The collegiate church was founded by prince Henry the Probus as a votive offering after the end of his long-standing political-ecclesiastical dispute with the bishop of Wrocław, Thomas II, completed in 1287. At the sign of compromise, both adversaries decided to establish the temples: Henry IV Probus collegiate in the neighborhood of his castle, and bishop Thomas collegiate under the patronage of his patron in Racibórz. The designer of the building was probably, mentioned as Henry’s court builder, master Wiland. In the years 1288-1295 a chancel was erected, while the nave and transept corps, founded by the bishop Nankier, were erected in the years 1320-1350. Finally there was a building with two temples: the lower church of St. Bartholomew and upper church of Holy Cross. In the church’s presbytery, the founder of the collegiate church was buried, according to his will. In the years 1503-1538 to the congregation of canons belonged Nicolaus Copernicus and deceased in 1596 Andrzej Bogurski, who made a special note in which the sermons were supposed to be celebrated in Polish language in the church for all time.
Lower church of St. Bartholomew passed through stormy history. It had been robbed several times, turned into a magazine, a shelter for the people, and even served as a stable when in 1632-1634 the Swedish-Brandenburg army was stationed at Ostrów Tumski. During the years of 1672 and 1723, the interior was changed to baroque with new altars and matroneum in the western part of the upper church. In 1810 the congregation of canons was dissolved, and during the nineteenth century the upper church was transformed into neo-gothic. During World War II, a part of the roof and vaults of the upper floor were destroyed, and one vault of the lower church collapsed. The church was rebuilt in the years 1946-1950 and 1956-1957.
Collegiate church of Holy Cross and St. Bartholomew is a high, brick church hall. It is 66 meters long, 44 meters wide, the height of the nave is 19 meters. It has an unusual two-storey interior layout in Silesia: the lower church of St. Bartholomew and the upper of Holy Cross, with almost the same layout. The roof solution is also unusual. The central nave has a high longitudinal roof, common to the chancel, while the aisles has transverse gables. In a horizontal plan the church has the form of a latin cross. The elongated chancel is terminated by a three-sided bypass, the same end has a transept. In the corners between the hall and the transept, there are two towers, of which only the south, the upper one, has been fully completed and finished with a spire. From the north to the chancel, a two-span vestry with the library and a three-sided chapter house are added. Three naves form the hall, with the lower floor with rib vaults.
The collegiate church of Holy Cross and St. Bartholomew is an impressive building of huge dimensions, and because of the architectual solutions used in it, can be considered as one of the most important monuments of gothic architecture in Central Europe.
Pilch J, Leksykon zabytków architektury Dolnego Śląska, Warszawa 2005.
Walczak M., Kościoły gotyckie w Polsce, Kraków 2015.
Website wikipedia.org, Kolegiata Świętego Krzyża i św. Bartłomieja we Wrocławiu.