Swidnica: Church of Peace, and the Town

Swidnica Travel Blog

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Model of the town. The old town with the catholic church is marked in red, Rynek in yellow. The green colour marks the Peace Church and surrounding churchyard outside the old town.

Swidnica (with accent on the S) is located in Silesia, until 1945 this was a German town with German population. The German name is Schweidnitz. The general impression of Swidnica is a smallish, off the beaten path country town that would not see any tourists if it weren't for the world heritage site and nostalgic homeland tourism from Germany. And for its World Heritage site, the 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. 

I visited both Churches of Peace in August 2014 on a privately organized excursion. We went to Jawor first – see previous blog entry -, then to Swidnica.

Church of Peace
After the visit to the church we still had time for a quick walk into town and a coffee break.

The Church of Peace

In 1652 the protestant community of Schweidnitz received permission to build a wooden church outside the town walls, under the condition that the construction works would not take any longer than one year and that the materials were nothing but wood, sand, straw and loam. Master builder Albrecht von Saebisch from Breslau designed a cross-shaped church. Works started in August 1656, and already in June 1657 the new church was inaugurated.

In the wars between Prussia and Austria of the mid-18th century the church suffered some damage. A gilded inscription board underneath the Hochberg box tells about the repairs. But apart from that, it has survived the centuries remarkably well, including World War II and the communist era.

Church of Peace, interior
 

The result is the biggest half-timbered church in the whole of Europe, 44 metres long and 20 metres wide. The ciling has a height of 15 metres. It accommodates 7,500 people and has 3,000 seats. From the outside it looks plain. The pattern of the timberframe is the only ornament of the facades. There is no steeple, only a tiny turret on top of the roof.

The interior, however, is ornated with overwhelming splendour. Every bit of surface is covered in paintings or ornaments. Altar and pulpit were renewed in the 18th century from private donations in even more splendour. Just like we were a bit tired at the end of this long excursion day and our attention was not as good any more as it had been in the morning, I am now a bit tired of typing long descriptions. So let the photos speak for themselves… 

The Town

This journal entry assembles a couple of photos that I took during a walk in the streets of the town centre.

Church of Peace
We were walking from the Church of Peace to the Rynek, then to the catholic church, and back, so these are random street views along the way. They give an idea of the general appearance. This is no polished tourist destination but just a plain small town.

Like most Silesian cities and towns, Świdnica has the typical Rynek, formerly named Ring. Just like in Wrocław, Oleśnica, Dzierżoniów, Jelenia Góra etcetera, the middle of the square is occupied by the town hall and a block of houses.

In best Bohemian tradition, a baroque Trinity Column has been erected in the square. The fountains date from about the same era. The most remarkable fountain is the one with the statue of Neptune next to the Trinity Column.

Some baroque buildings are preserved around the square.

Painted ceiling
They have suffered from architectural sins, though – the shop fronts inserted into their ground floors show lack of taste and sense for historical monuments altogether.

The Catholic Cathedral

The main church in town is the large catholic one. The main Roman-Catholic church is now entitled Cathedral. Świdnica has become the seat of a bishop only in 2004, though. Previously it had simply been the town’s parish church of St Stanislaus and Wenzel (Kościół ŚŚ. Stanisława i Wacława). The church is prominently located in a wide square within the old town. The building dates from the late middle ages, then was repaired after a fire in the 1530. Until the 30 Year War it had been a protestant church for some decades. In 1660 it was given to the Jesuits who then refurbished the interior in baroque style.

The organ

It was already late in the afternoon and dusk was creeping in when we ran over to have a quick look at the church. Evening mass had just ended, and all we had were a few minutes in the darkening church. Thus, not only my photos but also my memories are rather dim.

The square outside has the inevitable statue of Pope John Paul II. Here he is depicted kneeling in veneration.

For visitors, there is another bronze in the square that may be more interesting: a model of the town. The coloration has been done by me – not in the original but only in the photo file;-) – to show the location of the two churches in relation to the structure of the town. The red area is the old town, with Rynek (marked in yellow) in the centre and, highlighted, the catholic church respective cathedral. The green area further west is the Lutheran churchyard with the Church of Peace outside the old town.

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Model of the town. The old town wi…
Model of the town. The old town w…
Church of Peace
Church of Peace
Church of Peace, interior
Church of Peace, interior
Church of Peace
Church of Peace
Painted ceiling
Painted ceiling
The organ
The organ
The altar
The altar
The pulpit
The pulpit
Box of the Hochberg family
Box of the Hochberg family
Detail of the galleries
Detail of the galleries
Entrance to the Lutheran churchyard
Entrance to the Lutheran churchyard
In the Lutheran churchyard
In the Lutheran churchyard
Streetview with the tower of the t…
Streetview with the tower of the …
There is quite a lot of 19th centu…
There is quite a lot of 19th cent…
Small shops in the street
Small shops in the street
Rynek
Rynek
Hercules statue in Rynek
Hercules statue in Rynek
Baroque houses in Rynek
Baroque houses in Rynek
Outdoor restaurants in Rynek
Outdoor restaurants in Rynek
Rynek at dusk
Rynek at dusk
The catholic church
The catholic church
Steeple of the catholic church
Steeple of the catholic church
Catholic church, interior
Catholic church, interior
Catholic church, vaults
Catholic church, vaults
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Streetview near the cathedral
Streetview near the cathedral
Architecture from the communist er…
Architecture from the communist e…
When renovations have been done th…
When renovations have been done t…
Streetview
Streetview
A baroque house in need of love, c…
A baroque house in need of love, …
Swidnica
photo by: Kathrin_E