Poznań – Corpus Christi Church

History

   The church of Corpus Christi was built in the place of the former settlement of Błonie, where according to legend, hostes stolen and desecrated by Jews were found. Shortly after these events, a wooden chapel was established in the place where the host was found, and the growing fame of this place meant that in 1406 kong Władysław Jagiełło founded a gothic church and a Carmelite monastery. The church was personally important for Władysław Jagiełło, who vowed before the Grunwald campaign that he would make a pilgrimage to it, which he realized after the battle, when he sent the war spoils to the Poznań church (gothic monstrance) and in 1419, when he went to it from Pobiedziska.
   The square for the construction of the church was donated in 1406, at which time a commission was formed consisting of representatives of the Poznań bishop, the staroste of Wielkopolska and city councilors, who were to supervise the construction works. In the years 1424-1425 a transport of bricks and stones was recorded from Starołęka, a village on the Warta river belonging to the monastery, and in 1433 it was reported about the transfer of funds by Jan Pakuła for stained glass. By the beginning of the 1430s, most of the presbytery was erected, perhaps together with its vault. The church and monastery gained their full Gothic form in the years around 1465-1480. In 1465, King Kazimierz Jagiellończyk donated the area for a brickyard, while until 1478 the Carmelite convent was in dispute with Wojciech Łobżański for payment of 150 fines for the completing of the last parts of the church. The work could be delayed because of the wetland, for it is known that in 1472 the papal bull granted an indulgence for some reconstruction, and thus removal of unknown damages, possibly related to floods. The effort of the state related to the Thirteen Years’ War conducted until 1466, could also have been a hindrance.

  
In 1657 the monastery was burned by the Brandenburgers. Destruction was removed only in 1664, when the vault of the nave was rebuilt, baroque façade was added and plastered. At the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the extension of the southern nave, a stubby tower was erected, and in 1726 the Chapel of Our Lady of the Scapular was erected on the north side of the chancel. In 1826 the Prussian government dissoluted the monastery, and the abandoned site began to devastate. The church was repaired by the reformers in 1856. The new owners carried out a thorough renovation. At the same time the monastery buildings were taken over by the Prussian army, changing them into barracks, and then into prison. In 1899 thanks to archbishop Florian Stablewski, temple became a parish church for Wilda, Rybak and Piaski. During World War II the Germans changed the church to a warehouse destroying many of the monuments. During the fighting in 1945, part of the vault and two of the five chancel windows with tracery were destroyed. Renovation was carried out in 1946-1947.

Architecture

   The church was built as a three-aisle pseudobasilica with a five-bay nave, in which the three aisles were separated by ogival arcades, supported on profiled pillars. An elongated, four-bay, polygonal ended presbytery with the same height as the nave was attached to the nave, which was an unusual solution in the Gothic architecture of Greater Poland (Wielkopolska). A small chapel in the form of a aisleless annex with a three-sided closure adjoined the eastern bay of the southern aisle. The whole was a lofty structure, but compact, slender by the high buttresses surrounding it, once crowned with pinnacles.
   Three portals made of glazed, colored bricks led to the church. The most important from the west leading to the central nave and one from the north and south to the aisles. The interior of the church was illuminated by high gothic ogival windows filled with stone tracery in the presbytery and simpler shafts in the nave. The dark central nave was illuminated only through thick pointed arcades and windows of the aisles, characterized by high height. It contrasted with a much brighter presbytery with large windows.
   The presbytery was covered with a gothic cross-rib vault, while stellar vaults were founded in the aisles and in the central nave. Powerful, very massive inter-nave pillars were founded on a square plan and fitted with brick fittings in the corners. They separated rectangular bays in the nave, positioned transversely in relation to the church axis, and twice narrower, elongated, rectangular bays in the aisles. The chancel uses bays as wide as in the nave, but slightly shallower. Both main parts of the church were separated by a soaring arcade of the chancel arch and originally a rood screen, whose height probably reached the profiled part of the arcade.

  
From the west to the temple adjacent monastery complex. These are buildings with four wings, surrounding a small courtyard in the middle. Built at the same time as the church, the monastery unfortunately lost its original style. Only the room covered with a late-gothic stellar vault, presumably the former refectory, have survived.

Current state

   The Corpus Christi church is a unique building for the Wielkopolska region, because nowhere outside Poznań has such a long and high presbytery connected with a pseudo-basilica nave of similar proportions appeared. The church has survived to modern times in a fairly good condition, as for Poznań Gothic buildings, which is mainly due to the small damages from the Second World War. On the other hand, considerable accusations are often made of the interwar renovation, during which the western and northern portal fittings and numerous fragments of the Gothic face of the walls were completely replaced. The former decoration of the church, stone tracery from the 15th century, survived only in three windows of the presbytery. Unfortunately, all the gables of the church existing today are early modern, only the lower fragment of the eastern half-gable of the southern aisle has survived. Similarly, the original vault of the central nave, replaced in the 17th century, has not survived.

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bibliography:
Kowalski Z., Gotyk wielkopolski. Architektura sakralna XIII-XVI wieku, Poznań 2010.

Walczak M., Kościoły gotyckie w Polsce, Kraków 2015.