Filial church of the Holy Cross, Żywiec
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Filial church of the Holy Cross

Żywiec

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One of the oldest ecclesiastical buildings in Żywiec, the church retains a considerable artistic, historical and research value despite the numerous alterations which it has undergone. Its immediate surroundings - the former church cemetery - used to be the site of executions of prisoners sentenced to death by the municipal court, who would be killed and buried on the site. There was also a special column next to the church where witnesses would take the oath during the trial.

History

The church of the Holy Cross in Żywiec was erected towards the end of the 14th century, before even the town itself was chartered in the years 1414-33. According to the available source information, the structure was erected in the village of Rudze, known for its rich deposits of iron ore, extracted on a mass scale by the Thurzon family, who had the licence to excavate mineral deposits in this area. Year 1428 is an important date in the history of the church, for it was during that year that Jarosław, the bishop of Cracow, consecrated the building. In 1790, the church was auctioned by the Austrian authorities and was only reclaimed by the municipal authorities in 1801. For many years, holding any church service inside the building was forbidden, with the structure itself serving a variety of functions - from a hospital where wounded soldiers received treatment to a food storage facility. Important changes were introduced in the second half of the 17th century, especially in 1679, when the nave was redesigned and the chancel was extended, with an apse being added eleven years later. In 1878, the Gethsemane chapel adjoining the southern side of the chancel was added, while the tower abutting on the northern part of the nave was erected in 1910. During the 1970s, the building was refurbished, with the façades receiving a new plaster finish. The interiors were repainted, with the priceless painted decorations dating back to 1666 being discovered in the process.

Description

The church of the Holy Cross is situated in the town centre, north-east of the Old Castle, at the intersection of the Świętokrzyska and Batorego streets.

It is a free-standing building designed in the Gothic style and subsequently remodelled during the Baroque period, oriented towards the east. The church stands on a fenced plot of land which had originally served as the cemetery. The building is a brick structure, its walls covered with plaster. The walls of the single-nave building are reinforced with buttresses. The oldest part of the church is the rectangular chancel adjoined by a semi-circular apse. The northern side of the chancel is adjoined by a sacristy, designed on an elongated rectangular floor plan, while its southern wall is abutted by a chapel designed on a roughly square plan. At the centre of the entire structure lies the nave, wider than the chancel, its northern wall adjoined by a tower designed on a square floor plan, while the western façade is preceded by a small, rectangular porch. The main body of the church is covered with a gable roof with a small, octagonal steeple clad with weatherboards rising above the nave, crowned with a cupola. The entire roof is clad with wood shingles, with the exception of the tower, whose pyramid hipped roof features sheet metal cladding. Inside, the church features a false barrel vault adorned with painted decorations above both the nave and the chancel. The smaller areas, i.e. the chapel, the sacristy and the porch, feature groin vaults instead. The façades are pierced with small windows topped with semicircular arches, with a distinctive design feature in the form of a Baroque Calvary incorporating the sculpture of Christ Crucified flanked by villains, positioned on the outer wall of the apse. The main entrance is located in the western part of the church.

The valuable furnishings from the 17th and 18th century have now been moved to the Żywiec museum; notable items preserved on the site include the Early Baroque wooden crucifix as well as the Baroque sculptures which grace the main altarpiece.

The church can be viewed from the outside.

compiled by Agata Mucha, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 08-09-2014.

Bibliography

  • Record sheet of monuments of architecture and urban design Kościół rzymsko-katolicki pw. Św. Krzyża, prepared by Marek Cempla (2001), Archive of the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Katowice
  • Pilch J., Leksykon zabytków architektury Dolnego Śląska. Warsaw 2008, p. 403.
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, Vol. I: Województwo krakowskie, J. Szablowski (ed.), issue 15 powiat żywiecki, Dąbrowa Górnicza, Sosnowiec, compiled by J. Szablewski, Warsaw 1951, p. 23.
  • Przewodnik po Kościołach Żywieckich, Towarzystwo Miłośników Ziemi Żywieckiej, Żywiec 1992, pp. 5-8.

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: koniec XIV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Batorego , Żywiec
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district żywiecki, commune Żywiec
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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