Since no documents concerning the history of the temple have been preserved, the exact time of its construction and the founder are unknown. Many scholars and historians attributed the construction of the chapel to Eric of Pomerania, the ruler of the Darłowo castle, combining this fact with his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1424. However, contemporary historians do not agree on this matter and date the beginnings of the church from the first half of the 14th century to the second half of the fifteenth century.
Church of St. Gertrude originally served as a cemetery chapel. The oldest preserved source reference to the temple, dates back to 1497, when Darłowo was visited by a great wave, called “Sea Bear”. A gigantic wave completely destroyed the port in Darłówek, and three ships moored there, threw ashore. One of them found itself on the Kopa hill near today’s temple. The next mention comes from the visit of prince Barnim XI in 1539. The upper part of the chapel of St. Gertrude is also visible on the city skyline from the map of Lubinus from 1618. After 1620, the sacristy and the porch were added to the chapel and the roof has been changed to uniform over the whole chapel. In 1860 and 1912, the building was restored, renovations were carried out also in 1961 and 1990.
The building is a central chapel, almost a rotunda. It was built on a hexagon plan, surrounded from the outside by a twelve-side, lower ambulatory, with sides alternately longer and shorter. In three longer (north-east, south-east and south-west) there are pointed ogival entrance portals. The temple is made of bricks, buttressed and plastered, placed on a foundation of irregular stone. Outside, the building is covered with a pyramid, twelve-sided roof covered with oak shingle. Originally a separate roof covered the central nave and a separate roof – ambulatory. In the central part of the roof there is an eight-sided turret in the shape of a spire, covered with a polygonal roof.
Inside the arcades with six octagonal pillars surround the central part, higher than the ambulatory. Originally it was lit by ogival windows, currently walled up, located in the central hexagon and windows on the walls of a twelve-sided ambulatory, whose form changed over time. The interior in the central part is covered with a stellar vault in the form of a six-pointed star with slender arms. The ambulatory was covered in longer spans with a four-arm stellar vault with transverse and guiding ribs, and in shorter spans with a six-sided cross-rib vault, thanks to which the chapel is one of the finest examples of gothic architecture in Poland. The lack of yoke ribs contributed to the complexity of the vault system, but the presence of the guide ribs enhances the effect of blurring the spans (which resembles solutions known from English architecture).
Chapel of St. Gertrude in Darłowo is the most impressive from the group of central Pomeranian chapels (the chapel of St. Gertrude in Koszalin, the chapel of St. George in Słupsk). The more pity that most of its windows have been transformed in the early modern period, and the roof does not correspond to the original concept. Inside the building, nothing of the original equipment has been preserved, only visible are among others wooden galleries from the 17th and 18th centuries with rich decoration and benches covered with paintings.
Jarzewicz J., Architektura średniowieczna Pomorza Zachodniego, Poznań 2019.
Pilch J., Kowalski S., Leksykon zabytków Pomorza Zachodniego i ziemi lubuskiej, Warszawa 2012.
Webpage wikipedia.org, Kościół św. Gertrudy w Darłowie.