Jawor: Church of Peace

Jawor Travel Blog

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Peace Church in Jawor

Jawor's main attraction is the so-called Church of Peace, one of three wooden churches that the Protestants of Silesia were allowed to build after the Peace Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Two are preserved, this one and another in Swidnica, both have the status of World Heritage sites.

I had the chance to visit the church together with some colleagues on a privately organized excursion, guided by a renowned specialist on protestant church architecture and art (insiders are welcome to guess who…). Since this topic is closely related to my own research, this was an occasion one does not refuse.

We did not have time to visit the town centre but I hear Jawor has a pretty market square and the town is worth a closer look, too.

Steeple

Historical Background

The lore of Martin Luther and the Evangelical confession entered Silesia, and Jauer as it was named then, already in the 1520s. In the 16th century a large part of the population was protestant and a protestant preacher was installed in the town parish church. Being under the rule of catholic Habsburg caused problems, though. The 30 Year War brought an enforced recatholization, then several changes of religious denomination depending who currently occupied the town and the area. The war hit the area incredibly hard. Jawor only had 150 surviving inhabitants at the end. With the Westphalia Peace Treaty of 1648 Silesia was confirmed as part of Bohemia and hence under Habsburg rule. The peace treaty also contained the stipulation that religious denominations had to be returned to the state they had been on January 1, 1622 - in other words, freedom of faith for the Protestants.

Entrance door and half-timbered facade
Habsburg's approach to this was restrictive, though. Nevertheless a special article was added to the peace treaty which allowed the Protestants in Glogau, Jauer and Schweidnitz to build one church each, but outside the boundaries of the town.

In 1652 the small parish community of Jauer obtained the permission to build a „peace church“. Donations were collected all over Northern Germany and Denmark to fund the construction works, which were begun in April 1655 and finished already in the same year in December. Timberframe constructions can be erected in short time.

Architecture

The stipulations in the Westphalia Peace Treaty and the conditions set by the Emperor required the church to be built entirely from wood. It was not permitted to have a steeple or look like a church from the outside.

Plain architecture from the outside
Timberframe architecture is usually applied for small to medium-sized buildings because of the construction's technical limitations.

This church, however, was to accommodate several thousands of Protestants not only from Jauer but from the whole principality. A building of notable size was needed. A technical challenge which the master builder, Albrecht von Saebisch, successfully coped with. For the insiders: The design follows the model of the Huguenot temple of Charenton outside Paris.

The church is a rectangular hall surrounded by galleries - two at first, later two more were added. A very short polygonal chancel indicates the position of the altar. The pews on the ground floor and the four galleries seat 6,000 (six thousand) people in total. The steeple on the side was added in 1709 upon special permission of Emperor Leopold I.

Main entrance, redecorated in later times

Peace Church: The Interior

The interior of the church is an overwhelming contrast to the plain outside. While the facades are simple timberframe structures with black beams and white plastered fields in between, inside the church all splendour unfolds. This is a Lutheran church, so figural paintings are allowed and actually wanted. The fronts of the galleries bear a cycle of paintings which depict the entire sequel of all important stories from the Old and New Testament and can well be used for didactic purposes. Walls, beams and ceilings are painted all over with ornaments in blue and white. The result is a festive hall to celebrate the service, hear about God's promise of salvation, pray and sing.

Restoration works are ongoing, currently there is scaffolding around the altar and on the galleries above it.

Inscription with the dates of construction
This does not disturb the general impression too much, though. On a building of this size and artisitic quality there is always work to do.

To visit the interior there is an entrance fee of 10 PLN (I think) - we did not have to pay thanks to Pan Profesor who kindly but unmistakeably informed the lady behind the desk that his people, i. e. us, weren't tourists but a group of international experts (ha!).

Series of Biblical Images

The fronts of the two oldest galleries, now the second and fourth, have been painted with a long series of images. The lower row has pictures from the New Testament, the upper row scenes from the Old Testament. Above each painting the matching bible passage is given with its Latin abbreviation. The text below, in German and in golden Fractura letters, consists of verses which also refer to the content of the pictures and the message behind them: God's promise of salvation, and the rules for human behaviour.

Interior facing east

This kind of iconography is in perfect accordance with Lutheran theology and is meant to teach and visualize its principles: sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura - God's grace alone, the faith alone, the Holy Scripture alone will save us.

Cycles of biblical images are frequent in Lutheran churches. However, the one in Jawor is extraordinary due to the sheer number of images - the church is huge, so there was a lot of room for images.

Local noble families of Lutheran confession supported the church with donations. Their coats of arms can be found on the first gallery, surrounded by symbolic pictures. They probably had their seats there, too. Guilds of craftsmen also made donations for the church. The shoemakers, for example, are mentioned on the third gallery (above the cash desk) - the picture of a boot with spur is also declared as a reference to the story of Boas in the book of Esther.

Interior facing west

Defunct members of nobility, parsons and other V.I.P.s are commemorated in small epitaphs which are attached to the galleries.

