The construction of the main parish church of Stargard Szczeciński began in 1292 on the site of an earlier, small, probably wooden temple. The work lasted until about 1310, and in their result stood a monumental, hall, towerless building. The wealthy townspeople wanted to give the church a more representative shape, and so around 1380 it was expanded to more magnificent forms. The builder was Henryk Brunsberg, an outstanding late gothic architect. A new chancel was set up with a bypass and a crown of chapels and a tower. The nave was raised so that the church was given the shape of a basilica. There was also a vestry on the south side and an octagonal St. Mary chapel on the north side. During the 16th and 17th centuries only repair and renovation works were carried out.
Serious losses brought to church a great city fire in 1635. The roofs of the presbytery, the nave and the towers burned down, the vaults of the central nave and aisles, the top of the southern tower and the gable between the towers were damaged. The medieval furnishings were also burnt down. Reconstruction started in 1639, lasted 25 years, and in consequence the church received baroque equipment. Further renovations and changes to restore the gothic interior were made in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The first, not very successful, in the years 1819-1824. In the years 1901-1911, architect Deneke, after careful architectural research, conducted a gothic reconstruction of the temple, reproducing previously removed details, as well as the original color of the interior. In 1945, during the battle for the city, the church of St. Mary was partially destroyed. The roofs and helm of the northern tower were burnt, the vaults and the upper part of the walls cracked, the interior was devastated.
Collegiate church of St. Mary is an orientated church, built of brick on the foundations of granite blocks. The first church from the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries was a hall building, without a tower, with one nave and a chancel.
The present church, formed at the turn of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, has the shape of a two-nave basilica with a chancel surrounded by an ambulatory. The buttresses were drawn into the interior, and in the spaces thus created, there are two-story chapels, open towards the ambulatory and the side aisles with ogival arcades and covered with separate vaults. The upper chapels were connected by passages pierced in the thickness of buttresses. The most impressive is St. Mary Chapel, built on the northern side of the chancel, in the form of octagon extended outside the church walls, covered with a separate pyramid roof. On the opposite side, a rectangular sacristy with the Angel’s Chapel on the floor, was formed.
The western façade has a monumental, two tower form. Its lower floor forms a massive solid corpus and is divided by three portals. The main portal and north portal located in the center of the facade are pointed, with wide, profiled frames. The southern portal, currently the main entrance to the temple, has a unique form, unmatched in Western Pomerania, with arches of archivolt shaped from parallel, zigzag-like broken tracery. The impressive two-tower west massif introduced a new type of blendes to the Pomeranian architecture, called “Stargard” blende. They have an impressive size of over 20 meters high and 3.3 meters wide, and their special feature is the use of full arches in the lower parts and closing from the top with large, circular fields. After the collegiate church in Stargard, such blendes were used, among others, in churches in Chociwel, Gryfice, Drawsko, St. James in Szczecin or St Mary’s in Pasewalk, and with time also in secular architecture.
The temple is huge. Its length is over 77 meters, width 37 meters, height 39 meters, and the height of the north tower 53 meters. It is the highest vaulted church in Poland. The central nave, chancel, ambulatory and the St. Mary chapel have stellar vaults. The octagonal pillars in ambulatory are crowned with wide bands and carry richly profiled arcades over which there is a frieze with motif of openwork quatrefoils and a tall belts of triforium with ogival arcades. Even higher were placed deep arcades with windows, connected by passages in the thickness of the wall. Interestingly, in the upper parts of the ambulatory pillars, rectangular niches are hollowed out in each of the sides, supported by profiled brackets and covered with triangular finials. Ambulatory is, therefore, an exceptional building here, going beyond popular schemes in the temples of this region.
Walczak M., Kościoły gotyckie w Polsce, Kraków 2015.
Pilch.J, Kowalski S., Leksykon zabytków Pomorza Zachodniego i ziemi lubuskiej, Warszawa 2012.
Website wikipedia.org, Kolegiata Najświętszej Marii Panny Królowej Świata w Stargardzie.