Oleśnica – St George’s Church

History

   The temple was created from the connection of two churches. The elder, belonging to the Augustian Order, also playing the role of the parish church, was built around 1307 at St. George’s Hospital. The second one was built in 1380 from the Konrad I foundation for Benedictines brought from the Bohemia from the Emaus monastery in Prague. The church tower was built around 1400. It also fulfilled the defense role, because it stood next to the city wall and the St Mary Gate.
   The Czech Benedictines received income from the parish church in Przeczów, where one of them was a parish priest, income from the mill on the Świerzyna river with the associated fisheries privilege and half of the income from the mill in Bogusławice. Despite this, the convent did not develop successfully, the number of monks decreased, and finally in 1505, on the recommendation of Bishop Jan Turzo, the churches of Augustinians and Benedictines were merged, putting the Augustinians in charge.

   After the introduction of Protestantism in Oleśnica in 1538, the augustinian monks left the monastery, which became a town shelter. The church, however, was taken over by the Protestants and until the nineteenth century there were services in Polish. In 1609 it was renovated, the shape of the windows was changed, and a new porch was added from the south. The building was significantly damaged in 1945. It was rebuilt for the needs of the orthodox parish.

Architecture

   The older church of the Blessed Virgin Mary was built as a hall with three very narrow naves, with a four-sided tower added from the west. The thickness of the tower walls at the base is 1.4 meters. Its first two floors are vaulted, the third, fourth and fifth have no vaults. On the fifth floor, where twin windows are visible, there was a bell. There is a trace of its suspension on the oak beams. As the tower also played a defensive role, the entrance to its higher levels took place through a round, narrow staircase. In addition, the top floors of the tower were accessible by a ladder, that could be raised. The original height of the tower corresponds to its today’s unplastered part. At the top there was, as it seems, a platform for shooters. The low entrance to the tower was also located in the attic of the church, from where it was enter to the level of the tower’s third floor.
   The nave of the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary had three bays crowned with rib vaults supported on four square pillars. Their heads were made of sandstone in a very simple cube form with a slightly cut lower part. On one of them a builder’s stonemason’s mark has been preserved, identical to that found in the catheter in Meissen, expanded in 1370. From the eastern side, the church was closed with a wall crowned with a triangular gable divided vertically with plastered blendes and decorated with pinnacles, being the extension of two buttresses.
   On the north side of the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary a modest one-nave church of St. George was built. Both buildings were touched by side walls, they never had a common wall. Inside the church of St. George received three bays covered with rib vaults, so its walls had to be strengthened from three sides from the outside by buttresses. The original entrance was located on the north side.

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bibliography:
Kozaczewska H., Średniowieczne kościoły halowe na Śląsku, “Kwartalnik Architektury i Urbanistyki”, 1-4, Warszawa 2013.
Pilch J., Leksykon zabytków architektury Dolnego Śląska, Warszawa 2005.
Starzewska M., Oleśnica, Warszawa 1963.

Website olesnica.org, Kościół NMP i św. Jerzego.