A Travellerspoint blog

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Quarter of Tolerance

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… or the quarter of the four religions: that's what the southwest of the old town outside the ring road (ul. Kazimierza Wielkiego) is known at. Four religious denominations have their houses of prayer in more or less close vicinity:

  1. Jewish: White Stork Synagogue
  2. Protestant Christian: Court Church next to the royal palace
  3. Roman Catholic Christian: Church of St Antonius
  4. Orthodox Christian: Cathedral of the Birth of the Holiest Mother of the Lord, former Church of St Barbara

The city promotes this situation as Quarter of Tolerance. How tolerant the different groups were towards each other in reality, that's another question. (And, to be complete in our times, it would also need a mosque or muslim prayer room. Unthinkable in Poland under the current fascist regime, though.)

Besides, there have never been all four different communities active at the same time. The pre-war Jewish community was extinct under the Nazi regime. The White Stork synagogue is now a museum and cultural centre, hence not used for religious purposes any more. The present, small Jewish community of Wrocław hold their services elsewhere. On the other hand, St Barbara used to be Roman Catholic and became an Orthodox church only in the later 20th century.

This quarter is also Wrocław's most popular nightlife area with many pubs and clubs. Those who have met me know that I am not a party animal, though... so you'd have to ask someone else about this topic. However, I have one tip for your coffee break:

Mleczarnia: Coffeehouse in an Old Dairy

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The former dairy shop in the courtyard by the White Stork synagogue has been turned into a cosy coffeehouse and pub. Some instalments like the old water pump inside tell of the location's former purpose. Seems that at night there is also a club, and they have a little hostel upstairs, but I did not visit either, been there only in the daytime.

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The place is self-service, i.e. you have to walk in and over to the counter, select and order what you want, and take food and drink to your table yourselves. All cakes look home-made and very tasty - my recommendation is the chocolate cake with cherry topping. If you need sugar for your coffee or tea, remember to grab a sugar bowl, too.

Weather permitting, there is outdoor seating in the courtyard under a large chestnut tree - pick a table but note that the wooden chairs belong to Mleczarnia while the nicer comfy chairs and tables belong to the restaurant next door - and enjoy the view of the beautiful facade of White Stork Synagogue.

White Stork Synagogue (Synagoga pod Białym Bocianem)

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The synagogue is certainly the most beautiful building in this quarter. The building was completed in 1829 and shows purest neoclassical style. It was planned by Carl Ferdinand Langhans, the son of the Prussian state architect Carl Gotthard Langhans. The synagogue is located in a wide inner yourtyard that can be reached from the streets through narrow passages. As spectacular as the architecture is, it was hidden from view and not visible from the main streets.

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The White Stork Synagogue survived the Night of the Pogromes in 1938 (while the much larger New Synagogue a few blocks away was destroyed completely), when so many other synagogues were burnt down by the Nazi mob, because it was too close to other buildings and setting fire to it would have been too dangerous. The interior was devastated and the Torah torn to pieces, though. During the war it served as depot for confiscated Jewish property.

A memorial plate in the courtyard recalls how the Jews of Wrocław were assembled right fere for deportation to the concentration camps.
The building remained unused and in a ruinous state until after 2000. Only in recent years it has been thoruoughly restored. It now serves as a cultural centre. Concerts of Jewish music take place regularly. A permanent exhibition tells about the building and its history.

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Protestant Court Church

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The church is a project of the Prussian era. It was built in 1750 as court church for the adjacent palace and of course for the Prussian King. As such it was the first Calvinist church in the predominantly Lutheran city. Nowadays it is used by a protestant community of Augsburgian, i.e. Lutheran, denomination and officially named the Church of Divine Providence.

The interior is all in white and already has an almost neoclassical appearance. Two galleries form a longitudinal oval. Due to the calvinist tradition there are no images and little decoration.

This church is usually closed – which is a shame because the architecture of the interior is of high interest. It is open for services and concerts only. I had the chance to quickly peep in before a wedding - the family were already arriving but the bridal couple was not yet there so I dared. They had decorated the church very prettily, with the white carpet and candles along the aisle, and white flowers. I took a few photos and then left quickly because I did not add much to the decoration...

Church of St Barbara

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The church was already built in the 13th century, then outside the town walls, and mostly used for funerals. Later it became a protestant parish church. Before the war it was famous for its medieval artworks, but most of these are lost. After World War II and the expulsion of the German population, the church was given to the orthodox community who equipped it with an iconostasis.

