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Abstract

In the mid-17th century on the outskirts of the capitals of the hereditary Duchies of Silesia – Glogow, Jawor and Świdnica – Lutheran churches were erected known as the Churches of Peace, now considered the largest Baroque timber-framed ecclesiastical buildings in Europe. Their advent was the result of a particular political and religious situation which existed in Silesia during the early modern era, since it was absorbed into the Habsburg monarchy in 1526. This period of time was also the beginning of the Protestant Reformation which found many supporters among the Silesians. Lutheranism soon became the dominant religion in Silesia. Religious differences between the sovereign and the subjects led to constant tensions that worsened during the Thirty Years’ War. According to the provisions of the Peace of Westphalia (hence the name of the churches), Evangelists could worship in only three new churches in the Duchies, which were to be raised at their own expenses from clay and wood. All the other places of worship were taken away from them. The authorities intended the Churches of Peace to reflect the position of Protestant communities within the existing political realities – simple utilitarian buildings not solid or durable, which in ideological terms should not compete with the monumental Catholic architecture in the towns near which they were erected. These limitations can be seen as the reason the Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica have an interesting décor. The present paper discusses the church in Świdnica, and the historic transformation of its décor and furnishings from the mid-17th to the mid-18th century. The church’s interior included wall and ceiling paintings, woodcarvings of the window sills in the matronea and the loges, liturgical furnishings such as the late Baroque altar (1752–1753), the organ front (1776–1784), the confessional (18th century), the Baroque pulpit (1729), and the Mannerist baptismal font (1661). Furthermore, some epitaphs, heraldic shields, guild emblems, paintings, liturgical utensils, money boxes and other smaller objects associated with the Protestant worship also survived the ravages of time. Numerous seats have also been preserved such as benches, loges and stools. The iconographic programme of the church interior initiated at the end of the 17th century by the ceiling decorations refers to the name of the church, but also evokes the associations with the Temple of Solomon and the dwelling of God among his people. The church’s original architecture which was largely based on practical considerations served as a framework over which with time new “semantic layers” were applied. These were formulated not only in terms of fine arts but also music, including church songs, thanks to the two organ fronts and the word of God preached. They all refer to the same imagery as paintings and sculptures and are deeply embedded in the so-called Baroque Protestant symbolism. What is striking, alongside the unity of its content, is the adhesion to the forms of expression combining text and image in the emblematic tradition. All this makes us see the Church of Peace in Świdnica as a “Gesamtkunstwerk”, although in the past the unity of time in creation was usually observed. In Świdnica the situation is different. As a result of almost three generations of artistic undertakings, the interior has a unique, consistent, and coherently formulated ideological programme, erudi te, even if largely devoid of high artistic quality.
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