Choszczno – church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

History

   The church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Choszczno was built by the Knights Hospitaller in the first half of the 14th century on the site of an earlier, granite church from the 13th century. This is confirmed by the document of margrave Waldemar from 1309, in which he gave the Knights Hospitaller the right of patronage. The construction completion date remains unknown, however the document from 1350 refers to the foundation for the church of the new altar. Therefore, it should be assumed that the construction of the chancel and the nave was completed at this time or significantly advanced. At the same time, the now-defunct sacristy was built, adjacent to the northern wall of the choir. The church tower was built on plinths of the first church. Its construction was completed around 1400. The church has been destroyed many times by fires and military operations, including the last time during the Second World War. From 1956 reconstruction works began, which restored the original gothic appearance to the temple.

Architecture

   The church was built of brick in the monk bond, using granite quares in the pedestal part, probably from the demolition of the older temple. It consists of a three-nave, four-bay hall structure, (what is characteristic founded on a plan similar to a square) a four-bay lower and extended chancel, ended on the east by a polygon and a four-sided western tower with five storeys. From the south to the chancel the sacristy was added. The church is covered with gable roofs and hip roof above the tower. In the body of the church all its elements are clearly visible, composed on the basis of gradation: from the low chancel, through a slightly higher naves to the tower towering above all.
   The external façades were mainly separated by vertical accents. In the presbytery and naves, these are ogival windows separated by buttresses. The tower is divided into cornices and decorated with ogival blendes. The exception is the ground floor in which the portal was only placed from the west. This store is crowned with a frieze made of ceramic segments arranged in an openwork strip of triangles and diamonds. The highest storey was distinguished by a richer decoration in which the blendes were replaced by openings in three-stage frames. The eastern gable of the corpus was divided by stepped ogival blendes and a small circular blende in the finial.
   The interior of the church is covered with a brick vault, which rests on three pairs of octagonal pillars. They carry together with ancillary columns profiled arches of arcades. In the naves there is a stellar vault, similar ones were also placed in the presbytery, while in the sacristy, a cross vault was used. Unfortunately, there is no vault in the tower. In a characteristic manner, the articulation of interior walls was solved, using a system of two-storey niches, separated by rectangular pilaster strips acting as internal buttresses. The lower storey of the plinth was treated as a massive wall in which semicircular niches were created. Similar ones were created in the parish church in Gryfice, but here gallery was not placed above and the wall pillars were not pierced.

Current state

    The church is one of the most monumental examples of a group of three-nave hall buildings with compact corpus and elongated chancel (Dobigniew, Drawsko, Recz, collegiate in Kołobrzeg). Nineteenth-century renovations contributed to the addition of turrets in the western corners of the naves. Also the stellar vault of the interior of the naves is a post-war reconstruction of the nineteenth-century vault, which in turn was based on the traces preserved in the north-eastern corner of the central nave. During the regothisation, windows tracery were also made, and the presbytery ancillary columns were extended to the floor. The oldest monuments inside the church include the epitaphs from the fifteenth century and the most valuable monument of the church – Jesse’s Tree from the fourteenth century, that is, an artistic representation of the genealogical tree of Christ in the form of a ceramic bas-relief in the niche in the southern wall of the presbytery.

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bibliography:
Jarzewicz J., Architektura średniowieczna Pomorza Zachodniego, Poznań 2019.

Pilch J., Kowalski S., Leksykon zabytków Pomorza Zachodniego i ziemi lubuskiej, Warszawa 2012.