… 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:
- Jewish: White Stork Synagogue
- Protestant Christian: Court Church next to the royal palace
- Roman Catholic Christian: Church of St Antonius
- 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
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.
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)
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.
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.
Protestant Court Church
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
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.
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.
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.
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.