the square. The church was design in the early modernist style with various references to the Late Gothic and Baroque architecture. It is a three-bay basilica with a very wide nave and two narrow, low side aisles, featuring a wide apse and narthex positioned to the north and to the south respectively; the narthex is flanked by two oval staircase annexes and preceded by an entrance portico. A group of annexes adjoin the final bay of the nave: two open porches adjoining the side façades and two further annexes positioned along the sides of the apse, which is also adjoined by an additional, northern annex with a spacious sacristy on the ground-floor level. In recent years, a new, large building adjoining the sacristy was added. The monumental yet compact silhouette of the church was designed in a symmetrical manner. Looking from the direction of the square, one immediately notices the wide, massive tower and the entrance portico beneath, covered with a roof with a convexo-concave surface, as well as a pair of oval staircase annexes, their roofs taking the form of bell-shaped semi-domes. The tower is crowned with a cupola-like roof - a broad, two-tier structure likewise featuring a convexo-concave surface. The nave is covered by a broad gable roof, while the low side aisles feature mono-pitched roofs. The walls of the side aisles are supported by buttresses. Both of the external porches feature three-sided roofs, while the sacristy annex has a tall mansard roof with an attic section. Today, the overall shape of the church is distorted by the new, northern outbuilding, covered by a tall roof with a convexo-concave surface.

The church is a reinforced concrete structure positioned on foundations made of granite blocks. The roofs had originally featured ceramic roof tile cladding (with the exception of the tower cupola); today, they are all covered with sheet metal. Only the sacristy roof is clad with ceramic Dutch tiles. The façades are covered with textured cement plaster, dark grey in colour.

The symmetrical front façade of the church is preceded by a portico with three passages supported by two pairs of rectangular pillars; the middle passage is topped with a segmental arch, while the two smaller ones which flank it are rectangular in shape. The portico is crowned with a tall gable with convexo-concave edges, pierced with a trio of octagonal window openings. Beneath the middle window there is a postwar relief depicting Christ Crucified. From inside the portico, a trio of entrances lead into the church itself, the main entrance positioned inside a niche topped with an inflexed arch which also incorporates a relief depicting St George locked in the struggle against the dragon. The front façade of the tower is partitioned with a tall recess topped with a segmental arch, incorporating a Latin cross symbol. The uppermost storey of the tower, separated by a cornice from the rest of its façade, is pierced with a number of bell openings; three of them are positioned in the southern and the northern façades respectively, while each of the side façades features a single bell opening. The bell openings are topped with inflexed arches and flanked by slender columns. The windows illuminating the upper level of the side staircases as well as those in the façades of the side aisles take the form of rectangles positioned horizontally on their longer sides. The spaces between the buttresses which reinforce the side walls are occupied by three windows each, illuminating the central nave; the middle window of each of those groups is topped with an inflexed arch, while the side windows take the form of vertically positioned rectangles. The roofs of both of the open side porches are supported by a structure consisting of the corner pillars and an entablature. The northern façade is topped with a gable adorned with decorative blind windows topped with ogee arches, partially obscured by the recently added annex.

The interior follows a three-nave basilica layout with a broad, spacious nave and significantly narrower and lower side aisles. The trefoil arches of the arcades separating the nave from the aisles are supported by an alternating arrangement of columns and engaged columns attached to the larger pillars designed to support the weight of the ceiling above while at the same time serving as the visual articulation of the walls between the windows. Upon these wide, basket-handle arches supported by the aforementioned pillars rests the monumental coffered ceiling which follows the outline of a segmental arch. The side aisles feature vaulted ceilings of the barrel type, while the wide, shallow altarpiece apse is separated from the nave by an arch with a profiled archivolt and topped with a semi-domical ceiling. On the opposite, southern side of the nave there is a wide organ gallery designed on a convexo-concave plan and supported by two pairs of columns. From the organ gallery, a wide passage topped with an inflexed arch leads into a chamber inside the tower where the pipe organ itself is located. The room located on the western side of the apse was adapted to serve as the chapel of the eternal adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Fixtures and fittings. Inside the chancel there is a Gothic Revival altarpiece retable incorporating the portrayal of the Last Supper, relocated from the church of St John the Baptist after 1945. A relief depicting St George slaying the dragon can be seen above the main entrance. The remaining fittings originate from the postwar era, including the altar stone, the paintings of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn and the Heart of Jesus, the baptismal font, the pipe organ as well as the relief depicting Christ on the Cross embedded in the front façade (created by the sculptor A. Schulz in the 1980s). Inside the bell chamber atop the tower there are four bells which were cast in 1998.

The building is open to visitors all day long, almost without restrictions.

compiled by Maciej Słomiński, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Szczecin, 15-10-2014.

Bibliography

  • Heyden H., Die Kirchen Stettins und ihre Geschichte, Stettin 1936, p. 331
  • Kościoły Archidiecezji Szczecińsko-Kamieńskiej. Nasze dziedzictwo, vol. I, Bydgoszcz, year of publication not stated (2014), pp. 16-19
  • Makała R., Między prowincją a metropolią. Architektura szczecina w latach 1891-1918, Szczecin 2011, p.
  • Makała R., Dawny kościół garnizonowy w Szczecinie [in:] Kultura i sztuka Szczecina w latach 1800-1945, Szczecin 1999, pp. 99-106
  • Architectural monument record sheet, compiled by K. Kalita-Skwirzyńska 1998, typescript available at the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Szczecin.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1 poł. XX w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Szczecin
  • Location: Voivodeship zachodniopomorskie, district Szczecin, commune Szczecin
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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