Gdansk St Mary’s Church
For several long centuries the largest Lutheran church in the world was Gdansk St Mary’s Church – an enormous structure built from brick in Gothic style.
This is the third largest brick church in the world after San Petronio Basilica in Bologna, Italy and Munich Frauenkirche in Germany.
Name in Polish
Year of construction
Branch of Christianity
Map of the site
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The church is located in the historical center of Gdańsk – an old port city that started to develop around the late 10th century.
Christianity was introduced here around the same time. It is not known when the first church was built in the site of present-day St. Mary’s Church, but around 1243 here most likely was a wooden church.
The first brick church was built here in 1343 – 1360: fairly large for its time but considerably smaller than the present one.
In 1379 there was started the construction of the present church. Design and works were led by local craftsman Heinrich Ungeradin. The architecture of the church most likely was inspired by the St. Mary’s Church in Lübeck – the first great example of the Brick Gothic style. Such great churches devoted to St.Mary were built in numerous cities – members of the Hanseatic league.
Construction works of the enormous church continued for a long time until the 1502.
After several upheavals in the city in 1525 – 1526 the Lutheran Christianity became the leading branch in religion in the city. Initially, in 1536 – 1572 St. Mary’s Church was used both for Roman Catholic and Lutheran services. Since 1572 for four centuries it was a Lutheran church – the largest Lutheran church in the world.
Interesting finds were made here in the 19th and 20th when in the church were found rich collections of medieval art: ornamented garments, altar cloths, paintings, and other items.
Second World War and after
The church was heavily damaged at the end of World War II, in March 1945 as the city was stormed by the Red Army. The church was burned down and many vaults collapsed, floor of the church was demolished by Soviet soldiers pillaging the corpses in the basement. Happily many, some 60% of the artworks were preserved because many items were evacuated and hidden in the nearby villages around the city.
Local Germans were expelled from the city starting from March 1945. The city was almost empty but some years later it was repopulated again – now by Poles.
The church was transferred to a Catholic diocese and in 1946 the reconstruction of the church was started. In 1955 the main works were completed but further renovations of the interior are ongoing up to this day.
Description of Gdansk St Mary’s Church
The church is 105.5 m long and its nave is 66 m wide and up to 29 m high. There is enough room for 25,000 people inside.
The tower of the church is 82 m tall and dominates the skyline of the old city.
This is hall church: an enormous structure where the nave and side aisles have similar height and width, forming an enormous hall. Such planning is characteristic of the Late Gothic. The hall is crossed by transept.
From the outside the church has not have too many embellishments – walls for the most part are plain, and the windows are narrow, arched. The roof is covered with ceramic tiles.
Vaults of the church are very impressive and very sophisticated. Nave has net vaults but side aisles – crystal vaults – some of the best worldwide.
The organ in the church was built in 1625 and rebuilt in 1985.
Many artworks of this church are seen in various museums around Poland and abroad but part of the paintings and other art values have been returned.
The treasure of Poland is its architectonic heritage. In spite of terrible wars Poles have persisted and Poland together with its heritage has been reborn as a phoenix rising from the ashes. Most guests would be amazed to learn how many beautiful historical buildings are exact replicas, which were rebuilt in times when life in Poland was not that easy.
Since ancient times human talents and skills have been expressed in religious architecture and arts, and traditions and rituals have evolved around pilgrimage sites. Religious buildings represent a major part of the highest achievements in architecture and crafts.
Throughout the millennia Christian churches have been the epitome of architecture and arts achievements in Western culture.
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