Churches of Peace
The Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica are the largest timber-framed religious buildings in Europe and a symbol of religious tolerance from the 17th century. After the Peace of Westphalia (1648), the Protestants in Silesia were allowed by the Habsburg Roman Catholic emperor to build three churches. Restrictions were that they had to be constructed outside the city walls, made of wood or clay and built in less than a year.
The architect responsible for all three was Albrecht von Sabisch. The churches had to be big enough to be a true place of refuge for the Protestant population. He designed wooden buildings that had never been seen before in complexity and size.
The church in Glogów burned in 1758, the other two in Jawor and Swidnica were restored by Polish-German cooperation.
Visit May 2009
Jawor is a town just off the main road between Berlin and Wroclaw. The location of the Church of Peace is indeed inconspicuous – I drive past it on my first approach, am led to some vegetable gardens by my SatNav and decide to try it again by myself. When I see a tour bus and a cemetery I feel that at least something has got to be there. When I stop my car I notice even a large sign including the Unesco symbol, facing the other way than I came from.
The church itself, although of a large size, is hidden behind trees. When I arrive, members of a music group are unloading their instruments from a van and carrying them inside. I just sneak in between them, fortunate for the chance to see the church interior. The walls and ceiling are totally covered with white and blue ornaments. The scenery reminds me of some of the wooden churches that I visited last year in Slovakia, although those churches are much smaller. The floor of the church in Jawor is completely filled with rows and rows of wooden benches: it has room for 6000 people.
And this church is a Protestant one (not Orthodox or Catholic as in Slovakia), however more exuberant than usual to be able to compete with the Catholic baroque splendour of its neighbours. There are no less than 143 biblical scenes painted on the walls, and an ornate high altar. A wonderfully preserved and original site, and still in use.
I had wanted to visit Swidnica too – but I didn’t plan very well and just couldn’t find the town! Back in my hotel I looked it up in Google Maps and noticed that it is located about 20 km southeast of Jawor. According to the ICOMOS evaluation the two remaining churches are quite similar, so I don’t feel too bad about it.
More photos can be found in the Picture Gallery
|Klaus Freisinger (Austria):|
There are plenty of wooden churches all across Central and Eastern Europe, and most seem to be inscribed on the WH List as well. Still, these 2 are definitely worth seeing, and their architecture is really impressive. I first went to Jawor, then to Swidnica - both towns are not too far away from Wroclaw, and a visit to both makes a nice day trip, which is also reasonably easy to do by public transport (although a bit time-consuming). Both churches are quite impressive, although the one in Swidnica is bigger and definitely gets more visitors (Swidnica is also a much bigger town than Jawor). It is really hard to believe that both are Protestant churches, as they are quite lavishly decorated. When Silesia was still part of the Habsburg domains in the 17th century, the local Protestants were granted permission to build these churches as a gesture of goodwill after the carnage of the Thirty Years' War and the following Peace of Westphalia. There were some rather petty conditions attached, though, such as the prohibition to use any other building material but wood, or the requirement that the churches be built outside the city walls. Still, the locals built them within a year (another condition), with the financial help of Protestants from across Northern Europe. Quite a remarkable achievement, really, and true to their name, they function even today as symbols of reconciliation between Poland and Germany.
| Date posted: September 2014|
|John Booth (New Zealand):|
Last October I reached both churches in one day from Wroclaw. I travelled by train to Jawor, changing at Legnica. Later I caught a bus from the Tesco car park in Jawor to get to Swidnica, then returned from Swidnica by bus direct to Wroclaw.
Both churches were open for visits, and at Jawor I received a recorded commentary in English. But at Swidnica there were only brochures in Dutch. But the profusion in both churches of religious artwork and gilded decoration was stunning.
| Date posted: January 2014|
|Assif Am-David (Israel):|
I recently visited the town of Swidnica where one of the two surviving Churches of Peace still stands. The town is about an hour away from Wroclaw and easily accessible by a minibus from Wroclaw railway station.
Swidnica is a very nice Renaissance town with a small and well preserved historic core. It also seems to be a lively town despite its small scale. The Church of Peace is situated 10 minutes walk from the main square, where it once stood outside the city walls.
The church is huge, wooden and densely ornamented - a special and quite impressive combination. It also features a complex row of galleries, each of which is covered by frescoes.
Unfortunately, I couldn't have a coplete impression of the church during my visit as I couldn't go up to the galleries. I hope this is possible in general and that this was only due to current renovations, because it seems the view from the galleries is much wider and gives a better grasp of the building.
Moreover, even on the ground floor I was limited to only one half of the church, so I couldn't really see enough different angles of what seems to be an elaborate building. Nonetheless, this is an exceptional church and does merit a visit. I do wonder though whether Swidnica is indeed the better choice of the two inscribed (the other one is in Jawor) if you can't make it to both.
| Date posted: September 2012|
|Christer Sundberg (Sweden):|
It wasn’t easy to get to Swidnica but with some assistance from a few Polish bus companies I eventually found the small town at the foot of the Sudeten Mountains. My guidebook told me that in medieval times, Swidnica was one of the wealthiest towns in Silesia and a commercial centre well known for its beer, sold as far away as Prague. To me it looked like a small copy of neighbouring Wroclaw but with a certain charm of its own.
Just a few minutes walk from the city centre is the unique wooden Church of Peace, erected in 1656-57. Together with its “cousin” in the nearby village Jawor, it’s the largest wooden church in the world, seating over 3500 people if necessary. The 17th-century baroque interior decoration is absolutely brilliant, covering walls and ceilings and given that it’s all built in wood a small prayer that it will last for many years to come, might be in place…
|Jose Gomes (Portugal):|
Roman (Czechia) did a very nice description of these churches. We used our own car to reach these sites and we found it very easy, even despite it is very dangerous to drive in Poland. The paintings on the walls are very nice. For those visiting Krakow it is not "far" since there is a motorway (there are a few in Poland but this picture will change in a few years due to the entrance of Poland in the European Union) connecting Krakow and Wroclaw (another UNESCO site).
| Date posted: September 2006|
|Lawrence Siddall (U.S,A,):|
I was an American Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in a high school in Swidnica, Poland, from 1997-99. I visited the Peace Church many times and, with permission from the pastor, I made a new cassette recording in English about the church that is available to visitors; one can also listen to a recording in German or Polish. The church is an architectural gem and one of the most beautiful in Poland.
My last visit there was in September,2005.
| Date posted: April 2006|
Churches of Peace are great artistic achievement with Catholic-like innner decorations,even though Protestants'.
The magnificient atmosphere is covering these wooden architecture and are welcome for the visitors kindly.
When I went there,both churches were closed but,caretakers of each churches unlocked it for me and I could see inside.
I recommend this world heritage site strongly,if someone is about to travel in Poland.
| Date posted: February 2006|
I have visited the Church of Peace in Swidnica. There is another one in Jawor and the third one was built in Glogow, but it burned in 18th century. The churches were built after the Peace of Westphalia, when the Lutheran Protestants were allowed by German emperor to built their churches. The building conditions were very restrictive as they must have been built during one year only, at the back of the city walls and only timber, clay and sraw as unstable materials could have been used. They were supported by very rich protestant famillies and they made something, what considering the condition is really breathtaking. The church in Swidnica is in a peacefull park and the timber-framed walls of the church look interesting. The inside is absolutelly excellent. There is a great baroque interior completely carved in wood. There are two galleries, so the church seats about 7,000 people. The wood is painted in gold and the frames of the galleries look like laces. Really exceptional place.
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