It is a real phenomenon that two churches constructed of such very impermanent materials has lasted for more than 360 years and we can still admire them. Their creation was tightly connected with current law which forbidden to build more permanent protestant churches in the area.
The church in Świdnica is situated about 53 km from Wrocław (about 1 h 10 min drive). It is made from wood and incredibly was erected only within a year of 1957. It is the biggest wooden Protestant church and with the area of 1090 square meters, it can gather 7 500 believers. The interior of the church has a Baroque style. The most dominant interior items include the 18th century altar piece, pulpit and organs. The church is encircled by lodges, among which Hochberg lodge is the most distinctive. The church is situated in the very centre of the Peace Square and is surrounded by the 17th and 18th century monuments: a church bell tower, an old Protestant high school (currently a guesthouse), a house of a bell-ringer (a promotion center), a watchman’s house (a café) and a necropolis which was for 250 years the only Protestant cemetery of a few thousand burials. A presbytery was changed into Protestant Institute where people can admire 300 years old Bibles and other historic documents. It is a must see site during Lower Silesia trips.
The Church of Peace in Jawor is one of the largest wooden buildings with religious functions in Europe. In 2001, it was also enlisted on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The church is 43.5 m long, 14 m wide, 15.7 m high, the building's area is 1180 m², it houses 6000 people. It was built in 1654–1655 according to the design of Albrecht von Säbisch using a half-timbered structure. Every year from May to September Peace Concerts are organized in Jawor. They take place in the historic interiors of the Church of Peace.
(Binarowa, Blizne, Dębno, Haczów, Lipnica Murowana, Sękowa)
The churches were enlisted at UNESCO World Heritage list in 2003. They are a group of historically valuable and architecturally interesting (Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles) wooden churches located in the historical Małopolska region of Poland. The vast majority of them were built on the basis of a carcass construction. The churches were sponsored by noble families and became status symbols. They offered an alternative to the stone structures erected in urban centres.
The group constitutes a serial inscription of the six best preserved and oldest wooden Gothic churches that are characteristic of this region. They are located in the towns and villages of Blizne, Binarowa, Dębno Podhalańskie, Haczów, Lipnica Murowana, and Sękowa, which lie within the historic region of Małopolska in southern and south-eastern Poland, encompassing the Carpathian foothills of the northern part of the Western Carpathians.
They are an example of dominant landmarks within rural settings, which determine their unique present-day landscape qualities. Most of them are situated in picturesque mountain valleys. These buildings, which were founded by noble families as symbols of their prestige, all serve their original purpose as venues for traditional celebrations and religious ceremonies. In some of them, religious images renowned for securing divine favour are still revered.
Church of All Saints in Blizne is a gothic, wooden church erected before 1470. It is built on a framework made of fir logs, on a stone foundation. The unique church and presbytery complex is situated on a hill surrounded by old trees. The area of the church is surrounded by a wooden fence with brick chapels from the 19th century. Next to it, there is a complex of wooden presbytery buildings: a vicar house from before 1699 which was a parish museum, a storehouse and organ players house. In 1549, the walls of the church were decorated with rich ornamental and figural polychrome. The next layers of polychrome were applied in 1649 and around 1700 in styles characteristic of particular periods. The church is a local center of worship due to the figure of Our Lady Full of Grace (the Blessed Virgin Mary from the Annunciation) located in the side altar.
Church of st. Michael the Archangel in Binarowa is a Roman Catholic parish church from around 1500. UNESCO states that it offers a harmonious combination of historical, architectural and artistic values and has the most valuable polychrome among all wooden churches in Małopolska region.
St. Michael the Archangel Church is a gothic, wooden parish church in Dębno Podhalańskie. The present church was built in the second half of the 15th century on the site of an older temple. The nave and the chancel come from this period. It is an oriented temple with a carcass construction. It distinguishes itself with a silhouette blended into the landscape (practically unchanged from the time of construction) and exceptionally valuable movable equipment, as well as a unique patron polychrome from around 1500, the oldest made of wood and fully preserved in Europe.
The church in Haczów from 1388 is believed to be the oldest. Only the Norwegian stave churches in Europe are older than Polish churches. It is a late gothic wooden Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Michael the Archangel. It is a wooden, gothic church with a carcass construction on a stone foundation, oriented and tripartite. The area of the church is surrounded by a wooden fence covered with shingles. There is also a historic wooden parish granary in the church square.
St. Leonardo wooden cemetery church is located in Lipnica Dolna in Lipnica Murowana. The church is located by the Uszwica river, beyond the historical border of the former city fortifications of Lipnica Murowana. The church was probably built at the end of the 15th century on the site of an earlier temple. According to local tradition, it dates back from 1143 or 1203. It has survived almost unchanged to this day and is one of the most valuable wooden Gothic churches in Poland. It is an oriented temple, with a carcass construction and two parts. The chancel is closed on three sides. The nave is wider, square-shaped. There is a patron polychrome on the ceilings: in the nave from the end of the 15th century, in the presbytery from the 16th century.
Wooden branch Church in Sękowa is dedicated to St. Philip and St. James. Erected at the beginning of the 16th century (around 1520, 1522 at the latest), it is one of the most beautiful Polish wooden monuments, until 1914 it was considered the most beautiful wooden church in Małopolska. It is a single-nave church with a three-sided chancel and a carcass construction, on a foundation made of broken stone. Walls are made of hand-hewn, larch logs and are fully covered with shingles. The interior is rather poor, as the church was severely devastated during the military operations at the turn of 1914 and 1915. The church was extremely popular with painters of the 19th and first half of the 20th century being inspiration for many paintings.
(Powroźnik, Brunary Wyźne, Owczary, Kwiatoń, Chotyniec, Radróż, Smolnik and Turzańsk)
Located at the Polish and Ukrainian Carpathian mountain range, the sixteen wooden tserkvas (churches) are outstanding examples of the once widespread Orthodox ecclesiastical timber-building tradition in the Slavic countries that survives to this day. They were built of horizontal wooden logs between the 16th and 19th centuries by communities of Orthodox and Greek Catholic faiths. The tserkvas bear testimony to a distinct building tradition rooted in Orthodox ecclesiastic design interwoven with elements of local tradition, and symbolic references to their communities’ cosmogony. The tserkvas are built on a tri-partite plan surmounted by open quadrilateral or octagonal domes and cupolas. Integral to tserkvas are iconostasis screens, interior polychrome decorations, and other historic furnishings. Important elements of some tserkvas include wooden bell towers, churchyards, gatehouses and graveyards. On Polish side there are Lemko type tserkvas in Powroźnik, Brunary Wyźne, Owczary, Kwiatoń and Turzańsk.
More information about Polish Tserkvas can be found in our article Non-Catholic Religious Attractions in Poland.
Summing up, Poland is very rich in wooden architecture sacral attractions. They are located in southern Poland in 3 areas of the country: Protestant – Lower Silesia region, Catholic – Małopolska region, Orthodox – Podkarpackie region. It is really worth to include these buildings in your tours around Poland. If you got interested in this part of Europe contact ITS-Poland group coordinators and start to plan your trip to this marvellous area.
Author: Agnieszka Szwedzińska