Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene, currently: cathedral diocese of the Polish Catholic Church, Wrocław
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Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene, currently: cathedral diocese of the Polish Catholic Church

Wrocław

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The monumental Parish Church of Saint Mary Magdalene is one of the two large municipal parish churches in Wrocław. The building is an excellent example of the austere Silesian architecture of the 14th century.

History

The church, built as a parish church, used to be a parish Evangelical church in the years 1523-1945. Currently, it functions as the cathedral of the Polish Catholic Church. The first church at this site was mentioned in written records in 1226. C. 1300, the construction of a Gothic building was commenced. The peripheral walls, inter-nave piers, and side nave vaults were built c. in the years 1330-1359. The main nave vault was constructed between 1359 and c. 1386, and chapels and a sacristy with a library were built from the late 14th century to the mid-15th century. The towers were completed around the middle of the 15th century; in 1481, they were crowned with pointed domes. The bridge connecting the upper storeys of the towers was built in 1459. In 1365, Charles IV, Emperor of the Reich, presented the church with relics of the patron saint, a thorn from the Christ’s crown, and a splint from the Holy Cross. The church was the venue for the first Lutheran mass in Wrocław, held by Johann Hess on 25 October 1523. In 1546, a sandstone portal was built in the south wall of the church. The portal came from the Roman Benedictine abbey of Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Vincent in Ołbin from 1170. The portal is made up of eight columns and two pilasters in reveals, with five semicircular archivolts extending between them. Nearly the entire surface is covered with reliefs. The Gothic domes of the towers were dismantled in 1533; in 1565, they were replaced with Renaissance domes by Andreas Stellauf and Jakob Gross. On the night of 22 March 1887, the bridge between the towers caught fire from one of the fireworks shot on the birthday of Emperor Wilhelm I. The fire moved on to the north tower. The church underwent restoration in the years 1888-1892 (Karl Lüdecke, Robert Leithold). The reconstruction of the burnt Renaissance dome in the shape it had in 1565 (according to designs by Richard Plüddemann) was completed on 23 May 1891. In 1909, the south tower was renovated according to a design by Erich Grau. In the years 1933-1934, Prof. Friedrich Rathgen and the sculptor Johannes Henneck carried out maintenance works on the Ołbin portal. During the Second World War, the building was destroyed in 55% — it lost almost all roofs, tower domes, vaults of the south side nave, the choir gallery above the main entrance, the vault of north tower, and most of the equipment, furnishings, and decorations were damaged or destroyed. On 18 May 1945, ammunition stored in the south tower exploded — three walls of the tower collapsed and the facade of the church with the main portal was heavily damaged. The reconstruction of the church, conducted under the supervision of Tadeusz Broniewski, was commenced in October 1946. The main works were completed by 1972. In 1987, the Social Committee for the Restoration of the Cathedral of Mary Magdalene was established and conservation works on a much larger scale were initiated. The first masses of the Polish Catholic Church were held in the chapels and the preserved sacristy even in 1946. The church was officially handed over to this Church in 1969, however, the dedication ceremony took place in 1977.

Description

The church is situated in the Old Town, to the east of the Market Square. The area surrounding the church on the north side was occupied by a graveyard in the Middle Ages. The church, facing Szewska Street, is an oriented structure. There are basements under some parts of the building. The building consists of the main western structure and two towers connected by an overhanging bridge. There is a three-pitched roof above the nave. The facades are made of brick. The church is surrounded by buttresses. Between the rows of supports on the north and south sides, there are rows of chapels, which, along with the side naves, are covered with common mono-pitched roofs, above which there are expansion guards ending with pinnacles. The three-nave church is an 8-bay basilica without a transept. The square bays of the central nave of the chancel are covered with stellar vaults and the elongated bays of the side naves — with 7-field vaults; the other bays are covered with cross-rib vaults. The vault of the central part is supported by octagonal inter-nave piers. Between the chancel and the main nave, there is a rood arch covered with paintings. During the maintenance works, the colour scheme from the 15th century was restored: the walls of the naves and chapels and the vault fields in the central part and in the chapels were painted white, whereas lower parts of the piers, lesenes, vault ribs, and window reveals were painted red and the vault fields of the chancel — blue. The sandstone main portal in the west facade dates back to c. 1360.

The most important elements of the church equipment and furnishings are:

Pulpit by Friedrich Gross Senior from the years 1579-1580. Main altar — replaced at least four times. The first one, the Altar of the Holy Trinity, was erected in the 14th century; dismantled in the 15th century, it was moved to the lower part of the Catholic Church of the Holy Cross in Ostrów Tumski, a district of Wrocław. The previous altar, in the Neo-Gothic style, was destroyed during the Second World War, was replaced with sculptures of Christ on the cross, St Mary Magdalene, St Mary, St John the Evangelist, Moses, and John the Baptist, coming from a Baroque altar made in 1667 in the sculpture workshop of Paul Rohn Senior in Wrocław. The stone tabernacle from c. 1380, situated by the south-east embedded columns, is divided into three levels and crowned with a pyramid embellished with crockets and a finial, richly decorated with architectural details (maswerks, ogee-shaped vimpergs, and pinnacles). In the central part, there are hollows with grates. In the upper, six-sided part, there are reliefs depicting Scourging, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. There are also numerous Early Modern epitaphs and tombstones.

The historic monument is accessible.

compiled by Bogna Oszczanowska, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Wroclaw, 27-08-2014

Bibliography

  • Broniewski T., Zlat M. (red.), Sztuka Wrocławia, Wrocław 1967.
  • Brzezicki S., Nielsen Ch., Grajewski G., Popp D. (red.), Zabytki sztuki w Polsce. Śląsk, Warszawa 2006, s. 974-977.
  • Czechowicz B. (red.), Śródmiejska katedra. Kościół św. Marii Magdaleny w dziejach i kulturze Wrocławia, Wrocław 2010.
  • Eysymontt R., Ilkosz J., Tomaszewicz A., Urbanik J., Leksykon architektury Wrocławia, Wrocław 2011, nr kat. 231, s. 352-354.
  • Harasimowicz J. (red.), Atlas architektury Wrocławia, t. 1: Budowle sakralne. Świeckie budowle publiczne, Wrocław 1997, nr kat. 25, s. 30-32.
  • Mroczko T., Arszyński M. (red.), Architektura gotycka w Polsce, Warszawa 1995, t. 2, s. 266-267.
  • Oszczanowski P., Kościół świętej Marii Magdaleny - katedra Kościoła polskokatolickiego, Wrocław 1997.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: ok. 1300
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Szewska 10 , Wrocław
  • Location: Voivodeship dolnośląskie, district Wrocław, commune Wrocław
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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