A great innovation in church building as a kickback to intolerance

The Churches of Peace  (Poland), from the outside, resemble the half-timbered civilian buildings northern Europe, while inside one has the impression of visiting a baroque theater with boxes on different levels.


José Ignacio Andolz Munuera / Legal Advisory Department (Finance)


May 23, 1618. Three delegates of the Germanic emperor, the Catholic Frederick II of Habsburg, are kidnapped by a group of Protestant nobles and hurled out of a window of Prague Castle in retaliation for the end of religious tolerance by the monarch. 

The immediate consequences of this action were not tragic, because the three imperial officials landed on a pile of manure and only their pride has hurt. However, the worst was yet to come, as the so-called "defenestration of Prague" (1) became the trigger for the Thirty Years' War, perhaps the deadliest warfare confrontation that Europe has ever known, even ahead of the Second World War. In the Thirty Years' War, in addition to the initial religious conflict, the balance between the different powers of the Old Continent and their respective political, territorial and commercial interests were aired on the European chessboard. 

Let us now situate ourselves in Lower Silesia, today part of Poland, but in the mid-17th century was part of the Holy Roman Empire under the rule of Ferdinand III of Habsburg, a fervent Catholic. In those days the nations involved, exhausted by the war effort, had just put an end to the long conflict through a series of agreements, known as the Peace of Westphalia, which were signed in 1648 and are considered the starting point of the modern state. 

The Peace of Westphalia had granted each ruler the right to determine the religion of their own state, but in Lower Silesia, despite its Catholic sovereignty, there lived a sizeable Lutheran community that demanded the right to build their own temples to practice their faith. To achieve this, they requested diplomatic help from Sweden, a Protestant country that was beginning to gain strength on the European map.

The Habsburg monarchy, as well as the Papacy, were weakened after the war and Ferdinand III felt obliged to yield to the Swedish diplomatic pressures and to give permission to construct three Lutheran churches in the localities of Jawor, Swidnica and Glogow, near Breslavia, that were thus known as the Churches of Peace. Nevertheless, he authorized it reluctantly, and tried to ensure that the churches would never be built and that, if they did, they would not look anything like the Catholic temples and would not remain standing for a long time.

To this end, he imposed conditions bordering on the impossible: firstly, the churches were to be located outside the city walls, at least "a cannon blast away”. In addition, they would have to be built only with perishable materials, such as wood, sand, clay and straw, they were not allowed to use nails, they could not have bell towers and, to top it off, construction had to be completed within a year. 

The architect Albrecht von Sabisch, a prestigious builder of fortifications -with good reason-, took up the challenge. In view of the enormous restrictions imposed, he had no choice but to implement totally innovative construction solutions: the Churches of Peace are supported by a framework of wooden posts and beams filled with a mixture of straw, mud and pieces and planks of wood; the horizontal beams are reinforced by diagonal struts, which in turn are inserted into vertical posts, which seek to prevent the displacement of the structure. Oh, and there are indeed nails! But they are also made of wood, as are the roof tiles.



The Churches of Peace, from the outside, resemble the half-timbered civilian buildings northern Europe, while inside one has the impression of visiting a baroque theater with boxes on different levels. In fact, just as the Emperor wanted, they are unlike any other, but that is precisely what gives them a magical aura.
The church of Gloglow disappeared in the 18th century due to a fire, but the churches of Jawor and Swidnica not only continue to stand proudly for four centuries and are the largest wooden churches in Europe, but their historical value, their excellent preservation and their unique characteristics, the result of imperial hostility, led UNESCO to declare them World Heritage Sites. They are listed under No. 1054 since 2001. 

Perhaps Ferdinand III turns in his grave when, every year, tourists from all over the world are attracted to Lower Silesia precisely because of the uniqueness of these two jewels of the Baroque. The fact is that the new times almost always burst in with enough verve to make fun of even the most stubborn immobility.

(1) In fact, history records up to four defenestrations of Prague: two in the 15th century, the best known in 1618 and the last one, still shrouded in mystery, in 1948, when the only non-communist minister of the government of the then Czechoslovakia was found dead under a window of his ministry. Let us hope that, in this day and age, this unique example of the native cultural tradition has fallen into disuse among the Prague people!


Imágenes: Wikipedia https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iglesias_de_la_Paz_de_Jawor_y_%C5%9Awidnica


: swidnica y su iglesia de la paz






 la paz de westfalia






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