Beginning of the construction of the collegiate church of St. George in Kętrzyn took place in 1359 on the site of the former Teutonic watchtower. At the end of the fourteenth century, the church was enlarged by a second, eastern tower, and around 1410, the older western tower was raised. In the years 1470-1485 the church was enlarged and transformed into a pseudo-basilica form. The chancel and the adjoining sacristy were built after a fire in 1500. In the final stage of expansion, thanks to the efforts of master Matz from Gdańsk, the church received diamond vaults. In the 1620s it was transformed into a Lutheran temple. In 1581, a hurricane tore the roof of the west tower, and ten years later it burned down due to a lightning strike. During the renovation, the battlement in the destroyed west tower was replaced with a roof, and the chapel of St. James was rebuilt. The next major renovation works were carried out only in the 19th century and after World War II.
The church was located in the south-west corner of the town, thanks to which it was included in the perimeter of the fortifications. Initially, it had the form of an orientated aisleless building, made of bricks on a erratic stone foundation, which was connected with a corner, four-sided defensive tower and city walls. Due to its location and defensive character, the building was provided with hoarding. Its longitudinal elevations were separated by large pointed windows, while the shorter eastern wall was decorated with a Gothic stepped – pinnacle gable.
At the end of the fourteenth century, a four-sided bell tower, about 32 meters high, was added to the eastern wall, which partially covered the older gable, and around 1410, the older western tower was raised, so that it exceeded the ridge of the nave. Its height then reached about 40 meters. The gable of the west facade was also built than.
In the years 1470-1485 the church was enlarged and obtained the form of a three-aisle pseudo-basilica with five bays of length. At the same time the western tower was reinforced with a brick battlement in place of the original wooden porches. In the last stage of expansion after 1500, a polygonal closed presbytery and an adjoining sacristy with chapel on the upper floor were erected. The chancel was reinforced with high buttresses, between which large, pointed windows were placed. Inside, they were covered with a diamond vault based on the motif of a six-pointed star, while in the nave and in the chapel of St. James, vaults were made on an eight-pointed star motif.
The basilica of Saint George in Kętrzyn is the best preserved defensive church in Masuria and is one of the most valuable monuments of Gothic sacal architecture in Poland. The contemporary form of the church was shaped as a result of transformations in the period from the 14th to the 16th century. Admission to the church is free, for a fee you can also visit the parish museum, prison cells and lapidarium.
Rzempołuch A., Kościoły na Warmii, Mazurach i Powiślu, Olsztyn 1991.
Rzempołuch A., Przewodnik po zabytkach sztuki dawnych Prus Wschodnich, Olsztyn 1992.
Webpage leksykonkultury.ceik.eu, Bazylika Świętego Jerzego w Kętrzynie.