Quirky Heritage Sites: Jawor and Świdnica
Thankfully we drove up to Poland as public transportation is slow and definitely doesn’t get you to every possible destination. The country is huge, and we were only visiting a small part on the far western side of it. The Peace churches were a must-see stop for us. I was fascinated that in the late 17th century religious tolerance was being practiced…well somewhat. The Catholic Hapsburgs, those in power, allowed these two Lutheran churches to be built. There were a lot of rules surrounding them and had to be made of wood, but built they were, and today are the largest wooden churches in all of Europe.
Heading out of Wrocław, it only took about 40 minutes to get to Świdnica; and, driving through the town, you wouldn’t think there was anything special there. The streets were vastly empty. No one was around at all; it slept. When we drew up to the church, we saw one small bicycle tour van with maybe six people. This was not a very popular destination. The grounds were barely cleared around the church, maybe a 20 meter circumference, but the church was spectacular. The outside was beautiful with a tudor style wooden pattern.
We went on a Sunday, and unfortunately arrived during a service, so we weren’t able to go in or take any photos on the inside. There were about 20 people in the service, which only took up a fraction of the pews. We didn’t want to interfere, so we basically walked around the outside and left.
We moved on to Jawor. Here the church was not quite as spectacular on the outside, and yes there was another church service being held on the inside. We did see a sign that said that the service should be over at noon. We decided to walk around the medieval town center then return when the service was over.
Jawor’s medieval center was a little disappointing compared to many others we’ve seen in Europe, even in Poland. It definitely paled in comparison to beautiful Wrocław (although it was mainly rebuilt after the Soviet era collapsed). There was a small flea market going on, and the buildings did have the right elements, so we took a few photos and back to the church we went.
The service was not over, but the choir was singing, and we decided to go in and catch the end of the service. The acoustics were amazing and we really enjoyed listening to the beautiful music. There were two priests; the main one spoke in German and the second translated the service into English. Polish was not spoken at all. So much for complete religious tolerance. It appeared that the Poles were all still staunchly Catholic.
The same sign that had told us the times of the service also said that photography inside was strictly forbidden. I believe in following the rules and so had resigned myself to not capturing any photos of the interior. But to my surprise the priest gave everyone there permission to take pictures. That sure did make me happy, but I doubt this happens all the time, so if you go don’t count on it.
Living in Europe, we see church after church, cathedral after cathedral, but I have to say with the back-story of the Peace churches and their statuesque tudor styles, we were completely enthralled by them. I would highly recommend that you see them if you get the chance.
Have you been to Poland? Have you had the chance to visit the Peace churches of Jawor and Świdnica?