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The Templar Chapel in Chwarszczany
Templar Route | Lietzen | Chwarszczany | Rurka

Fasada kaplicy w XIX wieku<br>        wg rysunku Adlera

Facade of the chapel
according to F.Adler’s 19th century drawing

Originally a Templar castle chapel, later owned by the order of the Knights Hospitallers. This Gothic chapel was built in the 1280s. After serious damage caused during the Seven Years War, it was rebuilt and adapted, and between 1870 and 1898 - restored. It contains relics of a former granite Romanesque chapel dating from the middle of the 13th century which forms the lower part of the facade with a pointed arched portal. Stone from that chapel was also used in the construction of a massive plinth of the Gothic chapel. It is set on a rectangular plan, three-bayed, with a pentagonal eastern end. The interior is covered by rib-vaults supported by circular shafts, only in the polygon leading down to the floor. The walls are supported by massive buttresses and the facade is flanked by cylindrical towers topped by cupolas. The design of the building takes its origins from French castle chapels and is considered to be a symbolic copy of the Holy Sepulchre or the Temple of Solomon. Inside there are Gothic murals dating from about 1400, presently under restoration.


Sluzka1

Sluzka2

Sluzka3

Carving on the vaulting shafts

(drawing: Maciej Sałański)

In 1232 the Knights Templars received a conferment of a thousand łany (1 łan ~ 17 ha) in the Kostrzyn region, with its centre in Chwarszczany on the river Myśla from the prince of Wielkopolska, Władysław Odonicz. The main reasons for such a generous donation were religious ones, the need to safeguard the borderland from enemy expansion and the desire to settle the area under German Law. In 1234 Barnim I the prince of Szczecin gave the Templars of Chwarszczany two hundred łany with the centre in Dargomyśl. The Templars of Chwarszczany came from an unknown commandery in the German province, possibly from the Silesian commandery in Oleśnica Mała. In 1241 the Templars of Chwarszczany were given two villages: Lubno and Oborzany, from a donation of Włast, a Silesian magnate. In the middle of the 13th century the Chwarszczany property came under the control of the Brandenburg margraves from the Askan dynasty. The relations between the Templars and the margraves were not good. The margraves demanded some properties from the order to be handed over to them. In 1261 an agreement was reached. According to it the Templars, in return for the abdication of rights to the commandery in Myślibórz, and the lands situated by the road from Kostrzyn to Gorzów, received a confirmation of the possession of Chwarszczany with ten villages. Additionally they were also given the village of Kaleńsko.

The relations with the margraves must have improved, for in 1286 Otto VI from the Askan dynasty entered the monastery in Chwarszczany. The commandery acquired greater significance. In the 1290s the commander of Chwarszczany, Bernhard von Eberstein, became the preceptor of Poland, the New Margravate, Bohemia and Moravia. The last mention of the Templars of Chwarszczany is a reference to the sale of the village of Cychry to the Frankfurt townspeople in 1308. After the suppression of the Templars the order's property was taken over by the Hospitallers.

The commandery in Chwarszczany was built on a flat hillock in a bend of the river Myśla.About the middle of the 13th century a granite Romanesque chapel was built in the north-west part. This building was set on a rectangular plan with the presbytery at the eastern end narrower than the nave. In the 1390s the chapel was taken down. The present Gothic chapel was built in its place. The western part of the old chapel containing a portal survived the demolition. The remaining stone was used in the plinth of the Gothic chapel.

The chapel was designed on an oblong plan with a polygonal eastern end. The interior is covered by the rib-vaults supported by the capitals of the vaulting-shafts. The vertical sections of walls, defined by the vaulting-shafts, are pierced with narrow pointed-arched windows. Two niches with brick moulding were located in the southern and eastern wall of the presbytery. The first of them was used as a sedile; the second as a sanctuary where the Host was kept. From the outside the walls are supported by massive buttresses and the facade is flanked by cylindrical towers topped by cupolas. The stone portal and three-light window above it are aligned symmetrically between the towers. In the southern elevation of the second bay a blind portal made of terracotta is located.

The foundation of the Chwarszczany chapel is connected with the patronage of the margraves of Brandenburg. It was built by the members of the Cistercian workshop who had previously worked in the monastery in Chorin near ArgenmŁnde. The builders used the typical spatial system of Cistercian, Dominican and Franciscan chapels and also a range of architectural details characteristic for their buildings. After the suppression of the Knights Templars the Chwarszczany property including the buildings of the commandery was taken over by the Knights Hospitallers. In the middle of the 16th century the Hospitallers ordered a renovation of the Templar altarpiece dedicated to St Catherine and St John the Evangelist. They then widened its iconographical programme founding a set of murals depicting the Apostles and female saints.

In 1540 margrave John of Kostrzyn transferred the Hospitaller monastery to Świdwin in order to create a grange in Chwarszczany. The chapel was transformed into a Lutheran church which belonged to the parish church in Cychry. In 1758, during the battle of Zorndorf,the buildings of the commandery were destroyed. The chapel, severely damaged, was rebuilt in 1760. In the second half of the 19th century the upper part of the facade was changed, a two-bayed vestry was added on the north side and a gallery was built inside the chapel. In 1898 the medieval murals which had been covered by plaster were exposed and renovated. After the Second World War the chapel was taken over by the Catholic community and since 1948 has been a branch of the parish church in Sarbinowo. During this time the murals were painted over and the gravestone of Hans von Rotkirch was removed from the inside. At present the medieval murals are being restored.

text Błażej Skaziński

translation: Mateusz Drachal and Irena French

Southern elevation

Southern elevation of the chapel

(photo: Marian Łazarski)

 

Plan of the Gothic chapel

Plan of the Gothic chapel

 

Gothic vaulting

Gothic vaulting

(photo: Maciej Szymanowicz)

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