On the Galleries

Access to the galleries is possible (though not really official – we got a special permission because we “were not tourists”) in the west of the church. The stairs lead to the first gallery underneath the organ. Originally there were only two galleries, the other two are later additions because more seats were needed. They have squeezed in as many benches as possible to accommodate the large community. The room on the galleries thus has a very low ceiling, it is quite dark. From the back rows one has hardly any view of the church interior, let alone the preacher on the pulpit or at the altar.

Interior
Listening and understanding what was said down there must have been almost impossible in pre-microphone times.

Altar and Pulpit

The early baroque altar is a work from the year 1672, almost two decades after the construction of the church. Retables like this were common in both Catholic and Lutheran churches. The iconography is Lutheran, though. The central painting shows Christ praying in Gethsemane and the angel with the chalice (unusual image because the three sleeping disciples, essential participants in the scene, are not shown). Above there is the dove which symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Three angel statues are placed on top, statues of Mose and John Baptist on either side. Instead of a predella (where a painzing of the Last Supper could be expected) there is a German inscription with quotes from the words of institution.

Organ

When we visited (August 2014), there were restoration works being done on the galleries behind the altar, so the retable was surrounded by scaffolding and protected with some plastic, and only partly visible.

The pulpit is two years older than the altar. It was created in 1670 by a sculptor from Liegnitz. These dates tell of the financial struggle the parish was facing despite the rich donations they received: Having the two most important pieces of furniture for the service, altar and pulpit, made in a worthy quality of arts and crafts took them more than 15 years.

The pulpit is carried by a large angel who is holding an open book with the inscription, „The eternal gospel“. On top of it there is a smaller figure of Christ resurrected.

The stair for the preacher is closed with a wooden door which is also richly ornated.

Four galleries - originally there were only the first and the third.
The inscription on the door reminds him to preach „according to law and testimony“, a quote from the book of Isaiah. The door ist dated 1671.

Painted Ornaments

Some details are easily overlooked, but they add a lot to the atmosphere. All surfaces of walls and ceilings, and the structural elements except the fronts of the galleries, are painted with ornaments in blue and grey/black on whiteish ground. They resemble the patterns on Durch tiles, which were very popular in that era. There are akanthus leaves and other plants and fruit, even some little angels (photo 1). The ceiling has a patterns that resembles clouds, and a gilded sun in the middle. These are patterns and shapes which were done in threedimensional stucco in other churches, finances permitting - here the funds allowed no more than painting.

Biblical paintings on the gallery

The beams of the timberframe construction were also painted blue, and decorated with painted 'buds' to make them appear like living wood.

The Peace Church in �widnica is larger and perhaps even more spectacular. Nevertheless the one in Jawor has my preference. Maybe because it is lighter. Maybe also because I like the colour blue?

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Peace Church in Jawor
Peace Church in Jawor
Steeple
Steeple
Entrance door and half-timbered fa…
Entrance door and half-timbered f…
Plain architecture from the outside
Plain architecture from the outside
Main entrance, redecorated in late…
Main entrance, redecorated in lat…
Inscription with the dates of cons…
Inscription with the dates of con…
Interior facing east
Interior facing east
Interior facing west
Interior facing west
Interior
Interior
Organ
Organ
Four galleries - originally there …
Four galleries - originally there…
Biblical paintings on the gallery
Biblical paintings on the gallery
Painted all over
Painted all over
Stairs to the galleries
Stairs to the galleries
Stairs to the galleries
Stairs to the galleries
On the first gallery
On the first gallery
View from the first gallery
"View" from the first gallery
Detail of the galleries
Detail of the galleries
The upper galleries
The upper galleries
Biblical paintings on the gallery
Biblical paintings on the gallery
Biblical paintings on the gallery
Biblical paintings on the gallery
Biblical paintings on the gallery
Biblical paintings on the gallery
Biblical paintings on the gallery
Biblical paintings on the gallery
Altar
Altar
Interior with scaffolding round th…
Interior with scaffolding round t…
Painting on the altar: Jesus and t…
Painting on the altar: Jesus and …
Inscription on the altar
Inscription on the altar
Pulpit
Pulpit
Pulpit
Pulpit
The angel who cartries the pulpit
The angel who cartries the pulpit
Door to the pulpit stairs
Door to the pulpit stairs
Coats of arms on the galleries
Coats of arms on the galleries
Coat of arms o0f a noble family
Coat of arms o0f a noble family
Coat of arms among a landscape sce…
Coat of arms among a landscape sc…
The shoemakers insignia
The shoemakers' insignia
Painted ornaments in blue and white
Painted ornaments in blue and white
Timbers painted to appear like liv…
Timbers painted to appear like li…
Fruit ornament
Fruit ornament
Painted ornaments
Painted ornaments
The sun on the ceiling
The sun on the ceiling
Ceiling
Ceiling
Jawor
photo by: Kathrin_E