Parish church, currently serving as the Polish-Catholic church of St Peter and Paul, Szczecin
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Parish church, currently serving as the Polish-Catholic church of St Peter and Paul

Szczecin

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Founded back in 1124, during Otto von Bamberg’s expedition intended to spread the Christian faith across the Pomerania region, the church of St Peter and St Pail remains the oldest surviving church in the city of Szczecin. The existing structure remains one of the most valuable monuments of Late Gothic ecclesiastical architecture in Western Pomerania, known in particular for its exquisite ceramic decorations of its façade in the form of sculpted faces seen in profile. Inside, a monumental Baroque figural painting in the ceiling plafond still graces the interior - a veritable rarity among Pomeranian churches which have survived the Protestant period.

History

The church of St Peter and St Paul in Szczecin was originally founded in 1124, during Otto von Bamberg’s first expedition intended to spread the Christian faith across the Pomerania region. Initially a wooden structure, the church was originally erected beyond the boundaries of the hillfort and the chartered town which replaced it. It was initially designed to serve the Slavic residents of the ancillary settlement near the hillfort known as Wik Dolny (Unter Wiek); later on, the residents of the villages located north of the city of Szczecin have also started attending church service there. The construction of a masonry church began in 1425 or thereabouts and was completed somewhere around the year 1440. It was designed as a Late Gothic, three-nave, five-bay hall church with a polygonal end section in the east and an ambulatory around the choir gallery. Somewhere around the year 1460, the church was extended westwards through the addition of a single, wide bay with a tower jutting above its roof. However, this tower proved to lack stability and was demolished in 1556; it was also at that point that the western façade and its gable were substantially reworked, with the now-vanished tower being ultimately replaced with a steeple in 1602. From ca. 1534 onwards, the church served the needs of the Evangelical community. In 1623, the interior underwent renovation works during which it received new painted decorations and was adjusted to the needs of the Protestant liturgy. During the siege of the city by Brandenburg forces in 1677, the church was heavily damaged. Both the roof and the steeple were lost to the blaze. The vaulted ceilings and pillars have initially survived, yet soon after the fire was extinguished, the western gable collapsed upon them, causing severe damage. The first stage of the reconstruction effort was completed in the years 1678-1683, with the western bay of the main body being restored; a new western gable was constructed, albeit in a different form, featuring rectangular blind windows and stone spheres at the edges; the roof and the steeple containing a bell chamber were also rebuilt. The works were carried out under the direction of Johann Dawid Bürglin from Ulm. In 1694, a colonnaded portico was added to both the front façade and each of the side façades. These structures consisted of nine Romanesque columns in total, most likely salvaged from the demolished monastery of the Carthusian Order in Grabowo. For many years, the interior was exposed to the elements, its roof truss still unfinished. The City Council wanted the spatial layout of the church to be recreated and the vaulted ceilings to be rebuilt. However, the Swedish authorities which held sway over the Szczecin region at the time insisted upon a different, more austere concept which was ultimately implemented in the years 1678-1702. The three-nave layout was now gone, with the interior being covered with a faux wooden vaulted ceiling with a decorative plafond in the middle. The ceiling structure was made by A. Kammerling, a master carpenter, while the figural painting adorning the ceiling plafond was the work of the painter Philipp Ernst Eichner. The old, Late Gothic triptych was allowed to remain, however many new fixtures and fittings designed in the Baroque style were added, including the pulpit, the galleries and the choir stalls. In 1731, a chapel adjoining the western wall of the sacristy was added. During the period of the Napoleonic Wars, the interior was used as a hay storage facility and suffered as a result of the overall neglect. In 1817, the interior was restored, with all the Baroque fixtures and fittings being removed. The Gothic altarpiece was likewise relocated, although it would ultimately be restored to its original location many years later. The Baroque fixtures and fittings were replaced by new, Gothic Revival items, including large galleries, pews and pipe organ casing. In 1849, the church cemetery was closed down. In 1901, the western façade of the church was regothicised. In the years 1924-1930, the interior underwent renovation works. It was during this period that most of the Gothic Revival fixtures and fittings were removed; the Late Renaissance painted decorations were exposed from underneath layers of paint and restored while the old pews and galleries were replaced with new ones. The upper storey of the sacristy was redesigned, with the adjoining Baroque chapel being torn down completely and replaced with a new, Gothic Revival one. The only surviving portico constructed using the Romanesque columns from Grabowo was dismantled and reconstructed in a different part of the church. After 1945, the church was taken over by a Polish-Catholic parish. In 1960, the restoration of the church was carried out, with the interior being remodelled according to the design produced by S. Jeziorański and Z. Zdarewicz. The 1920s fixtures and fittings were removed, as was the plasterwork; a new plaster finish was executed, with the existing flooring being replaced with a new, brick one. A new porch was also added, featuring a pipe organ gallery positioned directly above. A new altarpiece designed by S. Jeziorański was installed and the faux vaulted ceiling above the nave was restored. The works were finally completed in 1962, with a new triptych painted by M. Lis from Szczecin being installed in 1985. In 1991, the roof cladding was relaid and the western gable and portico were restored. The process of restoration of the sculpted ceramic heads adorning the façades, the ornate headstones embedded in the interior walls as well as the painted decorations which grace the ceiling began in 1992.

Description

The church is located north of the Old Town and the Castle of the Pomeranian Dukes, on the northern side of the Castle Route. The church is oriented towards the east.

