Church of Peace in Świdnica, erected in 1657, is one of the most impressive temples I have seen in Poland. The uniqueness of this church is emphasized by the fact that it is made only from perishable materials such as straw, clay, sand, and wood. This Evangelical-Augsburg church is the largest wooden baroque temple in Europe, and it is one of the three places in Lower Silesia that has received the honor of being part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. National Geographic also added the Church of Peace in Świdnica to the list of the new seven wonders of Poland.
Habsburg rulers, ruling over the territory of Silesia at that time, were Catholic, and they, of course, favored their religion over Protestantism. Before the Thirty Years’ War, the communities coexisted; however, protestants were deprived of the right to their own faith and churches during the war. The Peace of Westphalia somewhat eased these restrictions and gave Protestants a chance to have their own temple.
On October 24, 1648, Emperor Ferdinand III Habsburg, under pressure from protestant Sweden, consented to build one Evangelical church in each of the three principalities of Silesia (Świdnica, Jawor, and Głogów) as a part of the Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years’ War.
The emperor entrusted the establishment of the Churches of Peace with several conditions, hoping that the temple would not be erected or would collapse soon afterward, and people would convert to Catholicism. Churches were to be built in a half-timbered style only from perishable materials, such as wood, clay, straw, and sand. They had to stand outside city walls but not further than a cannon-firing distance. Additionally, temples could not resemble churches and therefore could not have towers or bell towers. Their construction could not take more than a year and could only be financed with contributions.
The inhabitants of Świdnica then showed remarkable resourcefulness, with everyone making contributions. From the nobility through the middle class to peasants, representatives of all states were involved in the construction. Some even set off on a journey through European Protestant courts asking for money for construction. It was so successful that on June 24, 1657, after only ten months of construction, the first service was held in the Church of Peace in Świdnica.
The temple is 44 meters long and 30.5 meters wide, and it is laid out in the shape of a Greek cross. It is 1090 m² in size and has a capacity of 7500 people.
From the outside, it does not look extraordinary or fascinating—yet another half-timbered style building. However, do not be deceived by the unremarkable outside appearance of the temple. The moment you will step into the church, your jaw will drop; mine surely did. You need a ticket to get inside, but it is worth it.
The rich baroque ornamentation stuns. Richly decorated boxes, altar elements, and polychromes reveal the true magic of the church. It is hard to believe that the sculptures on the altar built in 1753 were made only of wood, not stone. The temple’s ceilings are decorated with paintings from the years 1694–1696, the authors of which were painters from Świdnica. You can see there the Holy Trinity and scenes from the Revelation of St. John.
When inside, sit down and listen to the history of the place played on the speakers. And if you are a foreigner, you can get a folder in your language with all the details and descriptions in the ticket office.
To know more about the church, check out the official website.
If you have some time, go check out the colorful streets of Świdnica. The town square looks really interesting with many cozy restaurants. We didn’t walk a lot as I was hungry and determined to find a pizza with garlic sauce (so hard to believe you can’t get garlic sauce in Denmark! I really miss it <3 ) but I think it would be a good idea to spend some time there.