Haczów – church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

History

   Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Haczów was built around 1459, or as other sources say, at the end of the fourteenth century, after confirmation of the location of Haczów by king Władysław Jagiełło. In 1624, the church was renovated and a tower topped with a porch was added, as well as arcades, which housed an additional number of the people. The church area was then fenced with an earth rampart on which a fence was erected. In the second half of the 18th century, old arcades were replaced by new ones, the sacristy was enlarged, and the church system was changed to a three-aisle by introducing poles to support the ruff truss. Later renovations from 1720 and 1864 did not fundamentally change the appearance of the building.
    After the damage from the First World War, the church was only provisionally secured, and subsequent repairs were required due to military operations of the Second World War. In 1950 the church was abandoned, it was even threatened with dismantling. The first repairs were carried out in 1955, and since 1958 thorough renovation works were carried out.

Architecture

   The church was built in late Gothic style of a log structure, i.e. not a single nail was used for its construction, only wooden latches. It was composed of a square nave and a narrower chancel, closed on three sides from the east side, to which a narrow sacristy was originally attached from the north. To the nave, from the west, a tower of a pole structure and with sloping walls was added, with a suspended porch and a lantern, and from the north a chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows. The whole was covered by a high gable roof with a common ridge for the nave and chancel, and since the 17th century all facades were surrounded by wide arcades, although their functioning cannot be excluded at an earlier stage of the church’s existence.
    The log structure in the church in Haczów (similarly to other 15th-century churches from the Małopolska region) was shaped in a characteristic way, slightly narrowing towards the top of individual frames, which resulted in visible external sloping, especially in the upper parts of the framework face towards the interior of the building. The method of connecting frames in the corners was varied, but regardless of how the logs were joined at the corners, the connections were always accompanied by so-called covered pin, i.e. the element stiffening the bond itself. This was the basic factor distinguishing the early medieval, primitive construction from that used by professional carpenters from the period of late Gothic.
   The nave and presbytery of the church were covered with a homogeneous gable roof, while the roof truss in the church was created in the king post truss system, common in the 15th century with truss additional longitudinal stiffening and strengthening with the crosses of Saint Andrew, which due to the very large cubature were used on two levels. However, it did not play a decisive role in the construction of the church, but the so-called the “zaskrznieniowy” (chest) system. In the medieval Małopolska church, the spacing of individual logs of truss was adapted to the width of the chancel, and bottom beams of the truss were supported in the chancel on the last frame of wall. In this situation, the lateral, wider parts of the nave did not support the truss, so two structural operations were carried out: extending the upper parts of the chancel walls to the nave, up to the west wall of the church and the lowering height of the side walls of the nave. In this way, on the beams of the presbytery walls extended on the nave, the truss was supported above the nave, and over its side walls was a suitable slope, enabling covering of the wider parts with extended gable roof or separate mono-pitched roof. Inside the church, the lateral, wider than the presbytery, parts of the nave gave the impression as if they were covered with a lowered ceiling (looking like a suspended chest).
   In the structural system of the roof truss, a significant role was also played by the hooks, i.e. elements protecting against the sliding of the truss structure. It were vertical logs about 0.5-1 meters long, finished with a pins held by a wooden peg passing through the beam and pin. In Haczów, the hooks (corbels) additionally received a decorative and carefully worked form modeled in the shape of human masks.
   An ogival Gothic portal (preserved to this day) led from the south to the middle of the nave, the second was probably in the initially unobstructed west facade of the church. Windows in accordance with the medieval building tradition were originally pierced only in the southern and eastern walls. The interior was covered with a flat ceiling, while the walls at the end of the 15th century were covered with figural paintings.

Current state

   The church in Haczów as the oldest and best preserved gothic wooden church of the log structure in Europe, practically unchanged in terms of construction since its building, was in 2003 added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is also considered one of the largest timber, Gothic buildings in Europe. On the walls of the nave and chancel there is a unique painting decoration from 1494, which is the largest group of fifteenth-century wall figural paintings in Poland and probably the oldest polychromy of this type in Europe. In addition, the church is equipped with gothic sculptures from the fifteenth century and a stone baptismal font from the sixteenth century. Four hooks (corbels) once located under the eaves of the presbytery’s southern wall are also extremely valuable. They are few preserved relics of medieval wooden architectural sculpture. Church is available to visitors and the congregation every day from 7 to 18.

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bibliography:
Brykowski R., Drewniana architektura kościelna w Małopolsce XV wieku, Warszawa 1981.
Brykowski R., Kornecki M., Drewniane kościoły w Małopolsce południowej, Wrocław 1984.

Kornecki M., Kościoły drewniane w Małopolsce, Kraków 1999.