The construction of St. Mary’s Church in Strzelce (Friedeberg) began at the end of the 13th century, probably in the 1280s or 1290s. After the town was burnt down by the Hussites in 1433, it was rebuilt and reconstructed from the basilica into a pseudo-basilica building. From the 16th / 17th century, early modern elements began to be introduced into the architecture of the church, related mainly to renovations after fires. In 1687, the tower and the roof of the nave burned down, rebuilt in 1693. Another fire of the already Baroque top of the tower took place in 1734. In the years 1855-1860, regothization began, although the galleries were built inside the nave, the walls and pillars were plastered, porches were added, the windows of the aisles were transformed and new equipment was funded. In 1945, the church burnt down and the interior decoration was destroyed or scattered. After the war damages, the church was rebuilt in 1958-1973.
The church was built of bricks in the monk’s bond, bound with lime mortar, and partly of granite, carefully worked squares. It was situated north of the town square, orientated towards the cardinal sides of the world, so the body of the church was situated diagonally to the streets grid. Originally, it was separated from the market square on the south side by a narrow building block, while on the other sides the fenced church cemetery was adjacent to the town streets.
Church was erected on a rectangular plan with a four-sided tower on the west side and a sacristy with a gallery on the first floor, placed on the north-eastern side, within the rectangular plan. The church’s nave received three aisles of six bays, without a separate chancel (it was only slightly suggested by extending the middle part of the eastern façade). Perhaps this solution was taken from the parish church in Gorzów, which was built a bit earlier, although the nave in Strzelce was more slender than in the squat church in Gorzów, and the tower was narrower.
The outer elevations of the aisles have not been segmented by buttresses, while they were decorated with doubled ogival (in the south) and trefoil (in the north) blendes. The east gable was decorated with pyramidal blendes, culminating in the form of a cross blende, flanked with smaller niches. In Strzelce, the traditional form of the blende gable was modified, drilling additional niches in the blende fields. A third plane was created in this way and a new chiaroscuro effect was obtained. The church tower had four floors, three of which received a rich decoration consisting of pointed blendes flanking moulded, high windows and openings.
Originally, the church was an original basilica building with external walls of the side aisles lower than the inter-nave arcades, with the central nave lighting by the windows above the roofs of the side aisles. The interior was initially unusually covered with an open roof truss (perhaps the model of the Augustinians church in Erfurt or the mendicant churches in Italy, Rhineland or Thuringia). This was indicated by the eastern window reaching deep into the field of the gable. The resignation of the vaults allowed to uplift of the relatively thin walls of the central nave, while maintaining a compact outline of the church corpus. With a considerable range of arcades and elongated bays in the side aisles, a wide and high central nave was also obtained (about three times wider than the side aisles), culminating in a large and slender window in the eastern wall.
During the reconstruction of the fifteenth century pseudo-basilica space was introduced with the main nave lighting only through the windows of the side aisles. The reason for this was the introduction of stellar vaults in the central nave and aisles, with oval ribs converging on semicircular shafts descending on the imposts of pillars, and embedded directly in the walls of the aisles. In the sacristy, a cross-rib vault was used. Since the late Gothic reconstruction, the church was covered with a single roof over all ailses and central nave.
As a result of post-war renovation, the church today presents the form of a basilica from the outside (each aisle with a separate roof) with a preserved spatial layout from the Gothic period, while inside the pseudo-basilica layout from the late Gothic reconstruction has been restored. Two annexes at the western ends of the aisles (stair turrets) and both porches are completely early modern elements. In addition, the windows of the aisles, the western elevations of the aisles with half-gables, the frames of the blendes from the north and south, and the granite plinth were transformed in the 19th century. The upper part of the eastern gable and the vaults had to be reconstructed after the destruction of the last war (the vault of the central nave completely collapsed).
Architektura gotycka w Polsce, red. M.Arszyński, T.Mroczko, Warszawa 1995.
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Jarzewicz J., Gotycka architektura Nowej Marchii, Poznań 2000.
Pilch J., Kowalski S., Leksykon zabytków Pomorza Zachodniego i ziemi lubuskiej, Warszawa 2012.