Wrocław – St Mary Magdalene Cathedral


   The first church in this place was built in the late 11th century. To parish status was raised by the bishop Wawrzyniec in 1226. According to some sources, the romanesque church of St. Andrew the Apostle and St. Mary Magdalene, completed in 1232. However, already during the Mongol invasion in 1241 it was destroyed. Another church, probably in the roman-gothic transition style, was created in the years 1242-1248.
After the fire of 1342, it was decided to build a new, larger, late gothic church using many older fragments. It was built in the years 1342-1362 and apart the upper stories of towers, it was given a contemporary shape. In the 15th century the towers were completed, and in 1459 the first bridge was mentioned, which connects them at the height of the last floor. Already in 1358, the first bell was hung, and from 1386 in the southern tower was the Bell of the Sinner – the largest bell of Silesia with a circumference of 6.30 meters. In the 15th and 16th century chapels were erected around the church. In 1546, the romanesque main portal was moved from the demolished monastery church in Ołbin and was erected in the southern elevation.
In 1523 Johannes Heß delivered the first evangelical sermon in the church of Mary Magdalene, and despite opposition of the cathedral chapter, soon became its parish priest. From then on, the town council owned church, was a Protestant temple.
In the years 1564-1581 the facades of the church were plastered and the roofs of the aisles were raised above the level of the flying buttresses, as the matronaea were built there, which greatly reduced the light supply to the interior. In 1887, during the celebrations of the birth of emperor William I, the northern tower lit up with fireworks. It was rebuilt in the old shape and at the same time the interior of the church was regothisated. In the last days of World War II, the church lost helmets and roofs in the fire, but the walls were preserved in relatively good condition. Only the mine explosion broke the south tower, destroying the bridge between the towers, the gable wall and the main portal of the church along with valuable sculptures. The church was temporarily secured in 1947, and total reconstruction was made in 1960-1970.


   The original church from the first half of the 13th century was a three-nave building with a chancel ended in the east probably with a straight wall, the same like the aisles. On the extension of the chancel wall (separating the nave from the presbytery) were buttresses, others were also located on the extension of the longitudinal and western walls. The spatial arrangement of this church is unknown, but it can be assumed that the model for it were numerous parish hall constructions in Silesia.
   The cathedral of St. Mary Magdalene is a basilic church without a transept, having a six-span nave and a simple closed chancel without a bypass.
North of the chancel is a two-storey sacristy. From the west, there are two square towers, with buttresses, at the height of the fifth floor and connected by an overhanging bridge. It is commonly referred to as the Witch Bridge or Penitentiary Bridge and has since served as a viewing point. Its name is derived from the legend that after dark on the bridge were to appear the repentant souls of the deceased in the city travelers or vain girls.
The nave of the church is rib vaulted, chancel has stellar vault. Flying butresses are located high above the roofs of aisles. The general architectural shape of the church is probably the echo of cathedral on Ostrów Tumski, completed during this time. The church has a total length of 62.8 meters and its width is 32.1 meters at the height of the walls of the main aisle 22.9 meters, and the side walls – 9.4 meters.

Current state

   Today the most valuable monument of the church is romanesque portal from monastery in Ołbin, inserted into the south wall of the church. It is widely regarded as the most magnificent romanesque portal in Poland. It was made by a workshop from Lombardy and Aquitaine in the fourth quarter of the twelfth century. The gothic sacramentarium of circa 1410 is also worthy of attention, as well as the rich collection of gravestones and epitaphs of the townspeople of Wrocław dating back to the 15th century.

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Kozaczewska-Golasz H., Halowe kościoły z XIII wieku na Śląsku, Wrocław 2015.

Pilch J., Leksykon zabytków architektury Dolnego Śląska, Warszawa 2005.
Website wikipedia.org, Katedra św. Marii Magdaleny we Wrocławiu.