Updated: Jun 20, 2020
The Church of Peace in Swidnica, Poland, is the largest wooden church in Europe. It was built in 1657 following the end of the 30 Years’ War between Catholic and Protestants across Europe. As part of the peace treaty, the Catholic Habsburgs were required to allow Lutherans in Silesia (the south-west of modern Poland) to build churches for their congregations. The Habsburgs imposed many restrictions on the churches’ construction: the churches had to be outside the city walls, with no steeples, towers or bells, made of impermanent materials (wood, earth and straw) and constructed within one year. Nobility, burghers and peasants alike rallied to raise money, source materials and develop new building techniques, resulting in the construction of three enormous timber-framed churches. Two remain standing to this day and are now UNESCO World Heritage listed sites.
The church in Swidnica is huge, with capacity for 3,500 seated worshippers and another 4,000 standing. Despite its impressive size, it also has a solid modesty thanks to its timber-and-daub walls, complemented by the simple elegance of its curved shingled porticos.
Outside the church is a cemetery (and lots of red bugs). I got a bit fixated on the doors.
Inside – forget modesty. We’re talking full-blown baroque. O. M. G. Here I was thinking Lutherans would be all scrubbed wood and practicality. No. Here are some snapshots of the altar (added in 1752), pulpit, organ (installed 1666 and still working), painted ceiling, and other assorted bling.