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Church of the Holy Cross - Zabytek.pl

Żagań, Żelazna 1

woj. lubuskie, pow. żagański, gm. Żagań-gmina miejska

The church of the Holy Cross in Żagań is an extraordinary example of a Gothic Revival redesign which has survived to the present day in a uniform, unmodified shape, featuring decorations and fittings of exceptional quality.

The church constitutes a fascinating combination of theological, Historicist and heraldic themes, having also served as a mausoleum of the dukes of Żagań.


The history of the church of the Holy Cross begins in the 13th century, when the leper chapel of St Lawrence was erected near the infirmary located at the outskirts of Żagań. It is believed that the current church was erected on the site of the former chapel or that it might have even incorporated parts of its original structure. The Gothic building was erected in the years 1334-1335, with duchess Mechtilde, wife of Henry IV, the duke of Głogów and Żagań, providing the funds. These events are linked to the legend of the great wooden cross that was allegedly washed up on the shores of the Bóbr river. This cross was subsequently placed inside the church and treated as a relic with a power to heal. As centuries went by, the chapel was redesigned on numerous occasions. In years 1651-1668, it was taken over by the Protestants. It was subsequently rebuilt in the early 18th century; this was necessary since, after years of neglect, its condition prevented it from being used for any meaningful purpose. In years 1845-1849, the church was redesigned in the Gothic Revival style in order to serve as a family mausoleum for the dukes of Żagań, with the necessary funds being provided by Dorota Talleyrand-Périgord. The design was prepared by Leonhard Dorst von Schatzberg. It is for this design that he later received a medal from the King of Prussia. In addition, the entire effort of designing the interior décor as well as fixtures and fittings also involved the participation of painter Karl Joseph Begas, sculptor Bernhard Afinger, stained glass maker Carl Samuel Scheinert and 97 other craftsmen from Żagań and the surrounding area. In the 1930s, alteration works were performed on the church tower. In years 1981-1983, fragments of the chancel plasterwork was removed, revealing the Gothic brick wall beneath. In recent years, the church underwent a series of conservation and renovation works (replacement of roof sheeting - 2013, analysis of paint layers - 2014, renovation of the fence - 2015).


The church of the Holy Cross is located in the north-eastern part of the park surrounding the nearby palace and forms park of the infirmary complex located right alongside a meander of the Bóbr river. The church is oriented. Today, the church represents the Gothic Revival style. A brick and stone structure following a three-nave basilica layout, the church features a chancel with a semi-hexagonal termination and a single tower rising from its front façade. The church has a multi-pitched roof above the main body and shed roofs above the side naves; all of the roofs are clad in slate. The façades are lined with field granite, with the joints between the individual stones containing pieces of bog iron which further enhance the decorative effect. Parts of architectural detailing such as the friezes, cornices, pinnacles and window and door surrounds are made of red brick. The front façade is topped with a brick gable, accentuated by pinnacles and blind windows, with a polygonal tower rising above. The main entrance leads through a pointed-arch portal with nested arches and a recessed terrace above, framed by niches with the sculptures of the Twelve Apostles and St Jadwiga and St Elisabeth. The front façade is flanked by buttresses topped with the sculptures of St Catherine and St Dorothy. The remaining façades are accentuated by buttresses and pierced with pointed-arch windows adorned with tracery. A side entrance preceded by a vestibule is located on the northern side of the church. Numerous painted escutcheons form a distinctive part of the façade detailing. The exterior walls of the church are lined with epitaph plaques from the period between the 17th and the 19th century. The interior features a barrel vault with wooden ribs in the chancel section and a faux cross-rib vault in the nave, with cross-rib vaulting being used for the side aisles. The church has sumptuous interior, designed in a uniform, Gothic Revival style, its fittings including, among others, the main altarpiece, the pulpit, the baptismal font, the choir stalls, the confessional, the tabernacle and the pipe organ gallery. Inside the chapels lie the marble sarcophagi of duchess Catherine as well as duchess Dorothy and her son Napoleon Ludwik. Other surviving elements of the original interior décor include square floor tiles adorned with the motif of a flower and a cross as well as painted decorations on the ceilings. The original stained glass windows, however, have not survived to the present day.

Limited access to the historic building. It can be visited by prior telephone arrangement.

compiled by Marta Kłaczkowska, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Zielona Góra, 26-08-2015.


  • Adamek-Pujszo K., Działalność kulturotwórcza książąt żagańskich Bironów (1786-1862), cz. 1, Zielona Góra 2007, s. 182-197.
  • Ciesielska I., Kościół pw. Św. Krzyża w Żaganiu jako przykład XIX-wiecznej regotycyzację autorstwa Leonarda Dorsta von Schatzberga nadwornego architekta ks. Doroty de Talleyrand- Périgord w Żaganiu, [w:] „Lubuskie Materiały Konserwatorskie”, 2004, t. 2, red. J. Lewczuk, Zielona Góra 2004, s. 187-202.

Category: church

Architecture: neogotycki

Building material:  ceglane, kamienne

Protection: Register of monuments, Monuments records

Inspire id: PL.1.9.ZIPOZ.NID_N_08_BK.30549, PL.1.9.ZIPOZ.NID_E_08_BK.121087