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Amsterdam and Poland 2017

Day 11  WROCLAW

 Wed., June 14

After our breakfast at our new hotel in Wroclaw, which didn't have as many choices as previous hotels, we left on a bus tour of the city of Wroclaw.  Wroclaw is a large city -the 4th largest city in Poland.   It was heavily damaged during WWII but has been restored beautifully.

   Wrocław is the historical capital of Silesia and Lower Silesia. The history of the city dates back a thousand years, and its extensive heritage combines almost all religions and cultures of Europe. At various times, it has been part of Poland, Bohemia, Prussia or Germany. It became part of Poland in 1945, as a result of the border changes after the World War II.  A thriving multicultural center, Wrocław is home to a growing student community and acts as the financial, cultural and commercial hub of Western Poland, hosting a wide variety of music and theatrical events.

CENTENNIAL HALL

   The coach passed buildings of interest, one in particular that I was interested in was the Centennial Hall, which I have a model of but not made yet. Even though we did not stop, I was pleased to see it from the bus. The Centennial Hall was erected between 1911 – 1913 according to the unique and innovative design by famous architect Max Berg. The hall is referred to as a gem of modern architecture, and the ingeniousness of the creator was the reason for listing the hall as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today it is a center of cultural, business, and sports.  

The modernist design of the Centennial Hall was inspired mostly by classical Gothic architecture. The building has a symmetrical four-leaf plan with a massive central dome resembling Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I’m sorry we did not have the opportunity to stop and look around.  

Our first stop was across from Wyspa Piasek (Sand Island) which is one of the Odra River’s islands within the historic Old Town.

THE CHURCH OF ST. MARY-ON-THE SAND

 The name of the island derives from the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Sand.  The island has an area of ​​about five acres .  The church of St. Mary-on-Sand is located on a small island of the Oder, in the middle of the city. It is now one of the country's oldest Gothic churches.

At the end of the twelfth century the descendants of magnate Pierre Wlast allowed the construction of a Romanesque church on this small island. This church was demolished in the fourteenth century to make way for a larger Gothic church, built of brick between 1334 and 1430. According to the plans of the master architect Peschel, the church was to have two towers, but the north tower was never completed. Illuminated by large windows, nave measures 256 ft. in length. Gothic vaults rise to 79 ft. in height. The church was sacked by Swedish troops in 1632, during the Thirty Years War. Later, lightning struck the south tower destroying its roof, few days before the new 4.7 ton bell was to be blessed.

During the Seven Years War, the Prussians used the church a weapons depot. Hitler made ​​a fortified city of Wroclaw (then called Breslau) in 1944. St. Mary’ is the famous citadel of Breslau. When Soviet troops advancing west in 1945, The Sand Church buildings served as the headquarters of the German army. During the fighting, most of the historical monuments of Breslau were destroyed or severely damaged which in included the Sand Church. The baroque interior was completely burned. After the war, restoration of the church, of which only the walls were still standing, was begun in 1946. There was scaffolding all around the front of the church and partway down each side.

We walk down the left side and around the apse to a small bridge, known Bridge of Lovers, which had almost every surface covered with the padlocks. These locks are placed there by couples to symbolize their love for each other. We also saw these symbols on bridges in Paris and Salzburg.  

After crossing the bridge, we passed the Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross and St. Bartholomew.We did not have time to spend looking at it; however, there was a very ornate statue outside to commemorate John Nepomucen.  Around 1380 he was ordained a priest and became a Canon in Prague.  In 1389, he was appointed vicar general of the Archbishop of Prague.  Due to a dispute between the Czech King Vaclav IV and the archbishop, Jan Nepomucen fell into disfavor of the ruler and in 1393 he was imprisoned. He was was killed when he was dropped from Charles Bridge into the Vitava River.   His corpse was deposited in the Cathedral of Prague.  

