Czchów – church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

History

    The first Czchów church was erected in the Romanesque style in the first half of the 12th century. In a document from 1357, it was called “alba ecclesia”, meaning a white church. The Gothic church was built in two stages. First, before 1360, a chancel was built from the foundation of king Casimir the Great, and then around 1450 a nave was built, to which the tower was added also in the fifteenth century. For the construction of the Gothic church, stones from the earlier Romanesque were used, put among others to buttresses. Also in the eastern wall of the presbytery, fragments of the Romanesque cornice were embedded.
    
In the years 1551-1554, the church in Czchów was temporarily in the hands of Lutherans. At that time, the parish priest was Franciszek Lismanini, provincial of the Franciscans, confessor to Queen Bona and leading Polish reformer. In the 18th century, a chapel was added to the chancel, and in 1841, due to the fear of collapsing, the tower was lowered. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the church was thoroughly renovated, at that time the neo-gothic west gable and the ridge turret were erected.

Architecture

    The church was erected as an orientated building, i.e. with its longer sides on the east-west line with the chancel facing east. It consists of a wide rectangular nave and a narrower, two-bay, rectangular chancel. The west side is crowned with a low, originally two-story tower. There are entrances to the church from the west and south, surrounded by Gothic, pointed-arch portals. Outside, the walls of the building are clasped with buttresses. Inside, the nave was topped with a wooden ceiling or an open roof truss, while the chancel was covered with a cross-rib vault based on mascaron-shaped corbels. Two of them have human faces that express various types of grimaces.

Current state

   To this day, the church has retained its original shape, covered only with early modern annexes from the north, though with numerous neo-Gothic architectural elements. In the presbytery, a Gothic baptismal font from 1506, in the shape of a chalice, with a later wooden cover and a Gothic wall tabernacle from the 14th century, have survived. Beetween the presbytery and the nave, there are two Renaissance tombstones, one of them with inscriptions in Old Polish, is considered the oldest known tombstone poem in Polish. The monument was probably made by the famous Milan sculptor Hieronim Canavesi in the mid-16th century. In 2011, a polychrome dating from around 1375 was discovered during restoration work.

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bibliography:
Architektura gotycka w Polsce, red. T. Mroczko i M. Arszyński, Warszawa 1995.
Krasnowolski B., Leksykon zabytków architektury Małopolski, Warszawa 2013.
Webpage zabytkowekoscioly.net, Czchów, kościół Narodzenia NMP.