Parish Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St James the Greater, Żarnowiec
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Parish Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St James the Greater

Żarnowiec

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One of the most valuable and oldest surviving churches in all of the historic region of the north-western Lesser Poland (Małopolska). A representative example of a Gothic parish church with some minor Gothic Revival alterations, this building remains an important part of the tangible heritage of the village of Żarnowiec.

History

The first church to be erected in Żarnowiec is believed to have come into being towards the end of the 14th century, most likely during the period when the village itself was being relocated from the area currently known as Łany Wielkie and when the local parish was likewise transferred to its current location. The theory advanced in earlier works, according to which the church was allegedly founded by Casimir the Great, is now believed to be inaccurate. In 1524, the church was heavily damaged by a devastating fire which swept across the town. In 1582, the church underwent a comprehensive restoration owing to the generous donations made by Krzysztof Szydłowiecki, the royal chancellor and the son of the castellan of Żarnowiec, as evidenced by the commemorative plaque with the Szydłowiecki coat of arms positioned above the northern portal. In 1836, the existing porch was added on the western side of the church. In the 19th century, a brick bell tower, designed in the Classicist style, was erected in the vicinity of the church. In 1910, the church was partially redesigned in the Gothic Revival style, with the works performed at the time including the construction of a false ribbed groin vault above the nave.

Description

The church forms part of the medieval urban complex of Żarnowiec, standing in the north-eastern part of the village, east of the Market Square, at the intersection of the Kościelna and Cmentarna streets. A 19th-century bell tower is situated north of the church, within the boundaries of the perimeter wall, while a group of modern parish buildings is located east of the churchyard.

The church itself is a brick structure with stone foundations, oriented towards the east; designed as a single-nave building with a rectangular main body, it features a narrower chancel with a semi-hexagonal end section. A small, quadrangular sacristy adjoins the northern side of the chancel, while a porch can be found on the western side of the main body of the church. The compact silhouette of the church is defined by the main body covered with a tall gable roof surmounted by a steeple with an openwork lantern, crowned with a slender spire. The walls of the main body of the church are supported by buttresses. A slightly lower chancel with a semi-hexagonal termination adjoins the eastern side of the main body, its walls likewise reinforced with buttresses. The chancel is covered with a separate, multi-pitched roof, its northern side partially obscured by a single-storey sacristy annex with a mono-pitched roof. A low porch with a gable roof adjoins the front (western) façade of the church, partially obscuring its design. The ornamental Gothic Revival gable of the front façade is adorned by five slender, pointed-arch blind windows with moulded sandstone surrounds. The pointed-arch sandstone main portal of the front porch is accompanied by a similar, albeit much smaller entrance in its side wall. The remaining façades of the church feature a pronounced stone socle - a feature also present in the front façade - and are also enlivened by the two-stepped buttresses arranged in a rhythmic layout, flanking the bipartite, pointed-arch windows with sandstone tracery in the southern and eastern façades of the church. The northern façade features a pointed-arch profiled side entrance portal dating back to the Gothic period, above which there is an embedded commemorative plaque with the coat of arms of the Szydłowski family, intended as a reminder of the reconstruction effort which allowed the church to rise up from the ashes in 1528.

The interior of the three-bay nave features a faux ribbed groin vault made of wood, supported by pilasters; the interior of the two-bay chancel, separated from the nave by a chancel arch wall with a pointed-arch aperture, features a ribbed groin vault, its ribs resting on pyramid-shaped supports. A wooden organ gallery, designed in the Rococo style and supported by a pair of pillars, is situated in the western part of the nave.

Notable examples of preserved fixtures and fittings of the church include a Gothic wooden crucifix from the 16th century, positioned on the chancel arch wall, the Baroque marble baptismal font from the 17th century, the Rococo choir stalls from 1775 as well as three Gothic Revival altarpieces and pulpit. A Gothic stone tabernacle in the form of a niche is embedded in the north-eastern wall of the chancel. Stone epitaph plaques from the 17th and 18th century are located inside the nave.

The historic monument is accessible to visitors. The church is open to visitors directly before and after Masses.

compiled by Agnieszka Olczyk, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 30-09-2015.

Bibliography

  • Architectural monument record sheet. Kościół parafialny pod wezwaniem Narodzenia NMP [w Żarnowcu], prepared by I. Kontna, 1998, Archive of the National Heritage Board of Poland.
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, Vol. I: woj. krakowskie, issue 12: powiat olkuski, J. Szablowski (ed.), Warsaw 1953, pp. 39-40.
  • Wiśniewski J., Miasto Żarnowiec w Olkuskiem i jego pamiątki, Marjówka 1934.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: k. XIV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Kościelna 1, Żarnowiec
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district zawierciański, commune Żarnowiec
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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