JOHN THE BAPTIST CATHEDRAL

 From the statue. we could see the John the Baptist Cathedral. I had been anticipating visiting John the Baptist Cathedral because I had made the model (click here to see model). The model really picked up all the details and I wanted to see it in person.  The first church at the location of the present cathedral was built in the mid-10th century, a fieldstone building with one nave, about 82 ft. in length, including a distinctive transept and an apse. After the Polish conquest of Silesia and the founding of the Wrocław about 1000, this church was replaced by a larger basilical structure with three naves, a crypt, towers on its eastern side. The first cathedral was soon destroyed, probably by the invading troops of Duke Bretislaus of Bohemia around 1039. A larger, Romanesque -style church was soon built in its place in the times of Duke Casimir I, and expanded in 1158. After the end of the Mongol invasion, the church was again largely rebuilt in the present-day brick Gothic style style. It was the first building of the city to be made of brick when construction of the new choir and ambulatory started in 1244. The nave was built in1341.

On June 19, 1540, a fire destroyed the roof, which was restored 16 years later in the Renaissance style. Another fire on June 9, 1759, burnt the towers, roof, sacristy, and choir. The damage was slowly repaired during the following 150 years. Between 1873-75, Karl Lüdecke rebuilt the interior and western side in neo-Gothic style. Further work was done at the beginning of the 20th century especially on the towers ruined during the 1759 fire.

The cathedral was very badly damaged (about 70% of the building) during the Siege of Breslau and heavy bombing by the Red Army in the last days of World War II. The initial reconstruction of the church lasted until 1951, when it was reconsecrated. In the following years, additions were rebuilt and renovated. The original conical shape of the towers was restored only in 1991.

 The cathedral holds the largest pipe organ in Poland, built in 1913.

 We went inside for a few minutes. But weren’t allow enough time to really explore like we always do.  I didn't have time to see the back side, which is very interesting on the model.  This is one of the disadvantages of going on a tour.  We could have spent hours there.

 

 

  After sightseeing on the bus for a little longer, we began walking for about an hour. All round Wroclaw streets are little metal statues of dwarfs or gnomes.  

The tradition of the little metal men scattered around the city began with a single dwarf figurine commemorating the mascot of the Orange Alternative protesters, opposers of the 1980s communist regime.

Mostly a Solidarity Movement, Orange Alternative voiced their opposition of the regime by protesting in whimsical and ridiculous ways, forcing authorities to look the other way. When police would cover up anti-regime slogans, Orange Alternative took action by painting graffiti dwarves on the spot they had covered up. At one point there were over 1,000 of these graffiti dwarves all over Poland.   Since the fall of communism in the 1990s, Orange Alternative has remained mostly inactive, but the first dwarf figurine was erected in 2001 to commemorate the movement.

 Today there are over 250 dwarves hiding in plain sight around Wroclaw, serving as a fun tourist sight and sometimes even a surprise for locals. Some of the dwarves are harder to find than others, some in plain sight and others shimmying up a pole or peeking out next to a doorway.

 We stopped a Palzki Shop (donut) called Paczkarnia, which served wonderful filled palzki through a walk-up window on the street.  We stood on the street eating these delicious treats, courtesy of Collette Tours.

We walked past the Town Hall which was developed over a period of about 250 years, from the end of 13th century to the middle of 16th century. The structure and floor plan changed over this extended period in response to the changing needs of the city. The exact date of the initial construction is not known. However, between 1299 and 1301, a single-story structure with cellars and a tower was built. The oldest parts of the current building, the Burghers’ Hall and the lower floors of the tower, may date to this time.

In these early days, the primary purpose of the building was trade rather than civic administration activities. Between 1328 and 1333, an upper story was added to include the Council room and the Alderman’s room the building became a key location for the city’s commercial and administrative functions.

The 15th and 16th centuries were times of prosperity for Wroclaw as was reflected in the rapid growth,particularly from 1470 to 1510, Further innovations during the 16th century included the addition of the city’s coat of arms  (1536), and the rebuilding of the upper part of the tower (1558–59). This was the final stage of the main building program.

