St Elisabeth Church - Kosciol Sw Elzbiety, Wroclaw
The next-door neighbour of St Elizabeth church in ul. Kielbasnicza is a very new office building, just recently completed. The architects used neoclassical-postmodern elements, at first sight the outlines and proportions appear normal, but they turned the common principles the other way round. Instead of stone walls and glass windows, the building has a glass facade and stone windows. The idea, as soon as you noticed it, is quite fancy, that's why the building deserves a mentioning here.
During the decades since World War II the now catholic church has received new stained glass windows which refer to its present confession. Styles differ widely.
The central window in the chancel behind the main altar depicts the rose miracle of St Elizabeth (photo 1). I assume that this was one of the earliest windows after the war; the style of the faces and figures bears resemblance with 19th entury paintings.
The most interesting windows, however, are those in the side chapels. They commemorate important events in Poland's history of the 20th century.
Photo 2: Pope John Paul II. The window recalls his visit to Wroclaw in 1997 for the Eucharistic World Congress. The face can be seen from the outside as well.
Photo 3: The massacre of Katyn in 1940, where thousands of Polish army officers were murdered by the Soviets.
Photo 4: Stalinist work camps in Siberia and commemoration of the victims
Photo 5: Some windows have just plain transparent glass and are still waiting to be filled.
The church of St Elizabeth is full of tombstones and epitaphs from the protestant, German-speaking era. There are several dozens inside, and many more on the outer walls of the church. Experts (I know some) could give a spontaneous lecture on the development of protestant sepulchral art from the 16th to the 18th or 19th century along these examples, but no worries, I will not bother you with too many details.
Fashions and styles changed. In the 16th and 17th century many tombs and epitaphs had pictures, often biblical scenes or symbolic theological images referring to salvation thanks to divine mercy - which ist purest Lutheran theology. Later times preferred having just inscriptions, German or Latin, sometimes combined with allegorical figures. Portraits of the defunct were also popular.
Being buried inside the church was a special privilege and honour which was not granted to everyone. If that wasn't possible, an epitaph (i.e. a memorial stone or platter without a real grave underneath) was the second best option. The parish counted many ambitious, noble, influential, wealthy, learned, or otherwise important citizens among its members. Their grave monuments are symbols of status. The best artists and craftsmen were hired to make them.
The gallery in the west of the nave is where the organ belongs, but it is empty. St Elizabeth had a magnificent baroque organ, built by Michael Engler in 1752 - 1761. A fire in 1976 destroyed the instrument. Since then the church community has been dreaming of rebuilding it.
A model (photo 2) in a showcase in the northern aisle by the chancel shows what the organ looked like. For the costly reconstruction donations have been collected for years but not enough yet.
Photo 3: The organ was built in the era of Prussian government; the front of the gallery bears the monogram of King Friedrich II (F R = Fridericus Rex) under a crown.
The steeple of St Elizabeth is the highest building in the old town. It can be climbed, so if you have two healthy feet (unlike me) and feel like some exercise, go ahead. The entrance is from outside the church at the foot of the steeple. Tickets can be obtained from the little hut next to the entrance.
No matter if you decide to climb up or not - have a look at the wall of the steeple. Among some tombstones and epitaphs there is a stone relief that recalls a dramatic incident. In 1529, four years after the introduction of the reformation, a heavy thunderstorm struck and the spire fell off. Luckily there were no fatalities, the only victim was a cat, a beer mug was broken and some roofs in the surroundings suffered light damage.
The catholic citizens of the town called the incident God's punishment for the protestants' denegation of the true faith.
The protestants, however, considered it a miracle that no one was hurt and no severe damage occurred - they said that angels had caught the falling spire and lead it gently to the ground, and this miracle was actually proof that theirs was the right way. The relief shows the flying angels with the broken spire underneath and explanatory inscription.
(Nobody asked the cats' opinion.)
The church of St Elizabeth in the northwestern corner of Rynek is one of the two main churches in the old town, together with St Mary Magdalena. The church, a characteristic example of Silesian gothic, is a basilica with main nave and side aisles but no transept. Lower chapels accompany the side aisles of nave and chancel. It is entirely built from bricks, including the steeple.
The parish church was probably founded around 1250, the present church was built in the 14th century. With the introduction of the reformation in 1525 it became Lutheran, and remained Lutheran-protestant until 1945. After World War II it became a Catholic parish church, and the interior was adapted to the requirements of the new confession - for example, the baroque main altar was equipped with a painting of the Madonna of Czenstochowa.
Nevertheless the church still contains a large number of artworks from the four centuries of the German-speaking, the protestant era. The pulpit's back wall has a German inscription with a verse from psalm 96: "Preach his salvation day by day" - a very protestant reference to the importance of the sermon, and the biblical promise. Along the walls and pillars and inside the chapels there are dozens and dozens of tombs and epitaphs from the 16th to the 18th century which commemorated important (and wannabe-important) families and individuals from the parish community.
St. Elizabeth is one of the largest and oldest churches in Silesia. Its steeple towers up above the old town and probably provides great views (small fee) - didn't have not enough time for that. You enter the church through the former graveyard by the Jaś i Małgosia houses at the northwest corner of Rynek.
