from UNESCO World Heritage Centre:
The Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica, the largest timber-framed religious buildings in Europe, were built in the former Silesia in the mid-17th century, amid the religious strife that followed the Peace of Westphalia. Constrained by the physical and political conditions, the Churches of Peace bear testimony to the quest for religious freedom and are a rare expression of Lutheran ideology in an idiom generally associated with the Catholic Church.
Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica
Justification for Inscription
Criterion iii The Churches of Peace are outstanding testimony to an exceptional act of tolerance on the part of the Catholic Habsburg Emperor towards Protestant communities in Silesia in the period following the Thirty Years’ War in Europe. Criterion iv As a result of conditions imposed by the Emperor the Churches of Peace required the builders, to implement pioneering constructional and architectural solutions of a scale and complexity unknown ever before or since in wooden architecture. The success may be judged by their survival to the present day. Criterion vi The Churches of Peace bear exceptional witness to a particular political development in Europe in the 17th century of great spiritual power and commitment.
The Churches of Peace are outstanding testimony to an exceptional act of tolerance on the part of the Catholic Habsburg Emperor towards Protestant communities in Silesia in the period following the Thirty Years’ War in Europe. As a result of conditions imposed by the emperor, the Churches of Peace required the builders to implement pioneering constructional and architectural solutions of a scale and complexity unknown in wooden architecture. The success may be judged by their survival to the present day.
The Thirty Years’ War in Europe ended with the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), which upheld the principle of cuius regio eius religio , i.e. the faith professed by the ruler was obligatory for his subjects. At that time Silesia was part of the Catholic Habsburg monarchy. In most of the province Protestants were persecuted and deprived of the right and possibility to practise their faith. Through the agency of the Lutheran king of Sweden, the emperor finally allowed (1651-52) the erection of three churches, henceforth known as the Churches of Peace, in Silesian principalities under direct Habsburg rule – in Głogów, which ceased to exist in the 18th century, Jawor, and Swidnica in the south-west part of present-day Poland.
Unlike the Baroque Roman Catholic churches of Silesia, the Churches of Peace do not represent a self-confident mission-oriented religion, triumphant in its victory over heretics, but rather they embody a place of refuge for an oppressed religious minority that wanted to assert its faith, to remain conscious of its individuality, and to preserve the communal cult of its traditions and practices. Stability and durability were achieved by means of an efficient structural system and careful use of traditional techniques in handling the materials and in connecting the individual timbers with one another. The Churches of Peace are among the latest examples of an architecture that combines post-and-beam construction (building with one-piece wall-high posts) with the use of halved joints; the structural framework of regularly placed uprights and horizontal connecting rails is reinforced by means of diagonal crossed struts that are inserted in the posts and rails in a way that makes shifting of the structural framework impossible. As post-and-beam buildings, the Churches of Peace are part of a European tradition that goes back to the 12th century and continued into the 18th century. The churches in Jawor and Swidnica differ in the character of their floor plans. Both have three aisles, both terminated in a polygonal east end, but whereas in Jawor the eastern end is still a true chancel, in Swidnica it is only the formal remembrance of such: its function has become that of a sacristy.
The Lutheran Church of Peace in Jawor was designed by the architect Albert von Sabisch and constructed by the master carpenter Andreas Gamper from Jawor in 1654-55. Located outside the town, the church is surrounded by a park, the former graveyard, with the original layout of tree-lined alleys. The auxiliary buildings occupy a quarter of the site. The church is in the form of a basilica with one nave, two aisles and a presbytery. The building is timber-framed, filled with vertical wooden chips wrapped in straw and plastered with clay. It is covered with shingle roofs. The bell tower was erected in 1707 on a rectangular plan. The interior has two tiers of principal galleries and two tiers of auxiliary galleries, added in the 18th century. The polychrome decoration consists of ornaments in white and blue and 143 biblical scenes with inscriptions. The paintings, inspired by Mathias Merian, were executed by Georg Flegel. Similar decoration is also on the auxiliary galleries, and the decor is supplemented by cartouches bearing coats of arms. The high altar (1672) is a multistoreyed structure executed by the workshop of Michael Schneider of Landshut.
The Lutheran Church of Peace in Swidnica was designed by the same architect as the Church of Jawor, Albert von Sabisch, and built by master carpenters Andreas Gamper and Kaspar König in 1656-57. North of the town centre, it was incorporated into the outer ring of fortifications in the mid-18th century. The auxiliary buildings include the head pastor’s residence, the vicarage and two schools. The church is in the form of a basilica with a transept and four tiers of galleries. Its plan is close to a Greek cross. The polychrome decoration of the interior, started in 1693 under the direction of Christian Sussenbach, was inspired by the Bible. The high altar was executed in 1752 by the sculptor Gottfried August Hoffman, replacing an old altarpiece, and he also built the pulpit. The main organ was built by Christoph Klose.
The Thirty Years’ War in Europe ended with the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), which upheld the principle of cuius regio eius religio, ie the faith professed by the ruler was obligatory for his subjects. At that time Silesia was a part of the Catholic Habsburg monarchy. In most of the province Protestants were persecuted and deprived of the right and possibility to practise their faith. Through the agency of the Lutheran king of Sweden, the Emperor finally allowed (1651-52) the erection of three churches, henceforth known as the Churches of Peace, in Silesian principalities under direct Habsburg rule in Glogow (Glogau), which ceased to exist in the 18th century, Jawor (Jauer), and Swidnica (Schweidnitz) in the south-west part of present-day Poland. The Emperor’s consent was, however, given upon conditions that were difficult to comply with. The churches had to be built exclusively of perishable materials (wood and clay), located outside city walls, and built in a limited period of time. These restrictions, together with the need to provide adequate space for large crowds of worshippers, forced the architect, Albrecht von Sabisch (1610-88), a prominent master-builder and fortification designer active in Wroclaw, to implement pioneering constructional and architectural solutions of a scale and complexity unknown ever before or since in wooden architecture. The timber-framed structures of enormous scale and complexity were assembled. The Churches of Peace, as they are still called today, were to be as inconspicuous as possible in the townscape; they were to be the refuge of a legally disadvantaged and only reluctantly tolerated minority, whose role as outsiders should be evident in the location of the churches outside the protective city walls.
The first permit was given to Glogow (1651) and the site was located 300m outside the city walls. Building started quickly and the first service was held in October 1652, but the church was destroyed by a violent storm in the summer of 1654. A new church was built the following year, but this burnt down in 1758 and was then replaced by a brick building. The permit for the other two churches was given in 1652. The church of Jawor was built in 1654-55. In Swidnica a temporary structure (Gotteshüttlein, God’s Hut) was built in 1652 and the actual construction was able to take place in 1656-57, thanks to the donation of Count Hans Heinrich von Hochberg and support from the Lutheran magistrate of Swidnica. A new sacristy was erected in 1695 and private pews were built by noble families in the early 18th century. Several auxiliary buildings were added to the ensemble, including the residences of the pastor and the vicars, a Latin school, and a German school. The two churches were designed as basilicas with built-in galleries but their plans and spatial arrangements differed. In their décor, integrated into the architectural framework, exuberant Baroque forms and complex imagery were used in a truly unique way to convey concepts of Protestant theology. During the Silesian War, Swidnica was under siege on several occasions, and the hostilities resulted in the destruction of the sacristy and structural damage to the northern wall. All the damage was repaired by 1763.
Source: UNESCO World Heritage; Advisory Body Evaluation