Former Franciscan church, currently serving as the parish church of St John the Evangelist, Szczecin
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

Zdjęcie panoramiczne tej lokalizacji jest niedostępne.

Former Franciscan church, currently serving as the parish church of St John the Evangelist

Szczecin

photo

The building is among the oldest and the most beautiful former Franciscan churches anywhere in Central Europe, while at the same time being one of the most important among the monumental structures of the Old Town district of Szczecin. The end section of the chancel, with its emphasis on centralised layout, is a symbolic reference to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The architectural detailing in this part of the church - including both the ceramic brick ornamental frieze adorning the façade and the decorative capitals of the supporting shafts inside the church - remains one of the most fascinating examples of Early Gothic sculpture in the Pomerania region. The surviving remains of medieval wall paintings in the aisles and the chapels are the only ones of their kind in the city of Szczecin. Recent dendrological studies indicate that the roof truss above the nave was made of timbers obtained back during the 14th century, which places it among the oldest structures of its kind anywhere in Central Europe.

History

The Franciscan monks arrived in Szczecin in the year 1240 at the invitation of a man named Barfolt, the head of the local commune (wójt), who also allocated a piece of land to them so that they could build a church and monastery for themselves in the suburb of Szczecin known as Dolny Wik (Unter Wiek). The group of monks arrived from Westphalia and became part of the Saxon province. The first mention of the presence of the Franciscan monks in Szczecin in written sources dates back to 1267, when a reference was made to Hildebrandt von Seehausen, who held the title of the custos (guardian). The very first Franciscan church in Szczecin was most likely erected during the mid-13th century. Located beyond the fortifications surrounding the erstwhile ancillary settlement, the church was most likely a small, stone building designed on a rectangular floor plan. Its remains have been unearthed during the survey conducted in the years 1929-1930 alongside the southern wall of the nave, erected at a later date. The existing church was erected within the boundaries of the chartered town, right next to the defensive walls, near the Gate of the Holy Spirit. Before the construction of the peripheral walls could begin, the entire site had to be levelled, with an earthen structure being constructed for the purpose, its height reaching about 4 metres. The construction of the church itself began somewhere around the year 1300, starting with the chancel. Due to the waterlogged nature of the surrounding terrain, the walls were constructed on a wooden lattice. The eastern wall of the nave was built at the same time as the chancel. In 1334, a mention was made of the fact that the Sailors’ Brotherhood donated funds for the construction of an altarpiece for the church of St John, which means that at least the eastern part of the church must have already existed at that date. Following an extended period of inactivity, in the second half of the 14th century, the construction of the main body of the three-nave hall church has begun. The side chapels were added in the following century. The first of them was the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary and All Angels and Saints, added in 1401, adjoining the southern wall of the chancel. The remaining chapels were erected inside the spaces between the buttresses positioned alongside both side walls of the main body of the church. The now-defunct monastery located on the southern side of the church is believed to have been erected in the mid-14th century. During the Middle Ages, the Franciscan Order amassed numerous valuable items at the monastery. Many of those items have travelled along with them away from Szczecin to the nearby Mecklenburg in 1572, when the unrest related with the rise of the Reformation has begun. In 1536, two years after the Trzebiatów landtag (local assembly) decided to adopt the Lutheran confession, the former monastery was donated to a local charity by decision of the Pomeranian dukes and the municipal council and was subsequently converted into an almshouse for the poor. The initial number of residents was 150, although it had later dwindled to 107; the religious services for them were held at the neighbouring church. In 1677, the church sustained damage during the siege mounted by the Brandenburg forces. In the following year, the church was taken over by the military, having been restored and having received a new pulpit and galleries for the faithful. From that moment onwards, it has remained a garrison church for almost a century. In 1701, the vaulted ceilings above the chancel were repaired while those above the side aisles were replaced. In addition, the steeple rising above the eastern gable was also modified. During the period of the French occupation in the years 1806-1813, the church was used as a hay storage facility. Its ecclesiastical function was only restored in 1818, once the Napoleonic Wars came to an end. In 1832, the entire church was closed down once again. In 1837, the communities of St John and St Nicholas were merged together. In 1838, the restoration of the church began, with the building serving the needs of both the local Evangelical parish and the soldiers stationed at the Szczecin garrison. Subsequent restoration works followed in 1841, 1864, and 1878. During the second half of the 19th century, the subsidence of the underlying soil resulted in the pillars positioned between the nave and the side aisles beginning to tilt away from their intended vertical position. In the end, in 1899, the building control authorities held that the entire building presents a risk of imminent collapse and ordered the church to be closed down. The church was initially converted into a storage facility, although later on a decision was adopted on the demolition thereof. This decision, however, was fiercely opposed by the erstwhile monument protection officer in the Pomeranian Province, Hugo Lemcke, who ultimately managed to avert the danger of impending demolition, having obtained the support of a number of influential individuals, including the Prussian monument protection officer, H. Lutsch. In 1930, a series of architectural surveys was conducted, followed by the restoration works performed under the supervision of professor Ruth from Dresden, who also produced the requisite designs. The works in question involved, first and foremost, the stabilisation of the damaged structure, with the measures adopted including, among others, the construction of a reinforced concrete lattice beneath the floor, connecting the base of the pillars, with the upper sections of the said pillars now bound together by iron braces. In addition, reinforced concrete ties were also installed in the chancel. The construction works were completed in 1934. In 1938, the roof truss was repaired, as was the roof cladding, with the church interior being adapted to serve as a storage building for theatrical decorations. After 1945, the church stood empty, having sustained no major damage during the war. In 1956, the building was handed over to the ecclesiastical authorities. In 1957, the dilapidated church was taken over by the Pallottines and consecrated under its present name. The interior was refurbished and refitted in the following years. The plaster finish of the chancel walls was removed, exposing the bricked-up portals and niches, while fragments of the surviving Gothic and Baroque wall paintings were cleaned up and protected against further damage. The organ gallery positioned alongside the western wall, made of reinforced concrete, was designed by professor Stanisław Latour, who also came up with the design for the pews and confessionals as well as for the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Częstochowa positioned on the southern side of the chancel, with B. Kozłowska being responsible for the design of its interior décor. In 1964, the church received its main altarpiece with its wrought-iron retable incorporating the portrayal of the Crucifixion and the symbols of the Evangelists, designed by professor Jan Piasecki from Poznań. The task of execution of this intriguing design fell upon Józef Murlecki, a metalworker and artisan. In years 1982-1985, a new Pallottine monastery was erected on the southern side of the church, designed by professor Stanisław Latour. In 2002, a series of extensive restoration and construction works began. In years 2005-2006, the roof truss was refurbished and the roof cladding was replaced; later on, both the façades and the interior of the church were restored; unfortunately, numerous valuable fixtures and fittings from the 1960s were removed in the process, including the main altarpiece designed by Jan Piasecki in 1964.

