Mariacki Church in Gdansk
The Mariack Cathedral in Gdansk is astounding and even slightly suppresses with its austere monumentality. Its construction, which began in 1343, took almost 160 years. The length of the cathedral is more than 100 meters, the height of the arches is about 30. This is the largest Gothic building in the city, the largest brick church in Europe and one of the largest European churches in general. The cathedral accommodates 25,000 people at the same time.
You can climb the bell tower by breaking over 400 steep steps to see a beautiful sight: Gdansk from a height of 82 meters.
For some time, both Lutheran and Catholic services were held in the cathedral at the same time, and during the Interregnum, Protestants completely took over it. It was not only the religious, but also the cultural center of Gdansk: the famous organists and composers worked and performed in the Mariacki Church; Kings and the European nobility came to see the temple. Peter I visited here in 1717, and later Napoleon. After the partition of Poland, during Prussian rule, many precious objects of cathedral decoration were sold and still have not returned.
At the entrance to the basilica a bronze model of it is installed, according to which you can get an idea of the construction plan. This is not superfluous, since the huge cathedral is completely sandwiched between the narrow streets of the Main City, and you will not find such an angle from which it could be seen entirely. But the upper part of the church is somehow visible from anywhere in the Old Town (and not only). Its characteristic flat-roofed tower without a spire looks a bit bitter – and proud. You can go up to the bell tower by breaking more than 400 steep steps to see the Old and Main Town from 82 meters, and then the new, modern Gdansk – the skyscrapers of business centers, cranes in the harbor, distant forests and the Baltic.
Inside, everything breathes the history and grandeur of bygone days, from stone floor slabs with emblems and names carved on them centuries ago to beautiful white arched vaults on the ceiling, high-high. Inside, it’s so free that numerous masterpieces of world art are completely lost in the background of this space. And these are indeed real treasures, mainly related to the periods of the Middle Ages and Baroque. The main altar created by the Augsburg master Michael Schwartz; a crystal chandelier of the mid-15th century, an old richly decorated organ and an amazing central stained glass window. Here is a modern stone statue of the grieving Jesus: a monument to the victims of World War II.
In a separate room hangs a copy of the famous painting by G. Memling of 1472, The Last Judgment. Initially, just the original was kept in the church, now it can be seen in the National Museum. And one of the most valuable decorations of the cathedral is an astronomical clock. The unique creation of the hands of the master Hans Dühringer was created in the 15th century. Today’s watch is a restored original. They consist of three parts: the upper one is a puppet theater with figures of Adam and Eve, the apostles, death. In the center is a whole model of the cosmos with celestial bodies: this is the watch itself, which showed the phases of the moon and the zodiac constellation in which it was located. Below is a disk with a liturgical calendar, dotted with sacred symbols, on top of which is a disk with the figure of Our Lady.
During the battle of Gdansk in the spring of 1945, half of the cathedral arch collapsed, the ceilings burned, the bells melted (including the main five-ton bell of the 16th century Gratia Dei). The interior of the church was more fortunate – at the end of 1944, museum workers in Gdansk dismantled it and hid it in different parts of the city: in houses, small churches, in warehouses. After the establishment of the totalitarian regime, priceless items were transported throughout Poland, and still not all of them have been returned to their places. And the restoration of the basilica itself began the very next year after the war, and already in 1955 the church was again consecrated as Catholic.
The restoration of the cathedral to this day is not completely completed. It continues with funds from voluntary donations. Entrance to the temple is free for individual visitors, but they are not forbidden to make a feasible contribution to the reconstruction. Climbing the bell tower is paid.