Bartoszyce – St John’s Evangelist Church


   The construction of the church of St. John the Evangelist and Our Lady of Częstochowa in Bartoszyce began around 1332 with the foundation of the town of Bartenstein, which replaced the earlier settlement on the opposite bank of the river. The Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Luther of Braunschweig, in the charter privilege provided a land grant to the municipal parish priest. His church was first recorded in 1345.
   In the first stage, a polygonally closed chancel was erected, and even before the mid-fourteenth century, the construction of a three-aisle, pseudo-basilica nave was started, completed in the period around 1360-1390. At that time, the construction of the tower began, which was initially built only up to the height of the first floor. Soon after the completion of the nave, the chancel was slightly raised, making it equal to the height of the central nave, and a two-level northern sacristy was built. In the second stage of construction, in the first half of the 15th century, the type of the church was changed to a basilica. At that time, the central nave of the church and the presbytery were significantly raised, and another two storeys of the tower were added.
   In 1487, the church was re-consecrated, possibly due to damages from the Thirteen Years’ War. Since 1525, after the secularization of Prussia, it served the Evangelical community of the town, which at that time constituted the majority of Bartoszyce. It was rebuilt in 1676, and in 1732 the church tower was transformed and the western and southern portals were rebuilt. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the northern porch was added. The building was severely damaged during the Second World War (especially the vaults). Reconstruction and renovation were carried out in 1946-1958.


   At the end of the Middle Ages, the church finally received the form of a three-aisle basilica, with much lower side aisles than the central nave. On the west side, a four-sided, four-storey tower decorated with blendes was added, while the eastern side was crowned with a polygonal, buttressed chancel. It received the same height and width as the central nave. In 1406, the chapel of Saint Mary the Virgin was added to the church, and before 1414, the chapel of Saint Anne, both on the southern side of the church. On the north side there was a two-story sacristy built. In the first half of the 16th century, another chapel at the presbytery was founded by the Bishop of Warmia.
   The external façades of the nave in the part of the clerestory were divided by a row of alternately two pointed windows and slightly smaller, single blendes, and in the side aisles only by pointed windows with wider openings. What is unusual, the chancel was pierced with windows located on two floors.
   The interior of the church was decorated with a stellar vault, set on massive four-sided pillars with chamfered pedestals and on corbels hanging high in the central nave. The aisles were separated from each other by ogival arcades, giving the impression of being pierced directly in the walls, and not supported on columns or pillars (probably under the influence of Lower Silesia region). The façades of the central nave were also articulated with high, shallow, surrounding inter-nave arcades, pointed-arched niches with stepped jambs profiled by shafts, in which there were originally triforium openings (a motif used in Cistercian architecture).

Current state

   Despite the transformations made in the 17th and 18th centuries, the church has preserved its original, Gothic character of a three-aisle basilica to this day, with many unconventional solutions as for the municipal parish church. The interior of the building is decorated with a stellar vault, carefully reconstructed after the destruction of the Second World War, and the original wall articulations have also been preserved.

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Rzempołuch A., Kościoły na Warmii, Mazurach i Powiślu, Olsztyn 1991.
Rzempołuch A., Przewodnik po zabytkach sztuki dawnych Prus Wschodnich, Olsztyn 1992.

Webpage, Kościół rzymskokatolicki pw. św. Jana Ewangelisty i Matki Boskiej Częstochowskiej. Bartoszyce.