Kamień Pomorski – St John’s Cathedral

History

   The cathedral was founded in 1176 by the Pomeranian prince Kazimierz I in relation with the relocation of the seat of Pomeranian bishops from nearby Wolin. At the beginning, in the years 1180 – 1210, the chancel and the transept were built in the Romanesque style, and then, before the mid-13th century, the southern porch at the transept and the sacristy were added.
  
In 1308, the unfinished building was destroyed by Brandenburg troops. After the work was resumed, the construction of the basilica was continued in the Gothic style. After 1310, cloisters on the northern side were erected, and in the years 1325-1350, a Gothic room was added over the eastern wing of the cathedral, in which later the cathedral treasury was located. At the beginning of the fourteenth century paintings were created on the vault of the presbytery and in the apse. At the same time, the basilic corpus was built on the original Romanesque foundation, a Gothic brick tower and a rood screen in front of the chancel. In 1419, the Lepel chapel adjacent to the nave was built. The church was completed at the end of the 15th century. The chapter house adjoining to the chancel from the south, was built then.
  
In 1535 the cathedral passed into the hands of the evangelical church. During the Thirty Years War, the interior was destroyed, but thanks to the generosity of prince Ernest Bogusław von Croya, in the second half of the 17th century, the temple acquired new baroque furnishings. In 1802, the Gothic tower of the cathedral was demolished. The new, neo-Gothic bell tower was erected in 1855, and renovation works were carried out. In the 1960s, the temple was regothisated and renovated.

Architecture

   The cathedral was built of bricks in the Flemish and monk bonds, and of granite ashlar in the lower parts of the transept. It obtained the form of a basilica with a Gothic nave and two aisles 30 meters long, preceded from the west by a four-sided tower, and in the east by a 9.6 x 32 meters Romanesque transept, behind which a single-bay, almost square chancel measuring 9.6 x 11,1 meters was erected, ended on the east with an apse with a radius of 3.8 meters. From the north, a two-bay sacristy with a small apse was attached to the chancel in the Romanesque period, and in the south, a porch was attached to the transept. A small, shallow apse was also attached to the northern arm of the transept. On the northern side of the nave, in the Gothic period, a patio surrounded by cloisters with a two-story eastern wing was planned. Its construction probably affected the aisles of the nave, which, unusually, were not of equal width. The southern aisle of a late Gothic forms was erected as much wider than the northern one (4.4 meters in relation to 3.6 meters). The layout of the building was completed by a Gothic chapter house on a square plan on the south side of the chancel. The finished cathedral, with the relative simplicity of the original design, which has been preserved despite the multi-phase works, has been equipped with an astonishing variety of details: narrow ogival windows of various forms, arcaded cornices, pilaster strips, and late Gothic attics.
   As the building workshops and plans were changed several times during the construction works, the outer façade of the main apse was created in the upper part as much poorer. There were broken pilaster strips and black-glazed columns in window frames, and the articulation was much more modest. In the transept, these changes resulted in the introduction of granite between the brick parts. The southern part of the transverse nave, facing the canonies and the episcopal curia, was the main facade. The most extensive portal with jambs decorated with columns made of terracotta segments and artificial stone was placed there, and the transept façade was richly decorated. There were corner pilaster strips connected by an arcaded frieze, a triad of windows flanked by blendes with trefoil heads and three similar recesses at the top. In addition, the inner fields of the blendes were distinguished by the opus spicatum bond, and their offsets were outlined with slender columns. Similar profiles were used in window reveals.
   While the eastern part of the church was built in the Romanesque style, the western nave has already been kept in Gothic forms. Its walls were clasped with buttresses, between which large three-light ogival windows were placed, and the façade of the southern aisle was crowned with an openwork attic, composed of triangular gables with rich decorations. In the middle of its length there were a stair turret creating an axial accent. The church over the central nave was covered with a gable roof, while the side aisles were covered with mono-pitched roofs.
   The interior of the chancel, transept and part of the nave was covered with cross-rib vaults, while the southern aisle was covered with a stellar, four-arm vault. The division into the aisles was ensured by large pointed-arched arcades, moulded with shafts, based alternately on massive, thick, four-sided pillars, moulded at the corners and clasped with half-columns in the center of the sides facing the central nave, and slender polygonal pillars, devoid of vertical moulding. Even more massive pillars were created in the Romanesque period at the crossing. A spiral staircase was inserted into the thick walls there, reaching the attic in the south-east corner and on the north side, where analogous stairs were led from the cloister towards the north-west of the crossing pillar.

Current state

   The cathedral has preserved its medieval plan and shape to this day, despite the multi-phase and long construction and laterearly modern transformations. Of the latter, the most painful is the loss of the Gothic west tower, replaced by a neo-gothic one. Numerous Romanesque and Gothic architectural details in the form of window jambs, portals, friezes or vaults with their supporting system have survived in the remaining parts of the monument. In addition, fragments of polychrome from the first half of the fourteenth century have been preserved on the vault of the chancel and the central nave. In the main altar there is a late Gothic triptych from around 1520, in the northern arm of the transept there is an early Gothic baptismal font from the 14th century, and a Gothic crucifix from the mid-15th century is on the chancel arch. On the wall of the southern arm of the transept, paintings with passion scenes from 1527 are hung.

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

Jarzewicz J., Kościoły romańskie w Polsce, Kraków 2014.
Pilch J., Kowalski S., Leksykon zabytków Pomorza Zachodniego i ziemi lubuskiej, 2012.
Sztuka polska przedromańska i romańska do schyłku XIII wieku, red. M. Walicki, Warszawa 1971.

Świechowski Z., Architektura romańska w Polsce, Warszawa 2000.