Szczepanów – St Mary Magdalene’s Church

History

   The church of Szczepanów was one of a number of buildings funded by the chronicler and canon Jan Długosz. Cardinal Zbigniew Oleśnicki, of whom Długosz was a trusted follower, and whose Dębno coat of arms was placed on the foundation plaque adorning the southern porch, next to the Leliwa coats of arms of the Melsztyński family and Wieniawa shield of Długosz, could also have participated in the church foundation. This suggests that the works on the construction of this church were carried out by Długosz, perhaps on behalf of Oleśnicki, then the superior of the Kraków diocese, and financially supported by the local owners of the village, the Melsztyński family. The church was built in 1470.
   In the years 1911-1913, a neo-Gothic body of a new church was erected next to the medieval building. In order to connect the two churches, the northern wall of the nave of the old church was pulled down. In this mindless way, apart from deformation of the medieval monument, its partial destruction was also carried out.
   The Gothic church did suffer much damages again in November 1914 during the Russo-Austrian fights. The roof burnt down then and the vault over the presbytery collapsed, and most of the valuable equipment was destroyed. The reconstruction of the church took place in 1926-1927.

Architecture

   The churches founded by Jan Długosz were built according to the same plan and with the use of the same building material, i.e. stone foundation and bricks, which also served as a decorative element with the use of heavily fired zendrówka, arranged  in patterns of decorative diamonds.
   The church in Szczepanów, like other churches of Długosz, received a towerless and aislelss form. It was distinguished by the two-bay chancel ended in the east with a polygon, not a straight wall. On its northern side, there was originally a sacristy, while from the south a porch was added to the nave. The elevations of the church were reinforced with corner buttresses, diagonal at the nave and sacristy. The windows of the church were high, pointed, two-side splayed, once provided with stone frames. Among them, the round opening located in the facade stood out. The entrance led from the west through a Gothic stone portal, the so-called stepped, a characteristic element of buildings funded by Jan Długosz. Above the portal there was a coat of arms with the shield of the chronicler, Wieniawa.
   The oldest preserved records indicate that inside the wooden ceiling in the nave of the church was painted and the walls whitewashed with lime. In the western part of the nave, there was originally a gallery to which a staircase embedded in the thickness of the southern wall. The presbytery was covered with a cross-rib vault based on stone corbels with the coat of arms of Wieniawa, Dębno, Leliwa and the royal eagle.

Current state

   Today, the medieval church is the southern extension of a large neo-Gothic temple, the creation of which was associated with the necessity to demolish the northern wall of the monument. The former gallery also does not exist, as it was not reconstructed after the fire in 1914. Only the stairs inside the wall in the southern part of the nave, which used to lead to it, have survived. In addition, the sacristy has not survived to modern times, originally located at the northern wall of the chancel, of which only the portal from the chancel side has remained. Among the medieval furnishings, you can see a late-Gothic triptych from the end of the 15th century, set as the main altar, a Romanesque baptismal font and a foundation plaque from 1470 with a relief figure of St. Stanislaus, inscription and coats of arms, placed in the chapel.

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bibliography:
Website bazylikaszczepanow.pl, Długoszowy kościół p.w. św. Marii Magdaleny w średniowieczu.