Paczków – St John’s Church

History

   The construction of the temple began in 1350. It lasted about 30 years, and its founder was the bishop of Wrocław, Przecław from Pogorzela. In the fifteenth century a two-span chapel of the Virgin Mary was added to the presbytery from the south. The tower was partially demolished in 1429, it was rebuilt in 1462. At that time, its upper storey was also created. In the sixteenth century, in fear of Turkish invasion, the church was rebuilt and fortified, giving it defensive functions. The roofs were transformed and the walls finished with attic. A round stone well was erected in the southern nave, in case of a long siege. The said construction works were carried out by the Italian architect Jakub Parr on the initiative of the then bishop of Wrocław, Jakub von Salza. In the 18th century, the rococo chapel of St. Roch was added to the north.

Architecture

   The church has a three-nave, two-bay, hall structure, built on a square plan and a two-bay presbytery closed seven-sided. At the chancel from the south, a gothic St. Mary’s chapel was added in the mid-15th century, and a sacristy from the north, above which a high tower rises. Outside, the walls of the church have buttresses, between which there are pointed windows, with traceries of fish-blistery and quatrefoil motifs. The building was originally covered with high gable roofs, separate for each aisle, finished at the shorter sides (except for the presbytery) with triangular gables.
   The ogival gothic portal with an archivolt, topped with a ogee arch with crockets and pinnacles supported by carved figural consoles, leads from the west. Two side entrances located in the north and south aisles, at the end of the Middle Ages were preceded by the porch. The northern portal was in the ogival form, decorated with shafts ended with floral capitals, while subsequent gothic portals in the sacristy and in the southern aisle received the crown in the form of a truncated trefoil.
   The interior was divided by ogival arcades between the aisles, supported on octagonal pillars and a chancel arcade separating the presbytery from the nave. The square bays of the central nave were vaulted with stellar forms, the rectangular bays of the aisles received three-support vaults, and late-gothic net vaults, rare in Silesia, were used in the presbytery. The original vault was also built above St. Mary’s Chapel. It presents a rare variant of the stellar vault, which ribs are arranged essentially in a four-pointed star, but do not form a symmetrical system. The arrangement of the ribs was conceived in such a way as to give the impression that the direction of tensions is concentrated around only one diagonal in each of the twin bays. Such vaults called “warped”, despite their originality, were rarely used (Krakow St. Mary’s Church, parish church in Strzegom). Three-support vaults of aisles and sacristy were supported in each bay in three places on the perimeter of the outer walls. The ribs that carry gravity are arranged so that the part of the vault that opens to the central nave is freed from the weight. This original layout is visible in the northern aisle, in the southern one it was enriched with additional ribs in the 15th century.
   In the 16th century, as part of the church defense rebuilding, the high roofs were demolished as the most threatened with fires and a four-meter-high wall was erected on the perimeter walls, pierced with loop holes. In addition, a well was dug in the northern aisle in the event of a siege.

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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 Górnego Śląska, Warszawa 2008.
Steinborn B., Otmuchów, Paczków, Warszawa 1982.