Description

The church is located in the lower part of the Old Town district of Szczecin, near the Odra (Oder) river, on Św. Ducha street, in the immediate vicinity of the southern section of ks. kard. Stefana Wyszyńskiego street - the main artery of the Old Town district. The church is slightly offset from the usual orientation of the buildings of its kind; as a result, the chancel faces the north-east. The south-western gable-end wall of the church originally adjoined the city walls, with the Gothic structure known as the Gate of the Holy Spirit being located in its immediate vicinity. The Pallottine monastery building erected in the 1980s on the site of its medieval predecessor adjoins the south-eastern part of the church.

The church was designed in the Gothic style. It is a three-nave, seven-bay hall church with a three-bay chancel terminating in a wider, centred altarpiece section, its rear wall having the outline of a major (seven-sided) section of a decagon. The side walls of the nave are flanked by chapels positioned in the spaces between the buttresses. There is also a large chapel designed on a square floor plan, positioned on the southern side of the chancel. Polygonal staircase turrets are positioned on the north-western corner of the main body as well as between the chancel and the southern side aisle. The nave is covered with a gable roof; a visibly lower roof of an identical design is also used for the chancel, except that its polygonal end section is covered with a seven-sided roof. The eastern gable is topped with a Baroque steeple with a roof lantern and metal cross, while the postwar side chapel adjoining the southern wall of the chancel is crowned with a hemispherical dome surmounted by a cross.

