Wiślica – collegiate of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary


   The construction of the first Romanesque collegiate church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was started by prince Henryk Sandomierski in the second half of the 12th century. At the beginning of the 13th century a second, larger collegiate of the Holy Trinity was established. The third collegiate church, preserved until today, built King Casimir the Great. It was erected in 1350 but retained the lower western massif from the earlier Romanesque church. It was a church with a particular political meaning, which manifests itself in the decoration.
The church was repeatedly repaired and restored. In the years 1460-1470 at the initiative of the chronicler and canon of Jan Długosz, the bell tower were erected at the collegiate church. In 1598, the roof and church clock were repaired. In 1678, the temple was repaired at 6000 zloty. The chancel was renewed. In 1682 the roof was destroyed by hail. In 1915 the temple was severely damaged by Austrian artillery. The western façade was destroyed, with towers dating back to the 13th-century Romanesque building. The church was rebuilt in the 1920s according to the design of Adolf Szyszko-Buhus. In 1958, during the archaeological research, the remains of the former Romanesque churches were discovered in the basement of the church.


   The oldest collegiate church of the twelfth century was a small one-nave building with an oriented chancel, lower and narrower than the nave, ended with a small apse. In the western part of the nave was a small matroneum. Under the chancel was a crypt, whose remains have survived to this day in the basement of the basilica. Its existence testifies to the great importance of the church in Wiślica, as the crypts in single-nave buildings were extremely rare.
The Romanesque collegiate church of the thirteenth century was a three-aisle basilica. In the north and south aisle, there were chapels. The vault was supported on six pillars, and on the western façade there were two towers. The western massif was devoid of an entrance portal, but it housed a gallery. The ground floors of both towers opened to the side aisles with wide passages, topped with ogival arches. In the wall of the south tower, at a height of about 4 meters, there was a small pointed portal leading to the inter-tower space. In the northern tower there was a semicircular portal, which, perhaps using wooden stairs along the northern wall, led to the side aisle. The gallery was probably based on a wooden ceiling and covered with one field of cross-rib vault.
   The present, Casimir’s Gothic church was erected from a stone. The exception is the brick gable of the western façade, which is the result of the reconstruction of war damage in the twentieth century. The church has a pseudohall construction form. The polygonal chancel is lower and narrower than the nave, originally, it had only three bays, but during the construction process, the design was changed and chancel was extended by one more bay. In the north, there is an outbuilding of the 17th century, where the sacristy and treasury are located.
The main entrance to the church is on the south side. To the interior of the building leads pointed portal, whose doors are decorated with a rosette from the 15th century. Over the portal there is a sculpted erection plaque with the presentation of Kazimierz the Great from 1464. The initiator of the foundation’s memorial was chronicler Jan Długosz, who served as a canon in Wiślica. The northern portal of the church dates back to the second half of the 14th century. There are sculpted coats of arms: two Piasts eagles and the coat of arms of Wielkopolska. Near the portal is a walled window, which according to tradition has been declared statutes of the Wiślica.
Nave of the church has a three-support vault, partly stellar-shaped. It is supported by three slender polygonal pillars. Striking is the asymmetry of this solution because the ribs penetrate directly into the corners of the pillars, while in the walls are hung on moulded corbels. This type of vault was used for the first time in the eastern bay of the Kraków Cathedral. The presbytery is covered with a cross-rib vault. The coat of arms of the lands which became part of the reborn Kingdom of Poland after the partition, are placed on the bosses. In the nave there are knight’s coat of arms: Szeliga, Rawicz, Leliwa and Gryf. On the north-east side of the presbytery there is a Gothic sacramentarium and a niche for sacred oils. Originally, the internal facades of the presbytery were covered with Byzantine-Ruthenian polychrome. They were made in the years 1397-1400 by Pope Hayl, a painter from Przemyśl.

Current state

   Today, the collegiate church in Wiślica is one of the most valuable Gothic monuments in Lesser Poland, despite the war damages. In the basement of the church, an archaeological reserve was created, which includes, among other things, a unique Orantan plate. It is a Romanesque floor from the years 1175-1177 with engraved figural representations. From the first Romanesque church there are also carved limestone sculptures, supporting the rosette with a cross. Inside the Gothic chancel, decorated vault bosses and the remains of Byzantine-Ruthenian polychrome are noteworthy.

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Architektura gotycka w Polsce, red. T. Mroczko i M. Arszyński, Warszawa 1995.

Grzybkowski A., Gotycka architektura murowana w Polsce, Warszawa 2016.
Walczak M., Kościoły gotyckie w Polsce, Kraków 2015.
Tomaszewski A., Romańskie kościoły z emporami zachodnimi na obszarze Polski, Czech i Węgier, Wrocław 1974.

Website wikipedia.org, Bazylika kolegiacka Narodzenia Najświętszej Marii Panny w Wiślicy.