The church was built in Gothic style by Patricians of the city (started in 1378), challenging the clergy of Breslau. Thus the church is also sort of an art gallery for statuary - lots of beautiful tombstones/epitaphs are spread all over the church, inside and outside. Particularly impressive is the Uthmann chapel left of the entrance (16th century). The main altar is nothing special - the original altar, a masterpiece of Gothic woodcarving was moved to the National Museum in Warsaw after WWII. The famous Baroque organ and the original Gothic chorus stalls were unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1976.
Please see my Travelogue for more pics and info as well.
Ever since the 14th cent. St. Elisabeth's Church has been one of the oldest and tallest structures in the Old Town of Wroclaw - but it hasn't been one of the luckiest. It was destroyed in a storm in 1529, severely damaged in WW2 and the victim of a mysterious fire in 1976.
The first record of a church here was in 1253 when it belonged to the Knights of the Cross. The present building was originally constructed in the 14th cent. and passed into the hands of the Lutherans at the time of the Reformation in 1525. It remained protestant right up until 1945 when it became a Roman Catholic Garrison church - which it still is today.
The structure itself is brick built in the Silesian School of Architecture style. Although previously topped with a spire the tower, at 91m still commands a fantastic view if you manage to make it to the top, or so I'm told. It's a tortuous climb of some 300 steps but I'm glad to say that it wasn't open to visitors when I was here in November.
The interior is simply constructed in a Gothic style and probably the most interesting features are the tombs and epitaphs of over a hundred local prominent citizens.
Back outside, two buildings known as Hansel and Gretel are joined by an arch that leads to the church. Much photographed, these buildings used to be the homes of the 'Altarists' who were responsible for looking after the church's altars (I expect you guessed that).
Situated in a prominent position next to The Rynek you could be forgiven for thinking that St. Elisabeth's is Wroclaw's Cathedral, but the city's most important ecclesiastical area, where the Cathedral is situated, is over on Ostrow Tumski by the Odra River.
The St. Elisabeth Church (Kosciol sw. Elzbiety) is one of the oldest churches in Wroclaw. The Gothic building dates back to the 14th and 15th century.
Its 91 m tall belfry can be climbed for one of the best views over the city centre (entrance 5 Zloty, 2006). The original church tower was 128 m high and the tallest in the city, but it fell down in a storm in 1529.
The St. Elisabeth Church is situated right in Wroclaw's touristy centre. It can be found near the northwestern corner of the Market Square (Rynek).
Saint Martin's church lies near the Holy Cross church. It was erected in the 13th and 14th centuries; originally, it was the chapel of the Piasts' castle, that doesn't exist any longer.
My guidebook says this church was built in Gothic style, which is not correct in my opinion: I would rather call it "late Romanesque" or "early Gothic", since the only Gothic feature I see outside is the arch of the entrance, halfway between a round and an ogival arch. However, there may be more Gothic elements inside (the church was closed when we went there).
The plate you see in the third photo is a declaration. It says:
"- WE ARE POLISH WOMEN
- OUR ANCESTORS' FAITH IS OUR CHILDREN'S FAITH
- THE POLE IS BROTHER TO THE POLE
- THE POLE SERVES ITS NATION EVERY DAY
- POLAND IS OUR MOTHER(LAND), IT IS NOT PERMITTED TO SPEAK BADLY OF THE MOTHER
The truths of Poles - As a sign of patriotic remembrance
The company of the lovers of Wrocław - May 1995".
Saint Giles' church, the most ancient church in Wrocław, lies between the Archidiocesan museum and the cathedral. It was built in early Gothic style in 1218-30, where a Romanesque church previously existed.
Outside, it is mainly Romanesque. Inside, you can see a copy of the Christ of Mercy, according to the vision that had Sister Faustina Kowalska.
When we went there, the Holy Cross church was closed: this is not unusual, as many churches are opened only for celebrations. However, we took a photograph through the glass door at the entrance. The cross-shaped church has a nave with two aisles and a polygonal (not semicircular) apsis.
Kościół św. Krzyża św. Bartłomieja% (the Holy Cross church), located near the cathedral, is one of the most beautiful Gothic building of the whole country. It was built between 1288 and 1350, but only one of its two towers is achieved with a copper steeple (last photo).
At the entrance, a plate commemorates Mikołaj Kopernik (Nicolaus Copernicus), who held an office in this church from 1503 to 1538. Let's have a look inside.
Saint Elizabeth's church was built in Gothic style between the 14th and the 16th century, but some parts were added later. In front of it you can see the two small houses called Jaś i Małgosia (Johnny and Mary, see tip).
The last of these photos show the church mirrored in a building in front of it.
Wroclaw has many beautiful churches, but if you have to chose one to visit, take St. Elisabeth's church. It is a masterpiece of redbrick Gothic architecture and dates back to 1242, when it was dedicated to the Holy Elizabeth of Thuringia by the German community of Wroclaw. It has been damaged several times in history, for the last time by a fire in 1976. A 130m spire, added between 1452 and 1456, became also victim of destruction in the 16th century when it was blown down in a storm. The current one is only 96m high. Unfortunately, the baroque organ was destroyed by the fire and the Gothic altar was transferred to the National Museum in Warsaw. Still, the medieval splendor of the church can be seen from inside and outside.
St. Elisabeth's drawing card however is its location. It is the church closest to the Rynek (market square). For a fee of 5 zloty (2010), you can visit the platform on top of the tower. From there, you'll get an excellent view onto the Rynek, but also onto large parts of Wroclaw itself. As The church tower is still one of the tallest structures in Wroclaw, your view is free into every direction.