It was designed in the Late Gothic style. Initially conceived as a three-nave, six-bay hall church with a semi-decagonal end section, the church featured integrated side chapels and an ambulatory leading around the organ gallery. The westernmost bay is much wider than the rest. Today, the church follows a single-nave layout with a spacious sacristy annex adjoining its northern façade. The nave is covered with a gable roof, with a multi-hipped roof being used for the eastern end section. A massive steeple crowned with a slender spire rises above the roof ridge. The two-storey sacristy and chapel adjoining the northern wall of the church - their walls of identical height as those of the main body - are covered with a pair of transverse three-sided roofs, while the lower, western annex features a mono-pitched roof. The colonnaded porch adjoining the northern side of the annex features a low, gable roof supported by two pairs of columns. The church is a brick building with granite foundations, with the bricks being laid in the so-called Gothic bond. Inside, the church features a faux vaulted ceiling; the roof above is clad with beaver-tail roof tiles, with the steeple being covered with copper sheets. The façades feature a pronounced, stone socle. The windows are topped with pointed arches and adorned with brick bar tracery; the window sills are positioned at a very steep angle. Bipartite lesenes framed with glazed profiled bricks in the shape of a triple roll-moulding are positioned between the windows, above the exterior buttresses. At mid-height, the lesenes are inset with paired niches topped with wimpergs and supported by ceramic corbels in the shape of human heads. The Late Gothic sculpted heads form a unique ensemble of 12 pairs of portraits seen in profile, depicting various patrician subjects of different age. A smooth, plastered cornice runs beneath the eaves. The western façade follows a three-axial, symmetrical layout with a two-storey, pointed-arch portal featuring splayed reveals adorned with profiled brick voussures. Inside the portal lies a pair of entrance doorways topped with segmental arches and separated by a niche topped with a wimperg. Contours of pointed arches composed of ceramic roll-mouldings rise directly above each of the doorways, with a blind rose window positioned further above providing the finishing touch. The façade is crowned with a ceramic frieze incorporating a quatrefoil motif, above which rises a Gothic Revival stepped gable partitioned with a series of paired blind windows topped with semi-circular arches, above which rise blind, circular oculi. The entire gable is topped with a row of slender pinnacles. The northern façade are adjoined by a sacristy and chapel with pointed-arch windows on both levels; there is also a lower annex, adjoining the western side of the sacristy, preceded by a vaulted portico supported by four Romanesque columns from the Grabowo monastery and topped with a triangular pediment. The northern wall of the sacristy incorporates a special niche from the Gothic period, originally featuring an opening through which almsgivers could provide their donations. The niche is adorned with a pair of limestone plaques depicting St Peter and St Paul positioned inside small recesses. The tall arcades of the chapels, their edges adorned with profiled bricks, open up towards the nave. The western and eastern sides of the chapels are punctuated with narrow, pointed-arch niches. Segmental arches adorned with profiled bricks at the edges are positioned below the windows. A first-floor gallery positioned above the former chapel (currently serving as the sacristy) is positioned in the northern section of the church, alongside the easternmost bay. The nave is covered with faux wooden vaulted ceiling, its surface partitioned with imitation ribs; the centre of the ceiling is graced by a plafond with an ornate frame. The plafond incorporates a figural painting centred around the theme of the Plagues of Egypt, the visions of Ezekiel and the Lamb of God on Mount Zion, painted by Ernst Eichner in 1702. Six pairs of corbels adorned with sculpted portraits are positioned beneath the vaulted ceiling in the sacristy, mirroring the arrangement seen on the façade of the church. The surviving fixtures and fittings include three candle chandeliers from the Baroque period (1661, 1702 and 1703), a collection of 21 headstones, the painting entitled “The Resurrection of Jesus” dating back to the Baroque period (late 17th century, most likely forming the part of the top section of the old altarpiece) as well as a bell from 1677, cast by the bellfounder Lorenz Kökeritz.

Viewing of the structure is only possible by arrangement with the parish priest.

compiled by Maciej Słomiński, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Szczecin, 12-08-2015.

Bibliography

  • Architektura gotycka w Polsce, T. Mroczko and M. Arszyński (eds.), part II, Katalog zabytków, A. Włodarczyk (ed.), Warsaw 1995, Kościół par. P.w. św. Piotra i Pawła, prepared by K. Kalita Skwirzyńska, pp. 223-2244
  • Heyden H., Die Kirchen Stettins und ihre Geschichte, Stettin 1936, p.
  • Kalita-Skwirzyńska K., Kościół śś. Piotra i Pawła w Szczecinie. Wyposażenie. Szczecin 1992 (typescript available at the Office of the Municipal Monument Inspector in Szczecin)
  • Pilch J., Kowalski S., Leksykon zabytków architektury Pomorza Zachodniego i Ziemi Lubuskiej, Warsaw 2012, pp. 179-180
  • Radacki Z., Historia i budowa kościoła św. Piotra i Pawła w Szczecinie, “Materiały Zachodniopomorskie”, vol. VIII Szczecin 1962, pp. 275-298
  • Radacki Z. Kościół św. Piotra i Pawła w Szczecinie, Szczecin 1960, typescript available at the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Szczecin
  • Słomiński M., Makała R., Paszkowska M., Szczecin barokowy, Architektura lat 1630-1780, Szczecin 2000, p.
  • Architectural monument record sheet, compiled by K. Kalita-Skwirzyńska, 2000, typescript available at the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Szczecin

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1 poł. XV 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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