By 1560, the major features of today’s Town Hall were established. During the 19th century there were two major changes. The courts moved to a separate building, and the Town Hall became the site of the city council and supporting functions. There was also a major program of renovation because the building had been neglected and was covered with creeping vines.

 The Town Hall now has several Gothic features including some sculptural decoration from this period. By the end of World War II Town Hall suffered minor damage, such as aerial bomb pierced the roof (but not exploded) and some sculptural elements were lost. Restoration work began in the 1950s following a period of research, and this conservation effort continued throughout the 20th century. It included refurbishment of the clock on the east facade. I have a model of the Town Hall, but have not made it yet.

CHURCH OF ST. ELIZABETH OF HUNGRY

  Two blocks from our hotel we passed the church of St. Elizabeth of Hungry. Kathleen was ready for a short nap before we headed out on the next adventure so I explored St. Elizabeth’s Church by myself.

St. Elizabeth's Church dates back to the 14th century, when construction was commissioned by the city. The main tower was originally 427 ft. tall. From 1525 until 1946, St. Elizabeth's was the chief Lutheran Church of Breslau/Wroclaw and Silesia. In 1946 it was expropriated and given to the Military Chaplaincy of the Polish Roman Catholic Church. The church was damaged by heavy hail in 1529, and gutted by fire in 1976. The church's renowned organ was destroyed.

 The reconstructed main tower is now 300 ft. tall. An observation deck near the top is open to the public. Since 1999 there is a memorial on the church property to Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a native of the city (then Breslau, Germany) and martyr to the anti-Nazi Cause.

The church had beautiful modern stained glass as well as traditional glass.  

After a little rest, those who elected to go, about 30, and had paid extra—including us, rode the bus for about an hour to the town of Swidnica to see the Church of Peace.

 

THE CHURCH OF PEACE

 

 

The Church of Peace, which is a wooden building belongs to the Lutherans. It was built in 1657 on the stipulations of The Treaty of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years' War. The Emperor Ferdinand III was obliged by the Swedish to allow evangelicals to erect three so-called “Churches of Peace” in the towns of Jawor, Glogow and Swidnica. The Glogow church burned down in 1758.  Both the Jawor and Swidnica Church have been preserved and are popular attractions.  

The Swidnica church is a basilica created on a plan of a Greek cross. The decor of the church is very Baroque. The main part of the three-aisle church crosses a three- aisle transept in the center of the church. The support of the building consists of wooden columns. The main aisle is 144 ft. long and 32 ft. wide. Using the balconies, the entire church can seat 3000 people with standing room for 4500 more.  

The very tall pulpit is also quite lovely with many carvings. In the balcony behind the altar is the small organ and at the opposite end of the nave is the grand organ which fills the entire balcony with lovely Baroque decorations.  We were scheduled to have an organ concert which was attended only by our group. The concert featured eight selections and lasted a half hour.   It was a very enjoyable experience, and we were certainly glad that we were able to join this extra event.  

 

 Our group had reservations at a local restaurant, Karczma Zagloba, which was uniquely decorated. The room had beamed ceiling with wood posts holding them up.   Attached to the beams were stuffed birds and some animal skulls plus a number of decorated wreathes.   We had chosen our menu yesterday, and Kathleen and I chose the same menu. We had some starters, then soup.  The main course was duck breast, new potatoes, tasty red cabbage and for dessert an apple cake with homemade strawberry ice cream.   Everything was delicious.  

We got back to the hotel about 8:30. We have really enjoyed Wroclaw, so many interesting buildings and churches to visit.  We move on early tomorrow morning.  

 

Day 1 - Amsterdam

Day 2 - Amsterdam

Day 3 - Amsterdam

Day 4 - Amsterdam

Day 5 - Warsaw

Day 6 - Warsaw

Day 7 - Warsaw

Day 8 - Czestochowa and Kracow

Day 9 - Krakow

Day 10 - Auschwitz and Wroclaw

Day 11 - Wroclaw

Day 12 coming soon