Świdnica 's main attraction is the so-called Church of Peace, one of three wooden churches that the Protestants of Silesia were allowed to build after the Peace Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Two are preserved, this one and another in Jawor, the third one in Glogów is gone.
I visited both Churches of Peace in August 2014 on a privately organized excursion. We went to Jawor first – see previous blog entry -, then to Świdnica. After the visit to the church we still had time for a quick walk into town and a coffee break.
Świdnica is located in Silesia, until 1945 this was a German town with German population. The German name is Schweidnitz. The general impression of Świdnica is a smallish, off the beaten path country town that would not see any tourists if it weren't for nostalgic homeland tourism from Germany. And for its World Heritage site, the Church of Peace.
Church of Peace
In 1652 the protestant community of Schweidnitz received permission to build a wooden church outside the town walls, under the condition that the construction works would not take any longer than one year. Master builder Albrecht von Saebisch from Breslau designed a cross-shaped church that accommodates 7,500 people. Works started in August 1656, and already in June 1657 the new church was inaugurated.
In the wars between Prussia and Austria of the mid-18th century the church suffered some damage. But apart from that, it has survived the centuries remarkably well, including World War II and the communist era.
The church has already been presented in an earlier entry about a “Churching Excursion” in Lower Silesia, which we did in fall 2015 during a conference in Wrocław. That was my second time I visited Świdnica. Hence there is no need to repeat it all. I am skipping the church here.
This blog entry assembles a couple of photos that I took during a walk in the streets of the town centre. We were walking from the Church of Peace to the Rynek, then to the catholic church, and back, so these are random street views along the way. They give an idea of the general appearance.
This is no polished tourist destination but just a plain small town. The presence of several restaurants in Rynek with pretty outdoor seating indicate that this town gets its share of tourists, but most of them will hardly venture further than the Peace Church and the main square.
There is quite a lot of 19th century architecture in the streets of Swidnica. Unfortunately most of it is in rather bad shape.
Architecture from the communist era in between - at least they gave it a splash of colours.
Like most Silesian cities and towns, Świdnica has the typical Rynek, formerly named Ring. Just like in Wrocław, Oleśnica, Dzierżoniów, Jelenia Góra etcetera, the middle of the square is occupied by the town hall and a block of houses.
Some baroque buildings are preserved around the square. They have suffered from architectural sins, though – the shop fronts inserted into their ground floors show lack of taste and sense for historical monuments altogether.
In best Bohemian tradition, a baroque Trinity Column has been erected in the square. The fountains date from about the same era. The most remarkable fountain is the one with the statue of Neptune next to the Trinity Column.
The Catholic Cathedral
The main church in town is the large catholic one. The main Roman-Catholic church is now entitled Cathedral. Świdnica has become the seat of a bishop only in 2004, though. Previously it had simply been the town’s parish church of St Stanislaus and Wenzel (Kościół ŚŚ. Stanisława i Wacława). The church is prominently located in a wide square within the old town. The building dates from the late middle ages, then was repaired after a fire in the 1530. Until the 30 Year War it had been a protestant church for some decades. In 1660 it was given to the Jesuits who then refurbished the interior in baroque style.
It was already late in the afternoon and dusk was creeping in when we ran over to have a quick look at the church. Evening mass had just ended, and all we had were a few minutes in the darkening church. Thus, not only my photos but also my memories are rather dim.
The square outside has the inevitable statue of Pope John Paul II. Here he is depicted kneeling in veneration.
For visitors, there is another bronze in the square that may be more interesting: a model of the town. The coloration has been done by me – not in the original but only in the photo file;-) – to show the location of the two churches in relation to the structure of the town. The red area is the old town, with Rynek (marked in yellow) in the centre and, highlighted, the catholic church respective cathedral. The green area further west is the Lutheran churchyard with the Church of Peace outside the old town.