Many baroque tombstones and epitaphs can still be seen on the outside walls of the church. However, they tell of the early socialist era when anything German was taboo. The German inscriptions have carefully been erased, letter by letter.

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Church of St Antonius

The baroque facade of St Antonius is inserted in the row of houses along the rather narrow of ul. św. Antoniego. Franciscan monks founded the church together with a convent in the late 17th century. St Antonius is the Roman Catholic parish church of the quarter. I only peeped in very briefly just before the beginning of mass. The congregation had already assembled. So I just caught a very quick snapshot „from the hip“ of the interior, which explains the crooked perspective.

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Pokoyhof

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Pokoyhof passage was built in 1911 to substitute an older inn building. There were several such inns and guesthouses in the Jewish quarter, usually quite large estates with passages from both sides and an inner courtyard which allowed carriages and wagons to enter. In the run of the 19th century most of these were turned into shopping passages. Nowasays there are cafes and pubs.

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Pokoyhof is the largest and most prominent among these passages. The facade towards ul. św. Antoniego faces the busy intersection of plac Bohaterów Getta („Square of the Heroes of the Ghetto“) and is an eyecatcher for example from the trams along ul. Kazimierza Wielkiego. It has recently been beautifully restored. When the gate is open, have a look into the courtyard. The architecture combines 'modern' architecture with art nouveau elements, it resembles office and factory buildings from that era. The facades have ornaments made from coloured, glazed bricks. At the far end of the courtyard, look for the two dwarf musicians.

The passage at the far end allows leaving the courtyard to the other side to ul. Włodkowica.

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Posted by Kathrin_E 03:04 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (0)

Nowy Targ: What to Do with Communist Ugliness?

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Nowy Targ, the „New Market“, used to be one of three market squares in the old town. Since the tram stop „Nowy Targ“ is quite convenient to reach or leave the old town, you might pass here.

Unlike Rynek and plac Solny, its historical facades have not been reconstructed after World War II. Only one (neo?)baroque building has been restored on the southern side, and in the northwestern corner there is at least one house from the 19th century. The rest is an assembly of socialist architecture of the, sorry to say that, lousiest kind. The apartment blocks around it are in bad shape - after a renovation they might look better but their architecture will never be much to write home about.

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The climax, however, is the piglet-pink box...

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The square itself has recently been refurbished, though. Underneath there is a new parking garage. Its roof, the square, received a new pavement and, Wrocław's municipality doesn't give up hope, permanent metal deckchairs that are to invite people to stay and rest in the square. Well, some really do.

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By the pedestrians' entrance to the parking garage, a window is given to students of the academy of fine arts to present their works.

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At regular intervals, not sure if weekly or monthly, the square sees a farmers' market. During the pre-Christmas season it sports a strange artificial Christmas tree in weird colours.

Let's see how the square will develop. Perhaps there is hope?

Posted by Kathrin_E 15:49 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (2)

Churches, Churches, Churches: My Personal Awards

„Churching“ in Wrocław

Wrocław is the perfect destination to go Churching. I stole this newly invented term, which describes certain art historians' favourite travel activity, from my colleagues in Wrocław...
Wrocław is full of churches. There are six on Ostrów Tumski alone, three more on Sand Island, I counted 14 in the old town within the former moat, and an unknown but large number in the outer quarters and suburbs. Some of them deserve separate entries, but I can't write about them all. So here is a personal shortlist, written with a twinkle.

I have already presented some of them, hence I am not repeating the photos, that's why not all awards are accompanied by images.

Drum roll

My church awards in these categories go to:

Most impressive buildings: Holy Cross, Cathedral of St John Baptist

Most impressive gothic interior: St Elizabeth

Most impressive baroque interior: Hochberg chapel in St Vincent

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Most impressive construction site: Facade and steeples of St Mary Magdalene, under restoration then

Least impressive attraction: Crypt of St Vincent

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Prettiest facade ornaments: Corpus Christi

Baroque overload: Jesuit church of the Divine Name of Jesus, aka University Church

Nicest and friendliest reception of visitors: Greek-Catholic Cathedral of St Vincent

Highest steeple climb: St Elizabeth

Easiest steeple climb: Cathedral of St John Baptist

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Cutest: shared between St Egidius and the little wooden church in park Szczytnicza

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Best reflection: St Wojciech (in the facade of Galeria Dominikanska)

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Finest ensemble: St Clara, St Mathias, St Vincent, Ossolineum and the abbey buildings

