Dzierżoniów – St George’s Church

History

   Church of St. George in Dzierżoniów was built probably in the mid-thirteenth century, because the first mention of the temple, and in fact about its priest, comes from 1258, when in the document of Bishop Thomas I a certain Henry was mentioned. This act also ruled on separating the Dzierżoniów parish from the chapel in nearby Pieszyce, for which the church received appropriate compensation. In 1262, the parish church in Dzierżonów obtained from prince Henry III the White the fields in the village Ernsdorf, while in 1282 the priest Henry concluded a contract with the head of the village, Konrad, under which the parish received a part of the profits from municipal slaughterhouses every year.
   In 1338 there was a breakthrough moment for the church, because the prince of Świdnica, Bolko II the Small granted his patronage to the Order of St. John (Knights Hospitaller). Soon after, they began to expand the temple, changing its architectural layout from a hall to a basilica. In 1353, the parish school began working on the initiative of monks, and in 1364 a porch was added to the church, which connected the presbytery with the commandry, the seat of Dzierzoniów monks. In 1388 a new chancel was erected, and in 1389 a sacristy. Not much later, in 1396, the central nave was vaulted. In the fifteenth century, construction of the tower in the south-west corner of the church began, a Gothic porch was also erected from the city side. The enlarged building avoided damages during the Hussite wars and even during the capture of the town in 1428.
   During the Reformation, in the mid-sixteenth century, the church was taken over by Protestants. During this period, some of the Knights Hospitaller adopted Lutheranism and left the walls of the commandry, while others, after changing their religion, began to serve in a new role. The church was used by Protestants until 1629, happily passing without major damages during the Thirty Years War, although the takeover by Catholics was armed, and in 1607 a lightning struck the tower, causing a fire that moved to the nave. Earlier, during the period of management by Protestants, the church was rebuilt – the central nave was raised, new vaults in the nave and presbytery were established, the southern aisle was expanded and the tower was crowned with a new helmet in 1588.
   In the eighteenth century, the church, under the protection of the Jesuits, did not mark the history pages with any significant event, except for the fire of 1706. The interior furnishings were than destroyed: altars, tombstones and epitaphs. The 19th century was also peaceful, only a classical chapel was added on the north side, and even at the end of World War II, which did not cause major damage.

Architecture

   The church was erected in the south-east corner of the town, at a distance from the market square. It was a high area, just next to a strong slope to the south. The original church from the 13th century was a hall structure with three aisles of equal height, covered by a common gable roof. It was a form rarely found in Silesia in the 13th century, more widespread only in the 14th and 15th centuries. The chancel from this period is not exactly known, it is only certain that its width was about 7.5 meters, and the length was probably similar to the eastern wall of the sacristy, which was located on the south side. The sacristy was given a rectangular shape and the interior was crowned with barrel vault. A pointed ogival granite portal led to it from the presbytery. The nave was divided into a central aisle with a width of about 7.5 meters and side aisles with a span of about 3.3 meters (the walls of the southern aisle with a thickness of 1.5 meters were used during the Gothic expansion). The entrance was created in the west facade of a stepped portal with two pairs of columns with a Romanesque profile of bases with crockets. The profiling of the portal jambs smoothly turned into an archivolt. Inside the nave was covered with a wooden ceiling, although there were two buttresses in the middle part of the west and south walls.
   In the fourteenth century, the church was rebuilt into a three-nave basilica with a chancel about the width of the central nave, vaulted, polygonal on the eastern side. On its southern side a three-bay sacristy was located (most likely dating back to the 13th century but raised in the 14th century). Probably at the end of the 15th century a massive four-sided tower (polygonal in the upper part) was inserted into the north-west corner. The whole church was lined with stepped buttresses covered with brick drips, with a particularly interesting appearance obtained by the chancel with massive, multi-stepped buttresses reaching almost the roof. The facades were divided with gothic sandstone cornices with modest profiling, while the walls were based on a narrow stone pedestal. The western facade in the fifteenth century was crowned with a Gothic gable, consisting of rhythmically arranged slender vertical recesses.
   The tower was built on a square plan with an external division of the façades into storeys with the help of cordon cornices. The west facade was devoid of windows, while in the north wall one small opening was pierced in each floor, giving them wide window sills and deep niches. The original decoration element was a plastic sculpture on the northern facade, close to the corner. It intrigues with a form that is difficult to identify, depicting a male figure sitting on a small stool with one leg bent at the knee and the other freely extended and with a strange round shape visible in the middle of the body (perhaps a bowed head). Above the figure, a small, Gothic canopy topped with a crocket was embedded, and below the corbel bearing the sculpture. Inside the tower there are narrow and winding stairs leading to the square rooms on individual floors. In the ground floor there is a low chapel covered with a cross vault fastened with a boss.
   In the mid-sixteenth century, the old central nave ceiling was removed, and its walls were raised, leveling the height with the chancel. Both these parts were then covered with one common roof. In 1555-1556, new, late-Gothic net vaults were founded over the rebuilt nave and chancel. Then the southern aisle was expanded and raised by a second floor, in which a gallery for the congregation was inserted. In the aisle and sacristy, rib vaults were used, and in the southern row of chapels three-part vaults. In the nave ogival arcades rested on octagonal pillars with pilaster strips, dividing the longitudinal walls into bays. These lesenes became the support for the ribs of the net vault, which was the extension of the presbytery vault.

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bibliography:
Kozaczewska H., Średniowieczne kościoły halowe na Śląsku, “Kwartalnik Architektury i Urbanistyki”, 1-4, Warszawa 2013.
Kozaczewska-Golasz H., Halowe kościoły z XIII wieku na Śląsku, Wrocław 2015.
Krzywańska A., Dzierżoniów, Warszawa 1984.
Pilch J., Leksykon zabytków architektury Dolnego Śląska, Warszawa 2005.