In the sixteenth century Świdnica was the second biggest town in Lower Silesia, a region which belonged at that time to the Habsburg empire. After Martin Luther published his Theses, Świdnica became a prominent center of Protestant Reformation, with many churches, priests and believers. The biggest parish of Ss.Stanislav and Vaclav had a church with a tower of 103 meters, higher than all other church towers in Silesia. The life in Świdnica was nice and peaceful until 1618, when the Habsburgs launched the Counter-Reformation which lead to the Thirty Years' War. And yes, this was a horrible war that really lasted thirty years. It ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia. One of the clauses of the peace treaty guaranteed to the protestants in Lower Silesia the right to build three churches, so-called Churches of Peace, including one in Świdnica.
Let's enter by the main gate to the Peace Square.
The building on the left is the Guard House.
In the back you can see the bell tower. It was built much later than the church. The reason for this is that the Emperor imposed many restrictions on the Peace Churches - one of them was that they could not have a tower or a belfry. In fact, they were supposed to be built "in a shape that is not typical for churches". That is why when I looked at the Świdnica church for the first time I was a bit surprised that this building was actually a church.
In winter time it is possible to visit the church only if you book your visit in advance.
Before we enter it, I must give you the other restrictions posed by the Emperor on the protestants who wanted to have their church. Only then you will be able to fully appreciate what they have achieved:
- the building materials could be wood, sand, clay and straw
- the church had to be erected within one year’s time
- the church had to be located outside the city walls
- as mentioned, it could not have the shape of a church and a tower.
The main entry is here.
And now my friends, open your eyes and admire. The church is 40 meters long and 30.5 meters wide. The central nave is 15 meters high. It has a total area of 1,090 m2 (covering the ground floor and 4 levels of balconies, called matronea) and can hold 7,500 people, including 3,000 seated. It is the largest wooden church in Europe.
The main altar is baroque in style and includes a sculpture of the baptism of Jesus Christ.
On the left side you probably noticed the pulpit, also magnificently decorated.
I liked a lot this little detail - a set of hourglasses that allowed the priest to keep the length of his sermon reasonable.
On the right side the line of the matronea is disturbed by a loge seating of the Hochberg family who provided the wood needed to build the church.
Other donors and supporters were commemorated with paintings and inscriptions.
Since the church was built from wood, so is the ceiling.
At the intersection of the naves, the ceiling includes a painting of the Holy Trinity.
I was really impressed by the care given to the details. Just look at these seats ...
... or this box for offering.
The church in Świdnica, like any other huge church, includes also a huge organ. Unfortunately it requires often important conservation efforts. This is also the case today.
This is what it looks like in good times.
Since the conservation works are lengthy, the church is also equipped with a smaller organ, located behind the main altar.
Next to the entrance lies a bell. I am not sure how they manage to ring it. Any ideas?
In the antechamber of the church there is a little exhibition. You can see the clothes used in the past by the priests of the parish ...
... and even the priests themselves.
In the middle you can admire a beautifully ornamented baptismal font.
I was truely impressed by the Church of Peace in Świdnica. Especially since I have found out that nowadays the parish includes only 120 parishioners who are obviously unable to support all the restoration and conservation works. This is the reason why the church is supported by a special foundation. You can help it by coming there and paying the admission fee. And by buying some great postcards as well.