Most entertaining: St Mary on Sand Island for the mechanical nativity

Richest in art treasures from protestant era: St Elizabeth

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Splendour: Chapels in the cathedral

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Fullest with furniture: St Stanislaus, Wenzel and Dorothea

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Kitsch award: Holy Cross, for the exhibition of contemporary church art, especially the Internet Madonna

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Most convincing and converting: St Michael in Nadodrze, where a certain girl named Edith Stein found her catholic faith (and later became a saint)

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Darkest: Cathedral of St John Baptist

Brightest: Protestant Court Church

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Best post-war reconstruction: Oratorium Marianum in the old university building

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Finest portal: St Mary Magdalene for the Romanesque side portal

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Closed Door award: Protestant Court Church

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Ouch! award: to the 1980s and 1990s catholic churches in the suburbs

Posted by Kathrin_E 01:08 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (2)

The Divine Mercy Image

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A copy of this painting can be found in many, if not most, catholic churches in Wrocław and all over Poland. The inscription translates to, „Jesus I trust in you“. A closer look reveals that it shows rays of light going out from Jesus’s heart but seen from a distance or through misty glasses it looks like a long gown. (Forgive the blasphemy but at first sight I could not help thinking of Conchita Wurst... but my glasses WERE misty then.)

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The art historian in me could not be restrained from doing some serious research, though. I found out that this image, entitled the Divine Mercy, is based on a vision of Saint Faustyna Kowalska. Sister Maria Faustyna was a nun in the convent of Płock in 1931. One night she had a vision of Jesus. Jesus' right hand made a gesture of blessing, while his left hand rested on his heart, and from there two rays of light emerged, one red, the other white. Faustyna made a vow never to forget this image and to have it painted.

Three painters did three versions of the picture according to Sr. Faustyna’s description. The one by Adolf Hyła (1943) became the most popular image and has been reproduced countless times. Almost every catholic church owns and displays a copy of the image.

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In the church of Lesnica, and hidden in a corner in St Mary Magdalena

Posted by Kathrin_E 01:28 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (0)

Krzyki: Once Breslau's most upscale quarter

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The southern suburbs of Krietern (Krzyki) and Kleinburg (Borek) used to be the best and most upscale residential quarters of pre-war Breslau. The name Krzyki is now used for the whole district, according to my map. The main street, formerly named Kaiser-Wilhelm-Straße, now ul. Postańców Śląskich, was a wide boulevard with lanes for traffic (first carriages, later cars) on both sides and a separate lane framed by trees in the middle which was meant for horse-riders. It is interrupted by the wide circle of Hindenburgplatz, now plac Postańców Slaskich.

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The wealthiest families of the city built their villas in Kleinburg (Borek); some of these villas are still standing. The water tower and the church of St Augustin, both built shortly after 1900, are landmarks.

This quarter was, however, badly damaged and partly destroyed in 1944/45. The Soviet army’s attack on the city came from this side. Nowadays Krzyki is a mix of styles and eras. Some groups of pre-war buildings are still there. In the empty spaces between them new socialist apartment blocks were built. The structure is best observed from the top of Skytower, from which the birds eye views were taken.

Villa Schottlaender

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Julius Schottlaender was one of the richest Jewish businessmen in Breslau. From his property he donated vast estates to the city to create a public park, now Park Poludniowy, and the horse race course.

His villa in ul. Powstanców Slaskich, next to the park, tells of the wealth of the family. It is now a hotel which looks very upscale from the outside.
The monumental tomb of Julius Schottlaender and his family, in so-called Egyptian style, is preserved in the Jewish cemetery.

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Park Południowy and Chopin Monument

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Park Południowy, the „Southern Park“, is the green lung of Krzyki. It is a pretty park that invites for a walk under beautiful old trees and round the pond in the middle. It is a popular retreat among locals.

The park was designed and planted in the 1890s in the grounds that the businessman Julius Schottländer had donated to the city. The park was of course affected by the war and its aftermaths but has been restored to excellent shape.

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The monument to the composer Frederyk Chopin is a recent addition. Chopin, pronounced „SHO-pen“ in Polish, is ‚the‘ musical hero in Poland. The modern monument in the park was erected in 2004 and commemorates Chopin's concert in Breslau on September 30, 1830. The stairs and pedestal have become a popular playground. It is difficult to catch the photo without any child running or climbing on them.

Posted by Kathrin_E 02:19 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (0)

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