The walls of the church are made of brick, featuring the use of a monk bond (in the chancel) and Gothic bond (in the nave and side chapels). The roof is clad with beaver-tail roof tiles. On the attic level, the church features a surviving roof truss constructed using timbers dating back to 1368, according to recent dendrochronological analysis. The façades of the church are reinforced with buttresses. The façades of the chancel feature a pronounced socle and a ceramic brick frieze incorporating a grapevine motif, running at the base of the window sills. The walls of the entire northern side of the chancel, parts of its southern side as well as the eastern side of the main body are crowned with a frieze made from profiled bricks adorned with a trefoil motif. The window and door openings are topped with pointed arches. The windows are adorned with simple, brick tracery, following a tripartite layout with the exception of the quadripartite window in the middle of the western façade as well as a single, similar window gracing the eastern façade. The windows of the side chapels likewise follow a different design, being wider at the base and divided into rows of multiple slender lancets. The main entrance portal is positioned on the northern side of the church. The western façade which had once been positioned in parallel with the city walls does not feature an entrance of any kind. The western façade is topped with a gable crowned with eight pointed-arch, tripartite blind windows separated from one another by profiled lesenes surmounted by octagonal pinnacles with pyramid-shaped finials. The eastern gable features bipartite blind windows, their top sections framed with rampant round arches; the lesenes positioned between the blind windows are crowned with pinnacles featuring a distinctive, shrine-like shape. Inside, the walls of the chancel are divided into two distinct sections; the lower portion of the side walls features a pair of bricked-up portals and a series of niches topped with segmental arches, while the walls of the polygonal end section of the chancel are graced by pointed-arch recesses adorned with tripartite bar tracery. Above these niches and the frieze made of square tiles surmounted by a drip cornice rise the tall, slender windows separated by vertical support shafts; in the polygonal end section, these shafts reach all the way down to the floor, while those positioned alongside the side walls rest upon projecting corbels adorned with foliate motifs. The shafts themselves are adorned with round escutcheons. The rood arch is supported by corbels decorated with foliate ornamentation, held up by human figures (probably monks). The pillars between the nave and the side aisles are octagonal in shape, with distinct socle and impost sections. The side chapels open up towards the side aisles through semi-circular arches surmounted by deep niches inside which the tall windows illuminating the side aisles are located. The vaulted ceilings inside the chancel and the side chapels are of the cross-ribbed type, while the nave and the side aisles feature a stellar vault double-barrel vaults respectively.

Fixtures and fittings. Remains of painted decorations - Gothic figural paintings in the southern aisle and the chapels on the southern side of the church as well as painted decorations from the Baroque era (ornamental decorations on one of the pillars) can still be admired inside the church. There are also painted coats of arms inside the escutcheons which adorn the vertical support shafts inside the chancel. Other notable items include various headstones, including those dedicated to Henryk and Gertruda Rabenstorp (1378) as well as various examples of 17th- and 18-th century headstones such as the one dedicated to Benigna Schenings and her children, dating back to 1676. The pipe organ features a Baroque Revival casing from ca. 1900, manufactured by the company Blomberg and Son from Warsaw. The stained glass windows in the chancel were designed by rev. Jan Młyńczak in the 1990s, while the design of those in the side chapels was created, among others, by Aleksandra Satkiewicz-Parczewska from Szczecin.

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

compiled by Maciej Słomiński, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Szczecin, 15-04-2015.

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. Jana Chrz. franciszkanów, prepared by K. Kalita Skwirzyńska, p. 234
  • Kościół p.w. Św. Jana Ewangelisty w Szczecinie, prepared by K. Kalita Skwirzyńska, Szczecin 2006
  • Kościół p.w. Św. Jana Ewangelisty Szczecin, prepared by K. Kalita Skwirzyńska, M. Gwiazdowska, Szczecin 2011 (2nd edition, 2014)
  • Heyden H., Die Kirchen Stettins und ihre Geschichte, Stettin 1936, p.
  • Kościoły Archidiecezji Szczecińsko-Kamieńskiej. Nasze dziedzictwo, vol. I, Bydgoszcz, year of publication not stated (2014), p.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: od ok. 1300 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Szczecin
  • Location: Voivodeship zachodniopomorskie, district Szczecin, commune Szczecin
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

Licence:

report issue with this site

Geoportal Map

Google Map

See also in this area