Racławice Olkuskie – church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

History

   The oldest information about the village and parish of Racławice appeared in 1325, but it is not known who and when founded the church at that time. Another late-medieval church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Racławice Olkuskie was built according to the latest dendrochronological research in 1515 or 1516, with the use of wood from trees cut in 1513. In the lower parts of the west tower, wood beams dating back to the end of the fourteenth century were also used, although the current tower was probably added or rebuilt later. Its existence was first recorded in the episcopal visitation in 1598.
   The patron of the church, due to the royal ownership of the village, was the king of Poland, but it is not known whether he was also its founder. The construction of the 16th-century temple may have been related to the need to enlarge the building after the villages of Szklary and Zawada joined the local parish.
   The church was renovated several times. It is known that repairs were carried out in the years 1811-1813, in 1830 and in the years 1867-1872, when, among other things, the porch was added and the outer arcades were removed. Renovations also took place at the beginning of the 1960s, 1990s and in 2007 when the planking was replaced. After the boards were desmantled in the eastern wall, an inscription in Latin was discovered: Martinus Josephus Katazynski and Albertus. Perhaps these were the names of the builders of the church.

Architecture

   The late Gothic church was built of fir wood in a log structure, i.e. without the use of nails, with horizontally arranged beams joined at the corners and then boarded from outside. It received a rectangular nave with dimensions of 9.9 by 10.8 meters and a narrower, three-side ended chancel on the eastern side, to which the sacristy was attached from the north. From the west, the nave was preceded by a tower, which was erected in a pole structure. The nave and the presbytery were covered with a common gable roof, and the eaves of the roof were supported by corbels, which became a characteristic feature of the church in Racławice. At least from the beginning of the 17th century, and perhaps from the very beginning, the church was surrounded by arcades, that is a low mono-pitched roof supported by poles, which was to protect the base of the building and the gathered faithful from rain.
   The main entrance to the church was located in the western wall. It was made in the form of a profiled arcade passing into the so-called ogee arch. An additional entrance was placed from the south, where a pointed portal was used with a richly profiled jamb with a late Gothic cord motif. Doors with Gothic fittings (preserved to this day) were placed in the portal. An even more decorative form was given to the portal leading from the chancel to the sacristy. It is profiled with the motif of dog-tooth running out into the ogee arch, and inside there is a wooden door, for safety reasons from the side of the presbytery with a sheet metal with decorative strips, studs, a knocker and a lock.
   The interior of the church is covered with flat ceilings covered with colorful polychromes. The arcade of the chancel received an ogival form, while four windows set in the southern wall of the nave were framed with richly profiled late Gothic jambs topped with ogee arches. This form was also given to the window in the eastern wall of the presbytery. The window frames were decorated with ornamental decorations.

Current state

   The church is one of the best preserved and most interesting late gothic timber monuments in the Małopolska region. It still has sacral functions, but it is open to visitors. Due to the fact that it is less known than the timber monuments of Małopolska added on the UNESCO list, it is not so crowded with tourists. Also noteworthy is the very positive and friendly attitude towards tourists, of the person caring for the monument at a time when there are no masses.
   Today the inner walls and ceiling of the nave and the presbytery are decorated with renaissance polychromies from the 17th century (partially reconstructed). The most valuable monument is a late-gothic group of the Crucifixion from the beginning of the 16th century set on a chancel arch.

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bibliography:
Brykowski R., Kornecki M., Drewniane kościoły w Małopolsce południowej, Wrocław 1984.
Cisowski B., Duda M., Szlak architektury drewnianej. Małopolska, Kraków 2005.

Krasnowolski B., Leksykon zabytków architektury Małopolski, Warszawa 2013.
Tomczyk K., Kościół parafialny pod wezwaniem Narodzenia Najświętszej Maryi Panny w Racławicach, Racławice 2014.