The Church of Peace in Jawor
A few years ago, my boyfriend and I visited the church of peace in Świdnica. We booked the visit in advance, we arrived at the appointed time and our guide, a friendly Polish woman, only spoke German (you must know that German is used as lingua franca in this part of the world). To my utter surprise, we were the only visitors that day. The guide unlocked the door of the church and we were ushered into the most extraordinary place.
So, when we decided to travel to Jelenia Gora, we promised ourselves that we would visit the church of peace in Jawor which is about 50km away. However, due to the poor transport connections, our trip involved a bus ride to Bolków and then a cheap taxi ride to Jawor. But it was definitely worth it.
I have the impression that so few people know about these stunning churches although they are the two largest timber-framed churches in the world!
Let me tell you a bit about their history. Their construction dates back to the 17th century, in the aftermath of the Thirty Years’ War which was initially a war between various Protestant and Catholic states in the fragmented Holy Roman Empire.
The churches of peace (Polish: Kościoły Pokoju) in Jawor and Świdnica were named after the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. There was also a third church of peace in Głogów but it burnt to the ground in 1758.
Although the treaty paved the way for religious tolerance, it did not grant a full sense of freedom to the Protestants. There were several conditions to be met:
- The churches of peace were to be built outside the towns’ walls
- Only wood, sand, clay and straw could be used in their construction
- They were not allowed to have belfries or steeples
- The finances for the construction had to come from the Protestant people themselves
- And the church had to be erected within one year’s time, which was a particularly hard condition.
The worshippers can be accommodated in four galleries. In the original structure, only the second and the fourth galleries existed. The first and the third galleries were added a few decades later.
On the second gallery from the bottom 72 scenes from The New Testament are depicted; on the forth we can see 71 biblical scenes from the Old Testament.
The coffered ceiling is decorated in white and blue ornaments to keep the Silesian folk style.
The pulpit was built in 1670 by Mateusz Knote and it is one of the most impressive parts of the church.
The Pipe Organ was built in 1663 and it had 26 stops. The instrument was a huge expense for the church. Moreover, it needed frequent and very expensive maintenance. In 1855, Alexander Lummert from Breslau (today Wroclaw) built a new organ which also had 26 stops. Later on, in 1896 the instrument was expanded – one more keyboard and 5 more stops were added to the organ.
There are four confessionals from the second part of the 17th century and one from 1708.
This baptismal font dates from 1650.
There are many stairs and passages, which add to the charm of this wonderful place.
The church is currently being restored. You can see the restorers cleaning and repainting the old walls.
Both churches of peace (in Jawor and Świdnica) were inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list in the year 2001.
If you are not into architecture or history, this is the chocolate version of the church. I found it at the market in Jawor. I’m sure that it’s really tasty…
And I must tell you this. On the way back, there was no bus to go back to Jelenia Gora although it was clearly indicated on the bus schedule. So, we stopped a couple in the street and asked them where the nearest taxi rank was. But the man simply replied: “I’ll drive you to Jelenia Gora!” And so he drove us all the way from Jawor to Jelenia Gora (about 50km). Their names are Dariusz and Magda! I would like to thank them for being so amazingly kind and also for letting us discover some fantastic music during the ride.
I’ve already told you but I’ll tell you again – I love Polish people and Poland!