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the Church of Peace in Świdnica

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The Church of Peace was founded by virtue of the Peace of Westphalia (hence its name) which ended the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Before the war, the townsfolk of Świdnica were free to follow Luther’s ideas and Lutheran services were held in the town. When the war broke out, the Protestants were deprived of the right to have their own faith and their own churches.

However under the Peace of Westphalia, the Catholic emperor Ferdinand III of Habsburg was obliged by the Swedish to allow the Protestants in the hereditary duchies of Jawor, Głogów, and Świdnica to build one so-called Church of Peace in each duchy. Although the consent of the Habsburgs had many severe restrictions – the Protestants could only build their place of worship outside the town walls, it could not have any towers nor a belfry, and it could only be built from non-durable materials like wood, sand, straw, or clay. The building could not look like a church and the construction works could not last longer than a year.

Against all odds, the Protestants at the time displayed extraordinary resourcefulness. Even the poorest of the community brought something to the table, if only one wooden board. All social classes were involved in the construction process – the nobility, the burghers and the peasants. One inhabitant of Świdnica, Christian Czepko, even set out on a journey to European Protestant courts to ask for money for the construction. The hard work paid off, as construction was completed on time and in 1657 the first service was held in the Church of Peace in Świdnica.

Two similar churches were built in Głogów (which was burned down after 100 years), and in Jawor (which is still standing today).

The Church of Peace in Świdnica is a half-timbered church (the timber frames are filled with wattle and daub) based on a cross-shaped plan.

Later, the main body of the church was extended to make room for the  Hall of Baptism and sacristy in the east, the Hall of the Dead in the west, the Hall of Weddings in the south, and the Hall of  … in the north.

The 1090 m2 church can accommodate 7500 people. The exquisite 18th century wooden altar dominates the Baroque interior. The relief above the altar stone shows the Last Supper. Above the relief stand sculpted figures of Moses, arch-priest Aaron, Jesus, John the Baptist and the apostles Peter and Paul. The central scene between the figures shows the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan. The frieze above the six Corinthian columns holds the inscription: “Dies ist mein geliebter Sohn, an dem ich Wohigefallen habe” (“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” – Matthew 3:17). The altar is surmounted by a book with seven seals, a lamb and a banner.

The other dominating element is the 18th century pulpit. The body of the pulpit is supported by Faith with a cross, Hope with an anchor and Love with a child. The pulpit is crowned by the figure of an angel with a trumpet announcing the Last Judgement. The stairs leading to the pulpit are decorated with reliefs showing the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Golgotha, and the Paradise. The hourglass on the lectern was divided into four half-hour parts that measured the length of the sermon.

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