Szczecin – St James basilica

History

   Church of St. James was founded in the second half of the 13th century in place of earlier, probably wooden temple. It was then a church shaped like a basilica with two towers. In the years 1370-1387 a major reconstruction of the eastern part of the temple took place, consisting in raising the aisles in the presbytery part and creating a hall system. Between the drawn inward buttresses were a row of chapels. In the first half of the 15th century took place a reconstruction of the south wall of the main nave, probably under the direction of Henryk Brunsberg. This wall had a very decorative look with numerous lesenes and gables. In 1456, for unknown reasons, the southern tower collapsed, causing the destruction of the western part of the nave. In the second half of the 15th century, the hall was rebuilt in the hallway system with reference to the existing chancel, and one central tower was built. The work was completed in 1503.
  
In 1534, the church became a Protestant temple by the decision of the Trzebiatów parliament. Artillery fire during the siege of the city by the Brandenburg army in 1677 triggered a church fire. The tower, the nave vaults and the gothic furnishings of the cathedral were destroyed. At the turn of the 17th / 18th century the cathedral was rebuilt and its interior was equipped with new baroque equipment. At the end of the nineteenth century, a general restoration of the temple began. A new, slim, 119 meter high helmet crowning the cathedral was made. In 1944 as a result of the bombing the cathedral was seriously damaged. Also suffered the equipment of the building. In the years 1947-1949 the church was temporarily protected from further destruction, and between 1972 and 1974 it was rebuilt.

Architecture

   The church from the second half of the 13th century was a three-nave, buttressless brick basilica of 25 meters in width, 30 meters in length and 8,5 meters in height. It had a five-sided chancel with ambulatory, next to which a free-standing chapel was located. At the other end of the nave there were two towers. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the church changed into a hall building with internal buttresses and a crown of chapels and one tower on the western façade. The church also had a transept.
   During the 14th and 15th centuries, by increasing the chapels in the ambulatory and aisles, the church changed into a hall structure with internal buttresses and a wreath of chapels. The southern wall of the aisle then received a very decorative appearance with numerous pilaster strips, wimpergas and panels richly decorated with glazed bricks. As early as in the 14th century, the northern tower in the western part of the church was slightly higher than the central nave, while the south tower was slightly above the side aisles. It was only after the disaster of 1456 that one central tower was erected.
   Finally, at the end of the Middle Ages, was created a magnificent three-nave church with a western tower, a double string of chapels from the north and a three-span chancel surrounded by an ambulatory in a hall system, repeating the shape of the inner apse. Such a system was rare, because most often the ambulatory had more sides than the closing of the choir. It was also characteristic to pull the buttresses into the interior and expand them so that, due to their size and functions, they can be called pillars added to the walls. In the spaces between them there are two-level chapels, open on both storeys with ogival arcades and separately vaulted, also provided with separate windows. In each of the chapels at the level of the floor and at the tops of the walls, in the thickness of the buttresses, wide openings were pierced, which formed a communication route with separately vaulted spaces in the thickness of the pillars.

Current state

   Cathedral of St. James is one of the outstanding works of brick gothic, characteristic for the Baltic countries. It was characterized by a high degree of innovation, which influenced the creators of other objects. Unfortunately, after the destruction of World War II, a part of the north wall of the church was not rebuilt according to its original appearance, and was given a modern, unsatisfactory and ugly form. It remains to be hoped that it will once again be reliably rebuilt, as did the newly reconstructed tower top.

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bibliography:
Pilch.J, Kowalski S., Leksykon zabytków Pomorza Zachodniego i ziemi lubuskiej, Warszawa 2012.
Walczak M., Kościoły gotyckie w Polsce, Kraków 2015.

Website encyklopedia.szczecin.pl, Bazylika archikatedralna św. Jakuba w Szczecinie.
Website wikipedia.org, Bazylika archikatedralna św. Jakuba w Szczecinie.