St. Elizabeth's Church, Wroclaw

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ul. Św. Elżbiety 1/1, Wroclaw, Poland

St. Elizabeth's Church, Wroclaw Reviews

spocklogic spocklog…
325 reviews
Experience the Bridseye View of Wroclaw Jul 17, 2014
Very near the main square (Rynek) in Wroclaw is St. Elizabeth's Church (Kościół Św. Elżbiety), one of the oldest churches in the city, dating back to the 14th century. It is also one of the tallest structures in the Old Town, so you can't miss it. It has had some unfortunate mishaps over the years from hail (1529), war (WWII) and fire (1976), so has been reconstructed at times in the past. I concentrate on the church tower here.

The church tower is 91 m tall and for 5 zloty ($1.50 USD) you can climb the 300 steps winding inside to reach a viewing platform that affords a view of the city of Wroclaw from all compass directions. It's not an easy climb, narrow and steep, but worth the effort for the views from the top. A bargain price for a million dollar view. After the experience, going down is a breeze, but watch out for others on the way up!
St. Elizabeth's Church - tower
Going up, looking down
Going down, looking up
View from St. Elizabeth's Church
5 / 5 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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spocklogic says:
This is fine place for getting some shots of the city in all directions from here with the spacious wraparound balcony area up on top. I did take a few resting periods on the ascent up, which I always do on these type of ascents.
Posted on: Feb 24, 2017
Ben-UK says:
Great views from the top - as you say, the effort is well rewarded :)
Posted on: Feb 23, 2017
spocklogic says:
A real bargain if one can make the climb!
Posted on: Nov 06, 2014
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Kathrin_E Kathrin_E
369 reviews
St Elizabeth's Church, and Its Fallen Spire Aug 02, 2014
The church of St Elizabeth in the northwestern corner of Rynek is one of the two main churches in the old town. 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.

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. 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.

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. 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. A model 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.

Along the walls and pillars and inside the chapels there are dozens and dozens of tombs and epitaphs from the protestant, German-speaking era. They commemorate important (and wannabe-important) families and individuals from the parish community. There are several dozens inside, and many more on the outer walls of the church. The best artists and craftsmen were hired to make them.

Experts (I know some;-)) are capable of giving a spontaneous, long 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 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.)
St Elizabeth's Church
The church seen from Rynek
St Elizabeth's Church, interior
The altarpiece has been adjusted t…
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